Back to basics for selection show


CBS plans to utilize a little common sense when it reveals the NCAA Tournament field at 6 p.m. tonight.

The televised special will unveil the 68-team field by showing where teams fit in the tournament’s ubiquitous bracket. Of course, that makes all the sense in the world.

Last year, TBS, which had the show for the first time, revealed all the teams in the tournament alphabetically. Then, later in the show, they provided information about when, where or who teams were playing in the bracket format.

That move was predictably panned. It was so silly that it’s hard to believe anyone would suggest it, let alone that any TV executive, producer or director would support it.

This year, though, some sanity returns as the show airs again on CBS.

“We’re going back to basics. We’re going to release the brackets as fast as we can,” Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, told The Associated Press earlier this week while shouldering responsibility for last year’s mistake. “We together with Turner kind of changed the format of the selection show, and what we found was people want to know the brackets as soon as possible. And that’s why we’re doing it this year in this format.”

Again, a good move — a simple, common sense move. The brackets have become bigger than the tournament itself. They’re a cultural phenomenon, with millions of fans filling out brackets online, and with every possible sporting event besides college basketball trying to emphasize the bracket structure and tournament nature of its postseason.

So, getting to the brackets sooner, not sharing teams alphabetically in order to create an unnecessary sense of drama, makes all the sense in the word.

Thank you, CBS.

Semifinal showdown

The semifinal matchup between Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten hockey tournament airs at 3:30 p.m. today on Big Ten Network.

Ohio State controlled the regular season series, 3-1. The Buckeyes are the only team in the conference to win at least one game in the conference tournament in each of the past five years. They’ve won eight tournament games overall. That’s one game behind Penn State’s total of nine tournament victories.

BTN does a good job with its hockey coverage, and the matchup of the chippy Buckeyes, who dominated the regular season, and high-scoring Nittany Lions should be worth watching.

Super swap

Special events, especially sporting events, mean a lot to TV networks, and having two such events back-to-back can be a potential marketing and sponsorship bonanza.

That’s why there’s an apparent Super Bowl swap in the works. NBC was set to air the game in 2021 and CBS in 2022, but a trade, as reported this week by the New York Post, would allow the networks to flip-flop years.

So, Fox would televise the game in 2020, followed by CBS (2021), NBC (2022) and then Fox again in 2023.

The moves give CBS both the Super Bowl and Final Four in 2021, while NBC has the Super Bowl and the Olympics in 2022. The networks believe the big events within weeks of each other will be good for their bottom lines.

And they’re right about that.

Watching wrestling

ESPN and ESPNU have start-to-finish coverage of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, from the opening session midday Thursday through the championships Saturday night.

Basically, daytime sessions air on ESPNU (Noon Thursday, 11 a.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday) while ESPN carries the evening sessions (7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday).

Penn State fans who want the excitement and familiarity of Jeff Byers may listen on the Penn State Sports Network and at GoPSUsports.com online. Byers is a comfortable pro for Penn State fans, worth listening to as the program chases another national championship.

On ESPN and ESPNU, the coverage is generally balanced and complete. There’s often an unnecessary focus on perceived star power or efforts to validate the sport (especially and frustratingly with actor Billy Baldwin), and the just-off-the-mat interviews with wrestlers are frustrating as well.

Sure, it’s good access and provides immediacy but moments when it produces much are rare — Bo Nickal’s emotional outburst last year aside.

Still, that kind of moment is enough to keep the practice alive for this year and many to come.

Tuner tidbits

n ESPN added former Phillies infielder Ryan Howard and former Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia to its roster of baseball analysts in recent weeks.

n Race fans can catch the Australian Grand Prix when it re-airs at 6:30 a.m. (ESPN2) and 9 p.m. (ESPNEWS) Sunday. The race aired live at 1:05 a.m. Sunday as the F1 season began. ESPN will televise all 21 races in the series this season, airing the races commercial free with sponsorship from Mothers Polish.

n Plans for “Monday Night Football” in the aftermath of Jason Witten’s unexpected departure in late February remain unclear. Expect play-by-play man Joe Tessitore to return. And expect the portable broadcast position/perch used by sideline analyst Booger McFarland to be gone. Beyond that, whether they stick with only Tessitore and McFarland as a two-person booth (which would be a mistake) or find another analyst might not be determined for several weeks.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.