North Carolina coach Roy Williams pleads for a foul called against Florida State's Bernard James, who blocked a shot by North Carolina's P.J. Hairston in the final minute of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament final Sunday, March 11, 2012, in Atlanta. / AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett
Ah, yes, the sweet sound of sneaker squeaks echoing through a nearly empty arena. There's nothing quite like it this time of year, as the NCAA men's lowly "First Four" begin their extremely long-shot attempt at making the Final Four. By the time the big-name programs take the floor -- those rosters laden with one-and-done players, taping their ankles for a couple of semesters before joining the NBA -- the games will be in full swing. Filling arenas will be their supporting cast of thousands -- pep bands, team colors, face paint, and tears, of joy and dejection.
It's college basketball, and by midweek it'll be served nearly all day. Wow. That's like plowing through a restaurant-sized cheeseburger, polishing off an order of fries, and ordering coconut cream pie a couple of burps later. That's allowable if you do it once a year. And this is that occasion. Some fans will take time away from work. Some will steal time while at work. Many will play with one or more of a gazillion March Madness brackets. Even prison inmates in solitary confinement will scratch teams into concrete walls and hope for a good result (likely not, but the thought is too delicious to omit).
The format that made its debut last year will be back again this year: games on CBS, TBS, TNT and, get this, truTV, the cable channel formerly known as Court TV (March Madness TV schedule here). But the distribution is even greater when the digisphere is factored in. Hardly-working folks in office towers across the country will sneak peeks in front of desk computers that otherwise bear the responsibility of conducting America's commerce. The tournament reach now is extended fully to smartphones for those who load the appropriate applicatons. (Get March Madness Live on-demand details here.)
That makes for some serious decision-making. Should you go to a sports bar to catch the action on an oh-my-God sized television, or get the app that'll allow you to sneak game glimpses on your smartphone? A popular commercial suggests the latter, although considering the ad beauty who sat before the spot's hero, it's hard to imagine how a game would get his attention. But wait, are those the Arkansas Razorbacks on a fast break? I'll watch the game on any medium available!
Anyhow, regardless of who cuts down the nets in New Orleans April 2 (and Arkansas is not in the postseason), the battles to get there will be well worth watching. First up, Mississippi Valley State (Jerry Rice played football there) vs. Western Kentucky [photo at top], and Brigham Young vs. Iona, beginning Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET on truTV (after that channel's daily set-up half-hour).
Just remember: 68 teams play down to a national champion. Someone please pass the coconut cream pie.