Announcers and Open Thread For Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament

East Semi-final
Union vs. Michigan State, 3:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Play by Play:
 John Buccigross
Color: Barry Melrose

East Semi-final
Miami (OH) vs. Massachusetts-Lowell, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Play by Play:
 John Buccigross
Color: Barry Melrose

Midwest Semi-final
Cornell vs. Michigan, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Play by Play:
 Ben Holden
Color: Sean Ritchlin 

How to Make the NCAA Tournament More TV Friendly, If We Must Remain on ESPN

The NCAA Tournament begins today at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The NCAA Tournament is a lot of fun, and will be a lot more fun for many viewers who have gotten more invested in college hockey this season due to the sport’s increased television exposure on NBCSN, CBSSN, Big Ten Network and beyond.

There are two problems with the NCAA Tournament, from the way I see it. Number one is that it has a horrendous television deal with ESPN, done as a blanket contract with dozens of other sports that aren’t hoops or football, it will only provide viewers with eight live, televised games out of 12 total that are being held over the three-day weekend. The other four will be aired live on ESPN3, the network’s web service, and various syndicated stations before airing via tape delay on ESPNU.

That’s not a bad percentage, but when you consider that an NCAA Basketball Tournament with 67 games has found a way to televise all of them. What’s even more glaring is the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, which has an equal 15 game schedule to it, was televised live across ESPN2 and ESPNU, with all games shown live on television. That’s right, ESPN has found a way to get every game from a lacrosse tournament on its’ airwaves, but not hockey. That’s disgraceful, but it also plays into the second half of the NCAA Hockey Tournament’s problem.

Now, hockey’s a little different from lacrosse in terms of the early-round game sites. The first round of the lacrosse tournament is hosted by the top seeds, whereas the hockey teams (much like basketball) gather into “regionals” of four. This make’s scheduling a little more difficult, because the regions aren’t able to space games out because they want to keep folks in the building. This needs to stop, because it is prohibitive in getting games on TV. These games need to be scheduled so that all of them can air. You can’t blame ESPN (well, I can and have) for doing the best with what the NCAA gives it. There’s no reason that the four games on Friday can’t be spaced out so that, if they end in regulation, all can be aired on ESPNU.

I have two separate plans for making this better. Both involve spacing games out each day so they can air on TV, and both involve adding an extra day to one of the regionals. But both don’t seem too ridiculous. Hell, the regional hosts could sell both games separately and possibly make more cash this way.

Here’s plan #1, which goes with the current Friday-Sunday format, just spacing things out a bit:

Plan #1

Friday

1:00 p.m. ET – East #1
3:30 p.m. ET – Midwest #1
6:00 p.m. ET – East #2
8:30 p.m. ET – Midwest #2

Saturday
12:00 p.m. ET –
 Northeast #1
2:30 p.m. ET – West #1
5:00 p.m. ET – Northeast #2
7:30 p.m. ET –
East Final
10:00 p.m. ET – West #2

Sunday

2:00 p.m. ET – Midwest Final
5:00 p.m. ET – Northeast Final
8:00 p.m. ET – West Final

Now here’s plan #2, in which the tournament would begin on Saturday to make the spacing out of games more fan friendly (i.e. kids will be out of school no matter when you start the games) and there’ll be a triple-header on a championship Monday.

Plan #2

Saturday
1:00 p.m. ET – East #1
3:30 p.m. ET – Midwest #1
6:00 p.m. ET – East #2
8:30 p.m. ET – Midwest #2

Sunday
12:00 p.m. ET –
 Northeast #1
2:30 p.m. ET – West #2
5:00 p.m. ET – East Final
7:30 p.m. ET – Northeast #2
10:00 p.m. ET – West #2

Monday

4:00 p.m. ET – Midwest Final
6:30 p.m. ET – Northeast Final
9:00 p.m. ET – West Final


I don’t know enough about college hockey to know if this is realistic, but from a TV perspective, it would leave ESPN without excuses for dumping early-round games on the internet. If you’re a college hockey fan, please leave me your thoughts in the comments. I am, and I assume any good hockey fan not named Don Cherry is, very interested in helping the college game gain more notoriety.

Exclusive Avs/Jackets Game Being Replaced By Non-Exclusive Rangers/Penguins Game

NBC Sports Network will be covering the entire final week of the season with games for seven straight days. One of those games will be changing from a game that would’ve aired in both home markets to a game that will not.

NBC confirmed yesterday that Thursday, April 5th’s broadcast – originally Blue Jackets/Avalanche – will be switched over to Rangers/Penguins. The game is slated to be an original NBC production, but will not air in either New York or Pittsburgh. While the Avalanche could still be making a playoff push by that date, there is every chance that a four-day layoff will have eliminated them. Of course, the Blue Jackets were a playoff-excused disaster months ago. Meanwhile, the Penguins are one point back of the Rangers in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference as of this writing.

NHL On NBC Final Week Schedule

Sunday, April 1
12:30 Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh (NBC)
7:00
 Boston vs. NY Rangers (NBCSN)

Monday, April 2
7:00
 Washington vs. Tampa Bay (NBCSN)

Tuesday, April 3
7:30
 Pittsburgh vs. Boston (NBCSN)
10:00 Anaheim vs. Vancouver (NBCSN)

Wednesday, April 4
7:30
 Detroit vs. St. Louis (NBCSN)

Thursday, April 5
7:00
 NY Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (NBCSN)

Friday, April 6
7:30 Phoenix vs. St. Louis (NBCSN)

Saturday, April 7
1:00 Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh (NBC)
4:00 
Chicago vs. Detroit (NBCSN)*
7:00
 Washington vs. NY Rangers (NBCSN)* 

*-times subject to flip, but these are likely the games NBCSN will take, unless Buffalo’s still in things.