CBS is taking back the tournament from ESPN, at least for now.
FOUR STILL PERFECT IN POOL
Josh Rubin, Larry Caplin, Kim Stone and Ben Benack are tied for first place in the Living Room Times’s eighth annual NCAA men’s pool with perfect records through the first seven games of the tournament.
Kristy McCray, Shannon McHugh and Paul Zak, who were part of a seven-way tie for the lead after the first three games, dropped out of the first-place tie because of mistakes during the tournament’s second wave of games. McHugh and Zak incorrectly predicted an upset by #11-seed Southern Illinois over Missouri. McCray called for a stunner by #16 Vermont over Arizona.
Rubin, Caplin, Stone and Benack all picked #4 Stanford over #13 San Diego in the afternoon’s eighth game, the only contest still in progress. If Stanford wins, those four players will stay tied for first at 8-0. If San Diego wins, McCray and McHugh will rejoin the first-place tie, and Jenn Castelhano and Beth Milewski will also join what would be a eight-way tie for the lead.
Stanford leads at halftime, 35-32.
At present, 17 players are tied for fifth place with 30 points out of a possible 35, five points behind the leaders. Fifteen players have 25 points. Each first-round game is worth five points.
I just wrote this in an e-mail to all the contestants in my men’s NCAA pool:
I have decided to dedicate this year’s pools to the men and women of our military fighting in Iraq. This is not intended as a political statement; I realize there are undoubtedly some opponents of the Iraq war in this group. However, I think we can all agree that our troops are brave, noble, and worthy of our thanks for making so many personal sacrifices to defend the freedoms that we all enjoy, regardless of whether we agree with any particular decision that their commanders make.
Admittedly, none of our troops are going to know, or care, that The Living Room Times’s NCAA pools are dedicated to them, but I figure that small gesture is the least I can do, especially given the simultaneous timing of the war and the tournament.
SEVEN TIED FOR EARLY LEAD
Seven contestants are tied for the lead in The Living Room Times’s eighth annual NCAA men’s pool, a perfect 3-0 through the tournament’s first three games.
Ben Benack, Larry Caplin, Kristy McCray, Shannon McHugh, Joshua Rubin, Kim Stone and Paul Zak each have the maximum possible 15 points. Each correctly predicted #9-seed Gonzaga’s mild upset over #8 Cincinnati, as well as the expected wins by #8 California over #9 N.C. State and #3 Marquette over #14 Holy Cross.
Twenty-two players with 2-1 records are tied for eighth place with 10 points. Thirteen have five points and 1-2 records. Karen Cultrera, who had an early lead in last year’s pool, is all alone in dead last this year — 0-for-3 so far, with zero points.
Ouch. Two of my Sweet 16 picks are gone — in the tournament’s first two games.
I had picked #14 Holy Cross to become one of the tournament’s big Cinderella stories by upsetting #6 Marquette and then beating #11 Southern Illinois (which I have picked to upset #6 Missouri later today) to advance to the regional semis. And I had predicted that #9 N.C. State would beat #8 Cal and then upset #1 Oklahoma in the second round, because the Sooners’ star player, Hollis Price, is injured.
Now, both the Wolfpack and the Crusaders are gone.
At least I’m not 0-for-3. I picked Gonzaga’s win over Cincinnati, so I’ve got 5 points out of a possible 15 so far in the pool.
Complete pool standings will be posted as soon as I know them.
Holy Cross has to pull off the upset. If there’s ever a day for a team called the “Crusaders” to win, this is it. :)
#14 Holy Cross 56, #3 Marquette 54, 6:07 to go.
Becky and I are doing our best to follow the Iraq war and the NCAA Tournament at the same time. The Zaks’ big-screen TV with split-screen ability makes it a little easier.
We were watching the first half of the Cal-N.C. State game when, on the silent right-hand side of the screen, I saw a large explosion on CNN. I believe my exact words were, “Whoa!” I switched the screens and soon learned that Nic Roberston in Baghdad was reporting a large Allied new bombing strike in Iraq’s capital. Apparently at least three sites were hit, with government buildings the targets.
A little while later, CNN reported that the invasion had begun, with a Marine division crossing the border into Iraq.
Meanwhile, Holy Cross is hanging tough with Marquette and threatening to pull the upset; Cal has a slight edge over N.C. State; and Gonzaga seems to be pulling away from Cincinnati. I have both Holy Cross (a #14 seed) and N.C. State (#9) going to the Sweet Sixteen. C’mon, guys!
By the way, “CNN Breaking News” alerts, like the ones below, are automatically published to this website as soon as they are released.
The men’s NCAA Tournament is underway, and with it the Living Room Times’s eighth annual men’s NCAA pool. Kentucky is easily the most common pick to win the national championship among the pool’s 42 contestants.
The Wildcats, a #1 seed, were picked by 16 contestants. Arizona, another #1, was next with six picks. Kansas, a #2 seed, followed with four. #1 Texas, #1 Oklahoma and #3 Duke received three picks each. #2 Pitt, #3 Syracuse and #5 UConn received two picks apiece; #2 Wake Forest was picked by one contestant.
The 42 contestants are just four less than the number who joined last year’s men’s pool. That makes this the third-most popular men’s pool in Living Room Times history, trailing only the 1999 pool (61 contestants) and the 2002 pool (46).
