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Volume 25 No. 67
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TBS' First Shot With NCAA Selection Show Criticized For Missing Drama

TBS last night earned a 1.6 overnight rating for the NCAA Tournament Selection Show from 6:00-8:00pm ET, the first time the cable net aired the event. This was also the first year in which the teams were revealed in alphabetical order. Last year’s Selection Show, which aired on CBS and had the benefit of a lead in from the Big Ten Championship, earned a 3.3 overnight. Last year’s show was 90 minutes, airing from 5:30-7:00pm. In its first 90 minutes last night, TBS earned a 1.9 rating. It also earned a 2.2 rating for the first 45 minutes of the show, when teams were revealed. The Selection Show yesterday peaked at a 2.3 rating from 6:15-6:30pm. Two years ago, CBS drew a 3.7 overnight. That was the telecast’s lowest overnight rating since at least ’95, when the show expanded from 30 minutes to an hour (Josh Carpenter, Assistant Editor).

ROUGH START: In K.C., Pete Grathoff notes last night's broadcast "hit a bump from the very start." When co-host Greg Gumbel welcomed viewers, the audio "didn't match the video, and it was painfully obvious that something was amiss." The audio problem "continued when Ernie Johnson came on to chat" (K.C. STAR, 3/12). In Boston, Chad Finn notes there were "technical glitches almost immediately," as in addition to the audio problems, "mascots were misidentified and old logos were used in a couple of instances." The lights in the N.Y. studio "cut out during a split screen with the main studio in Atlanta," while a studio audience "was an awkward new twist" (BOSTON.com, 3/12). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez notes some "audio and video hiccups ... marred parts of the two-hour show." The inclusion of a studio audience was, at times, an "awkward addition." Members of the audience were "served pizzas courtesy of sponsor Pizza Hut, but when Johnson asked for a slice and forced the crowd to react, it was painful to watch" (USA TODAY, 3/12). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the show was an "awkward mess." Rock bottom was when Johnson "basically did a live pizza ad while standing in the middle of an embarrassed-looking live studio audience, then asked for a piece of the pizza somebody was eating, took a bite and told the crowd to be more enthusiastic about this whole charade" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/12).

SELLING THE DRAMA: In South Bend, Tom Noie notes the 36 at-large teams were "revealed in alphabetical order" at the top of the show, which "carried some drama." When Johnson got to where the Notre Dame name "should have popped up, he paused and asked the live studio audience if this was where they would see Notre Dame." Then the name of Ohio State appeared, which "meant Notre Dame was out" (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 3/12). Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “When you're waiting on the bubble and you can find out in 10 minutes, even though we're almost the last alphabetical team to get in, it's still better than waiting an hour to find out. I liked it” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 3/12). However, in Michigan, Josh Slagter wrote, "Other than Notre Dame's fate (kudos to Ernie Johnson for the troll job), it took some Sherlock Holmes deductive logic to figure out who didn't make it" (MLIVE.com, 3/11). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton notes after revealing the at-large teams, the TBS crew proceeded to "reveal all the bubble teams, in alphabetical order, without any real pause for discussion about the most shocking berths -- and omissions." The bracket was shown after that, meaning it "hardly had the drama of years past given that the 68 teams were unceremoniously rattled off already" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/12).

YOU HAD ONE JOB: USA TODAY's Perez writes since all the teams that made it already were announced, the "bracket rollout lacked the usual celebratory and dejection footage for the bubble teams." Turner Sports Chief Content Officer Craig Barry said it was "a small price to pay for doing what's best for the viewer" (USA TODAY, 3/12). In Tulsa, Guerin Emig writes, "They trashed the best drama sports television ever produced, the line-by-line NCAA bracket reveal, and unveiled the field of 68 in alpha-freaking-betical order." Emig: "Never, never, EVER do that again" (TULSA WORLD, 3/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Zach Pereles wrote, "Why the automatic bid list? Pereles: "If people complained about having their time wasted before, why did TBS take time running through a long list of teams that were guaranteed berths?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/11). But ESPN's Chris Canty said he "didn't have a problem" with the at-large team being announced in alphabetical order. Canty: "All the teams that were on the bubble, they knew whether they were in or not. You kind of took away from a little bit of that suspense, but in terms of finding out where you were going to play and what your first-round matchup was to be and what draw you got, I thought that was probably a part of the intrigue and that is why they decided to do it that way. I didn’t have a problem with it” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 3/12). ESPN's Dan Dakich: "“I like when they used to just unveil the bracket one by one but I thought it was fine" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 3/12). 

TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL: In DC, Des Bieler writes, "What TBS accomplished Sunday was truly impressive: Everyone who watched its NCAA tournament selection show hated it" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/12). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes TBS basically handled the selection show the "way you'd expect an over-caffeinated 16-year-old to handle a sports car." They "crashed into the railings from the very beginning." Mellinger: "A format that should've been rejected in the planning room was butchered" (K.C. STAR, 3/12). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE notes the "hare-brained idea of announcing all the teams to make the tournament in the first 10 minutes was a bit of a bust, doing nothing for fans and taking 13 minutes" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 3/12). In DC, John Feinstein writes, "It took 13 minutes of TBS’s annoying 'Price Is Right'-style selection show to 'unveil' the 68-team NCAA tournament field Sunday night" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/12). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes, "If TBS' disastrous selection show is the worst thing that happens to the NCAA tournament this month ... everything will be fine" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/12).

THE CHUCKSTER TO THE RESCUE: The WASHINGTON POST's Bieler notes during the show Charles Barkley had the "opportunity to grill" tournament's selection committee Chair Bruce Rasmussen over Oklahoma's inclusion, who were given a No. 10 seed. Rasmussen said, "We know that they stumbled down the stretch, and that certainly affected their seeding." Barkley then "jumped in, wondering acerbically just how highly the committee had ranked Oklahoma before its swoon." Barkley: "They were 2-8 (to end the season) ... what, were they a No. 1 seed before they went 2-8, to drop all the way down to 10?" He added, "So they got in comfortably, but they were 2-8, so they must have been a really high seed before they dropped all the way down to 10" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/12). SPORTING NEWS' Michael McCarthy wrote there were some "excellent moments during the two-hour show." Barkley, Jim Nantz and Kenny Smith "made some excellent points about programs and brackets." But it was "tough to overcome the disastrous beginning" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/11).