Perplexing CBS TV Schedules

CBS, who annually gets criticized for what games they put on in local markets and how quick they leave blowouts for better games, makes decisions based on viewership and revenue. With the success of March Madness On Demand, not to mention the countless local bars that have every game on, few viewers are tied to the one game on local television. However, the one area CBS still deserves criticism is when they put the games on.

Saturday coverage starts with a stand-alone game, CBS needs a big name team to showcase in that time slot. Duke’s the obvious choice on the Saturday slate, though they almost did not make it, but if the plan is for Duke to play early on Saturday, why have the Blue Devils play the night session on Thursday? Fans aside for a second, is it fair to the teams, especially West Virginia, who beat Arizona in the night cap on Thursday, to play the last games one day, then the early game on Saturday with about 36 hours rest, while Purdue and Xavier get almost two full days of rest? Faced with the same situation on Sunday, CBS takes the same route, opening the day at noon with Siena-Villanova, who won in the night session on Friday. At least Duke and West Virginia benefit from a later Saturday start time of 2:10. These decisions boggle the mind.

CBS has a lot to work with on Saturday, mixing and matching between games featuring marquee names, mainly Duke, Kansas, and UCLA, and interesting matchups more for the basketball purist regional fans. The big three names each play at different times, while Pitt-Michigan State, Stanford-Marquette, and Notre Dame-Washington State are each paired up in the same time slot as the top seeds. A smart move to keep both the casual fan looking for the big names and the purist in need of quality basketball both engaged the entire day. Only the 4:40 slot lacks the notoriety, though Freshman phenom Michael Beasley of Kansas State, the lone double-digit seed playing Saturday has a nice story line.

With less to work with on Sunday, CBS fails by putting both Memphis and UNC on in the late slot, while three #2 seeds play at 2:40. They risk ending the day with blowouts and losing the audience, especially on a holiday where viewers may have a quick trigger finger. Maybe its nitpicking, but historically a 7-10 winner is more likely to knock off a two seed than an 8-9 winner over a top seed. This decade, of the 20 teams seeded 7-10 to advance past round two, 15 come from the 7-10 game, and the last season not to see a two-seed fall by the end of the first weekend was 1996. Absent the noticeable match-up, fans love the upset. CBS left itself open for ratings disaster on Sunday afternoon.

It’s hard to screw up the first few days, since so many games are exciting and a lot of it comes down to luck. One gripe, however, was opening with only three games and putting a 1 vs. 16 among the three, leaving only two match-ups, neither ending competitively after Xavier took control.  No matter how you slice it, if you love college basketball, or sports in general, CBS can detract from the enjoyment, but can’t ruin it.

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