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Which Tourney Games You'll Watch, and Why

WUSA, Channel 9, has released the four games it'll be showing during tomorrow's opening-round NCAA tournament action, plus one all of Friday's selections. Here's what we're getting tomorrow:

12:20 Butler vs. LSU
2:45 Maryland vs. California
7:20 American vs. Villanova
9:30 Binghamton vs. Duke

The middle two are no-brainers, obviously. The first game won out over Memphis-Cal State Northridge and BYU-Texas A&M, which strikes me as process of elimination. But the latter was obviously a closer call, because two sort-of local games will be going on at the same time as Duke: VCU-UCLA, and Morgan State-Oklahoma. (Illinois-Western Kentucky is the fourth game in that slot, and the least-appealing option.)

So I chatted with WUSA president and general manager Allan Horlick to see how these decisions are made.

"The original decision is made by CBS; they send it to us and we see if we concur or not. Usually, we concur," he told me. "The first thing you look at, is there a team of local interest? We've got Maryland, we've got American, and you're automatically going to default to those games because of local interest....The next consideration is the conference. All things being equal, if there's an ACC or Big East team playing, we're generally going to go with that as opposed to the Big 10 or the Pac-10. Those are the basic criteria."

Duke, of course, fits into the latter criterion, though Horlick said the other choices were mentioned. Personally, I'd have voted for VCU-UCLA, but then I'm biased like that. So I specifically asked Horlick about the VCU game.

"It became part of the discussion, but there's a huge fan base that follows the ACC, and certainly Duke," he said. "Some decisions are tougher than others. We also recognize that CBS is going to do some hopping around from game to game, and we get pretty good over the years at getting a good feel for where the big fan bases are and where the alumni are."

Which is why WUSA preemptively spoke up about the West Virginia-Dayton game, which will be seen locally during the 2:50 time slot on Friday. Several West Virginia counties are in the D.C. DMA, and lots of 'Eers alums and fans live in the area, so WUSA execs wanted to make sure that game was on their schedule.

"We did speak up on the West Virginia game, because we know how important West Virginia is to a lot of our viewers," Horlick told me. "To tell you the truth you do have some toughies. When you've got the No. 1 seed playing on the first day, they're playing a No. 16, chances are it's going to be a blowout. Do you want to show the viewers the No. 1 seed so they get to know the players, or a No. 8 seed playing a No. 9, what's probably gonna be a closer game?"

(The other Friday games are still TBA, but will be announced today. I'd assume Big East choices Syracuse and Marquette would be the leading contenders for Friday's early slot, over Tennessee-OK State and Kansas-ND State.)

(UPDATED: The updated schedule shows Syracuse-Stephen F. Austin at 12:15, Boston College-Southern Cal at 7:20 and Wake Forest-Cleveland State at 9:30. That make the day Big East, Big East, ACC, ACC.)

If national CBS and WUSA do disagree on an individual game, the two sides will talk things over, and discuss their rationales.

"We give them the criteria, we talk it through, and more often than not we prevail with that, but it doesn't happen that often because more often than not we agree with them," Horlick said. "You try to look at it like we're not presenting a bunch of individual games, we're presenting a tournament, particularly in the first week. You want to give fans a sense of what's going on across the tournament."

And sure, I realize some of you might be visiting a local establishment that offers every game on these days, but others will, like me, be at home with a two-year old who does not care for local establishments, and thus, you'll be counting on WUSA's coverage.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 18, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  College Basketball , Media  
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Next: Gary on Recruiting Geeks and Making the Tourney


Hopefully, the Baltimore CBS affiliate will do what is right, and give the city all the Morgan State coverage it can muster.

It will be so refreshing to see MSU in the news without "Off-Campus shooting" attached to it.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | March 18, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

What a joke. I think it's stupid to prioritize the games in this manner. Maybe in the later rounds, but people don't want to see Duke role over Binghamton or Cleveland State Wake Forest. I would much rather watch VCU (a semi-local team) and UCLA (one of the greatest schools to ever take the court) or FSU and Wisconsin on Friday.

That's the problem with the NCAA and it's affiliates. They are so caught up in the money that they forget that this is collegiate athletics. It's really taking it's toll on the game now.

Posted by: D-Hoesevelt | March 18, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

get a babysitter so you can visit a local establishment. i wish ESPN/ABC would get the rights to this tourney so all first and second round games would be viewable from home. combined that would be something like 6 channels to choose from that could broadcast the 4 games w/the same tip off times.

Posted by: wm44 | March 18, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Or if you're really stuck at home, you can watch any game you want on I've had good luck with the streams in past years, and it's free.

Posted by: slack13 | March 18, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

It's real simple, folks. You drop cable, sign up for Direct TV (which, depending on your package, is often cheaper than cable anyway), and get every single game of the tournament for $69. I can't imagine being a sports fan without Direct TV. I get any basketball, baseball and football games I want, anytime. No more relying on my CBS affiliate to give me the game I want to see. And I can switch to different games, depending on score and situation.

Posted by: watsontj | March 18, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dave, the Memphis game should be shown locally. The Terps may wind up playing the Tigers for the KC Bracket. Terps fans should be allowed to see how Memphis plays their first game.

Who, in the DC Area cares about Butler and LSU?

