Thanks to a mix-up at the NCAA offices regarding my press pass for the men’s basketball tournament, I spent much of the last two weekends camped out in front of the television set.

What I saw — and what most of you saw — was best described by Mike Corwin in these pages last week. As much as everyone talked about the rise of the “mid-major” teams, we ended up with 15 schools from major conferences in the regional semifinals, with Gonzaga — who made its third straight trip to the Sweet 16 — being the sole exception.

So since my Cubs-loving colleague has already succinctly broken down the situation on the court (he was able to go to a few of the games that I was not), I’m taking this opportunity to assess things from my vantage point (the seat on my couch between my dirty laundry and my life-sized poster of Jeff Montez).

I would first like to commend CBS for keeping James Worthy off the air after the first weekend. But I would also like to wonder why we had to listen to him for two days during that first weekend. Sure, he was a great player, but does that mean that impressionable children should have to hear him talk incessantly about nothing?

Granted, the announcers on television can’t be held responsible for everything they say. They have to talk so much that all kinds of stuff comes out of their mouths. But it’s hard to give James Worthy the benefit of the doubt.

He alienated the states of Minnesota and Connecticut last year when he repeatedly referred to Connecticut’s point guard Khalid El-Amin as “All-Amin.” I understand that some people have trouble pronouncing names. But this was the starting point guard on the defending national championship team. I’m just speculating here, but I don’t think Khalid was the same player after James butchered his name last year. That emotional distress could be why the Bulls waived him last week.

I could live with the whole El-Amin thing, but James took his game to another level this year. During a first round game, he uttered, “This is the time of the tournament when free throws are most important.” Are they worth two points in the first round or something? I don’t know — I thought Rumeal Robinson’s two free throws with three seconds left in overtime of the 1989 NCAA title game were pretty important.

James also informed us, during the Hampton-Georgetown second-round game, that the Pirates needed to do one particular thing to give themselves a chance to win: “They gotta get a lead.” Thanks, James. But hey, Hampton couldn’t get a lead, so I guess he wasn’t wrong.

As I watched the games that James was announcing, I couldn’t help but shudder while pondering this thought: If I had been on the Lakers during the ’80s, I would have had to hear conversations between James and Magic Johnson all the time.

But enough about James. I’d rather be like Bill Walton and ask a rhetorical question: How about those Cingular ads that CBS keeps running? You know, “the new wireless company that believes in the value of self-expression.” Seems like everyone loves the one in which the elderly dance instructor teaches a group of NFL-sized men — except for the “sapling” — how to do a proper touchdown dance.

My question, though, is about the one with the guy dancing around by himself. He’s expressing himself — there’s no doubt about that. The music playing in the background is the main theme from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Opus 67. Interesting that Cingular’s ad people chose to use the music of this composer. After all, his self-expression was significantly limited by the Stalinist regime when he returned to the Soviet Union in 1932 after 14 years of self-imposed exile.

At least we have the Holiday Inn ads to keep us entertained during the on-court laughers that the tournament has produced since the second round. Speaking of ads, it looks like we are the big losers in the CBS $6 billion deal for the broadcast rights to the men’s NCAA tournament.

Has anyone else noticed how often the network has to take commercial breaks? Remember the days when a timeout called by a coach wiped out the TV timeout? Not anymore. Or the days of the 20-second timeout? Well, now it’s a 30-second timeout, long enough for CBS to show us another clip of Mark O’Meara telling us that you have to putt well to win the Masters.

But I know it was a mere aberration that I was at home watching the games on TV instead of sitting courtside these last two weekends. I’m sure my press pass is in the mail for the Final Four, though. I just hope they didn’t send it to my post office box — I’d like to get it before I graduate.