UPDATE, 1:04 PM Pacific time: One pick came in a few minutes late due to technical difficulties, increasing the number of contestants to 43. The late contestant, Dan Port, also picked Kentucky to win it all, bringing their total of national-champion picks to 17.
CBS has returned to regularly scheduled programming. This raises the question of whether the planned “wall-to-wall” coverage of the war will begin early tomorrow — and pre-empt even the first few NCAA tournament games — or whether it will wait until the larger, “shock and awe” bombing campaign begins.
NBC and Fox, meanwhile, have not returned to regular programming. I’m not sure about ABC; the local ABC affiliate in Phoenix is showing live coverage of the war, but it’s local coverage. Here’s an early article about the TV coverage.
The CBS affiliate in Tuscon is reporting flat-out that “ESPN, ESPN2 and TNN cable will carry” any first-round games that CBS cannot. Meanwhile, the Arizona-Vermont game will be carried on a local WB affiliate in Tuscon. “But currently the Vermont team is stuck in Denver in a snowstorm. The game may be postponed because they may not be able to make it to Salt Lake City.” Heh.
CBS is apparently nearing a deal to switch first-round games to ESPN as needed if the war starts Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. This is very good news, because ESPN has more ability to regionalize coverage and switch between games than most other cable networks do.
An article about ESPN’s plans for broadcasting the women’s tournament this weekend states, “Most of the nation will get ‘whiparound’ coverage, with ESPN jumping from game to game. Viewers in the local market of the competing teams will see those games in their entirety.” Presumably a similar strategy would be adopted for the men’s games.
This article suggests that ESPN will do something a bit different, and that TNN may also be involved. But whatever. The point is, the capacity exists to give viewers what they want.
If war is still pre-empting sports by Saturday, when the women’s tournament starts filling up ESPN’s schedule, second-round men’s games could end up on TNN or other cable networks without the ability to do regionalization and “whiparound” coverage. But this is less of a problem, because there are typically only two games going on at once during the second round, as opposed to four at once during the first round.
In other news, the NCAA announced it will not postpone the actual games due to a war. So television coverage is the only issue.
Although tonight’s “play-in” game between the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs and the Texas Southern Tigers is not included in The Living Room Times NCAA pools, UNC-Asheville’s 92-84 victory was a disappointment for the pools’ only feline contestant, Toby Zak.
Toby, a nine-month-old kitten, made her picks in the Times pools by choosing all teams with cat nicknames to win, and all teams with dog nicknames to lose. The play-in game was one of four matchups in the tournament’s opening days featuring a direct showdown between cats and dogs.
Toby was, of course, rooting for the TSU Tigers, whom she was planning to pick over the #1-seed Texas Longhorns in the first round of the tournament. Unfortunately, the Tigers couldn’t hit foul shots to save any of their nine lives. They lost in overtime to the tournament’s only sub-.500 team.
Because the Bulldogs won tonight, Toby will revert to the all-dogs-must-lose principle, and pick the Longhorns in the first round. She has them losing in the second round, however, to Final Four pick LSU — another team with the nickname “Tigers.”
The three first-round games between cats and dogs pit the #6 Missouri Tigers against the #11 Southern Illinois Salukis, the #8 Cincinnati Bearcats against the #8 Gonzaga Bulldogs, and the #12 BYU Cougars against the #5 UConn Huskies
Toby’s men’s Final Four features the #1 Arizona Wildcats, #1 Kentucky Wildcats, #8 LSU Tigers, and #10 Auburn Tigers.
Her women’s Final Four also includes LSU, in that case a #1 seed. Her other three women’s teams are the #2 Villanova Wildcats, #3 Kansas State Wildcats, and #16 Georgia State Panthers.
(In the case of a matchup between two cat teams, Toby picked the higher-seeded team. Likewise if two dog teams meet. In games not involving cats or dogs, she picked a favorite with the help of her mom, Becky Zak.)
I watched tonight’s “play-in” game, too. Well, I watched the second half of it. (I was watching news during the first half. Apparently there’s some sort of war happening, or something.) But I had to split-screen the exciting end of the game because of somebody’s obsession with American Idol. No names mentioned, Becky. :)
Damn. Bush is going to issue a 48-hour ultimatum. That translates to a Wednesday night or Thursday start — which is going to wipe out CBS’s first-round NCAA coverage. Again, damn.
Somehow, this particular March 17 doesn’t feel all that festive. But, have a good day, anyway.
So, yeah. Kiss me, I’m Irish. And, uh, join my pool. :)
I’ve been watching CNN all morning, and with the U.N. process dead and Bush addressing the nation in seven hours, it’s clear that the only question now is the timing of the impending war with Iraq. This is a big question for me because of the NCAA Tournament.
Most of the first-round games I’m really eager to watch (in particular, my predicted upsets by Gonzaga, Weber State, Western Kentucky, and Holy Cross) are on Thursday, so I’m praying Bush gives Saddam at least a three-day ultimatum. That would stretch things out long enough that the war shouldn’t start until Thursday night or Friday, in which case Thursday’s first-round games presumably wouldn’t be bumped off CBS.
If I ever have time, I’ll post a full commentary about the merits of the war. But right now, I gotta work some more on the pool. :) Yeah, I have my priorities straight. So, check out InstaPundit for up-to-date commentary. Also, today’s Washington Post editorial endorsing the U.S. and U.K. position is worth reading.