Secondly, since Morgan State is closer to the DC Area than VCU, MS-OU should be the game shown. Then again, both games can be shown side by side or alternently half by half.

Posted by: memyselfI1 | March 18, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

If the Duke game is a blowout, I'm sure CBS will switch away from it by the second half. And if the Duke game is surprisingly close, that will be the game everyone wants to see. So it will all work out.

Posted by: TheFingerman | March 18, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

It's real simple, folks. You drop cable, sign up for Direct TV

Posted by: watsontj | March 18, 2009 12:05 PM

Yeah, not so simple when you live in an apartment and/or don't have an unobstructed SW view...

Bars and watching online do the trick though.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 18, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"Who, in the DC Area cares about Butler and LSU?"

Me. That game should be an entertaining 8/9 match-up, between two top 25 teams (rare in the first round). I think CBS is pushing this as a fun national game to start everything off - something a lot of fans clamor for. Memphis will run, dunk and win by 30 - there you go, there's your scout.

Posted by: Kev29 | March 18, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I got all excited because I thought that this was about the World Baseball Classic. Now there's a tournament. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 18, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

As long as CBS switches over to Radford eliminating UNC.

Hello? Is this thing on?

Posted by: peterandmeredith | March 18, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"Who, in the DC Area cares about Butler and LSU?" There is a HUGE LSU alumni presence in the DC/Baltimore area, of which I am proud to be one!

Posted by: hlef | March 18, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

WUSA has announced Friday's games:

Friday, 3/20/09

1st Round Regionals (12:10-5pm & 7pm-12mid)
12:15pm Stephen F. Austin vs. Syracuse
2:50pm Dayton vs. West Virginia

7:20pm Southern Cal vs. Boston College
9:30pm Cleveland St. vs. Wake Forest

To watch the Temple vs. Arizona St game at 2:35pm, tune into over the air digital on 9.2 or Comcast on 203, Cox on 805 or FIOS on 461.

Posted by: slack13 | March 18, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Did somebody wish Disney had the tournament? Is nothing sacred? I'd prefer if something stayed on OTA although better use of the alternate digital channels would be nice. I don't mind decissions like this as much in the first round since the top seeds are normally blowing out the competition and the channel goes to a better game, but it always becomes an issue later on.

Posted by: sitruc | March 18, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

This is just outrageous. How many Virginia counties are in WUSA's DMA? A lot more than in West Virginia (and, for that matter, Maryland). Again, VCU is the largest public university in the state with more than 32,000 students. There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of alumni in this region, and, oh yeah, we beat Duke the last time we played them. That ought to count for something.

Posted by: ValleyCaps | March 18, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Local media doesn't like Virginia sports. Hopefully, they will be able to go to the VCU game early. It's a 8/9 game and most are calling for the upset. Those are more interesting that 1/16 or other mismatches. I don't get why those aren't getting the hype they deserve.

Posted by: sitruc | March 18, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I was all excited to watch VCU knock off UCLA. Instead we get Binghamton vs. Duke. What a load of crap!

Posted by: wiz_fan | March 19, 2009 4:05 AM | Report abuse

Ridiculous!!! I can understand the ACC connection, but since VCU is only 1.5 hours away from D.C., don't you think there's probably a LOT of alumni that live in the area, Channel 9?!?! Plus, what are the chances a 6th seed vs 11th seed will NOT be a better game than a 2nd seed against a 15th seed. Channel 9's GM is clueless!!!

Posted by: danielmsnyder | March 19, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Please, please, please never let ESPN acquire the rights to this tournament.

Posted by: B_A_ | March 19, 2009 7:25 AM | Report abuse

No VCU coverage?!?!?! Amazing...what a bunch of jerks.

Posted by: Jasper5 | March 19, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

If WUSA was really interested in taking the pulse of area viewers, it wouldn't have disabled the comments feature to its tournament schedule post. Instead, the criticisms spill over here where they won't do any good.

Posted by: evwill | March 19, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I thought they might go with the VCU game given the proximity, the big-time opponent they are facing, and the likelihood that it will be a good game, but almighty Duke reigns again. It's a shame that the NCAA broadcast partners (CBS and ESPN) both feel the need to continually shove Duke down the collective throats of America. It's not like Duke is like the UCLA of the past either. They've been to only 2 Final Fours this decade. With the amount of coverage they get, you'd think they'd have gone every year.

They should at least put the VCU on the digital 9.2 channel like they are doing (for some reason) with the Temple game tomorrow afternoon.

But at least Kornheiser will be happy that he'll get to see his Bearcats.

Posted by: KRS1500 | March 19, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Heck, Mr. Tony might be asleep by the time Binghamton tips off.....

Posted by: ValleyCaps | March 19, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe WUSA Ch. 9!! VCU vs. UCLA should be the feature game, but at least it is on air for Comcast, Cox, and FIOS customers. For DIRECTV customers Rock Bottom in Arlington has the NCAA package. It is a VCU bar so UCLA fan beware.

From WUSA Ch. 9 website
To watch the VCU vs. UCLA game at 9:40pm, tune into over the air digital on 9.2 or Comcast on 203, Cox on 805 or FIOS on 461. For other systems, please call your local operator to see if the game will be carried and for channel information.

Posted by: yvillaco | March 19, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

They apparently listened to me.

Posted by: KRS1500 | March 19, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

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