Sat Mar 20 04:23pm EDT
After watching 32 games packed into 26 hours over the first two days of the tournament, NCAA basketball fans always go through a little withdrawal early on the tourney's first Saturday. CBS has long chosen to air just one game in the 1 p.m. time slot, a potential recipe for disaster if the game is boring and/or a blowout. Without any other action to switch to, viewers are stuck if the solo game ends up a clunker.
Luckily, that wasn't an issue today. Saturday's solo game featured No. 10 St. Mary's upset of No. 2 Villanova, a thriller that was in doubt until the final minutes.
Interestingly, it was Villanova's second straight year getting the early Saturday time slot. Last year, the Wildcats were involved in one of those aforementioned snoozers when its highly-anticipated game with UCLA turned into a 20-point blowout win.
CBS will hope to duplicate today's magic tomorrow when it will air another Big East-West Coast Conference showdown as the lone game in its noon ET time slot. No. 1 Syracuse will face a Gonzaga team that has become an NCAA tournament fixture over the past decade. If the game is half as good as 'Nova-S. Mary's, the decision to run the two games solo will look like a great move.
And that's the thing about the solo games: When they're good, they're great. A break from the frenetic, simultaneous action of Thursday and Friday can be very relaxing. In cases like today, it's nice to watch a good basketball game without any distractions. But then again, a bad basketball game creates a need for distractions. It's a calculated risk by CBS. The games are chosen with care so as to ensure a wide audience and a good match-up that can keep that audience tuned into the tournament.
The real problem is on the tourney's first Sunday. CBS begins coverage with a noon game and then crams the final seven contests into two time slots -- four games at 2:30 p.m. ET and three games at 5 p.m. ET. This is done so the network can show its full Sunday lineup starting with "60 Minutes" at 7 p.m. ET.
It's too much. Why show one game at noon and then four at 2:30? Spread things out a bit, CBS. Is America really clamoring for so much Morley Safer that the network can't extend games to 9 p.m. on Sunday?