Get ready for college basketball bliss.
No more abrupt cutting away from the game you’ve settled into. No more getting stuck with a USC game when you hate USC and would rather watch Duke. (Yes, I like Duke. What of it?) No more missing a fantastic finish because three games are ending all at once.
Starting Tuesday, it’s the NCAA Tournament, a la carte style. CBS has partnered with Turner Broadcasting to show every game in its entirety, at staggered times on four channels. In effect, the viewer for the first time has control over which game to watch, as long as your cable provider offers TBS, TNT and TruTV (formerly Court TV, Ch. 65 on Comcast Santa Rosa; if you have a basic cable package, you should get it).
As part of a 14-year, $10 billion deal, the Turner networks will carry 41 games overall, through the Sweet 16. CBS will air 26 games, including everything from the Elite 8 on. That won’t change until 2016, when CBS and Turner will start alternating Final Fours.
The tournament expands this year to a 68-team format, with four play-in games. TruTV will carry those Tuesday and Wednesday with back-to-back games starting at 3:30 p.m. The traditional round of 64 airs Thursday and Friday on all four networks, with games starting at 9 a.m. and running until almost 9 p.m., with a break in the afternoon. If you’re stuck at work, you can watch all the games for free online at ncaa.com, cbssports.com and si.com (which is run by Turner Interactive).
TNT will add its solid roster of NBA announcers — Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller among them — to the veteran CBS crew led by Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Gus Johnson. In the studio, the Mouth of the South, Charles Barkley, will be joined by TNT co-hosts Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson, along with CBS’s Greg Gumbel and Greg Anthony. Think of it as the best of both worlds, with no Billy Packer or Dick Vitale anywhere to be heard.
The more fan-friendly viewing experience isn’t the only monumental change this year: With those additional play-in games, don’t forget to fill out your office pool brackets by Tuesday afternoon!
And to get into the tournament spirit, here are some of Gus Johnson’s greatest hits, just because: