A Change for the Better, or a Plan for the Worst

Turner Broadcasting is just pulling the rug out from everyone.  First it was the surprise deal that Coco had not signed with Fox, but with TBS.  Now, the NCAA is on the verge of opting out of their TV contract and signing with CBS and not ESPN, but TBS/TNT/TruTV.  And the more surprising part?  Instead of 96 teams, it looks like it will be 68 teams, which is manageable for us March Madness bracket folks.

It looks like, for the time being, that even though they are only going to just 68 teams, the number of live broadcasts that could be shown in their entirety will go from around 27 to all 67 games.  If you had four TVs, you could watch all 4 simultaneous games on that first day (okay, technically, second, but who counts the Play-In Games as a real day?) without having to pay extra (i.e., DirecTV).  Overkill?  I think it’ll enhance interest because you have a choice of watching which game instead of CBS telling you you have to watch the Duke game and then just show the last 10 seconds of a great game.

But, starting in 2016, TNT will get the Final Four every other week.  I like the major events on a free broadcast network.  Who watches the NBA All-Star game now that it’s on TNT?  Who watches hockey now that it’s on Versus (or VS. or whatever)?  Except for Monday Night Football, ratings and availability seem to go down when moving from broadcast to cable.  But that’s reality.  On the flip side, it may be even easier to catch games on planes with TVs since they usually have TNT/TBS (but probably not TruTV) whereas they don’t have local CBS stations.

The other unknown is what will happen with teams 66-68.  It seems the simplest would be to have four Opening Round games (whether it be 61 v 68 etc. or 61 v 62 etc.) and the winners play the #1 seed in each Region.  But in recent years, they have made it a point to have the Tuesday Opening Round winner play the next game on Friday (which is why the #1 overall seed doesn’t always play the Opening Round winner).  So are we going to have games on Monday & Tuesday now?  Going this route also further diminishes the lower rung conferences by relegating them to these not-really-a-part-of-the-tournament Opening Round games.  Meaning four teams, some who may have made their first NCAA tournament, will not see the 1st Round where the fun really starts.  It seems like the extra 3 teams will be at-large bids but maybe the NCAA will give these out to some mid-major or lower conference regular season winners who didn’t win their tournament… nah.

What I’m worried about, like with Health Care Reform, this is just a baby step just to get a foot in the door, and the horrible aspects will come out later.  Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim even hints at this in that he hopes this leads to further expansion (e.g., 96) of the bracket.

What does this mean to our pool?  If the four opening round games are playing #1 seeds, they we just have four “PLAY-IN” winners instead of one.  Everything else remains the same.  But until the deal is finalized, we aren’t sure yet.  We should know soon!

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