March Madness, supersized, heads toward 'Sweet 16' games this week
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College basketball's big show is under way, bigger than ever. The NCAA tournament known as March Madness, which began last week, expanded this year by four teams to a total of 68 schools. Three elimination rounds through this past Sunday have thinned the field to 16 teams for playoffs in Newark, New Orleans, San Antonio and Anaheim, Calif., from March 24-27.
Fans can watch at CBS and three Turner Broadcasting cable networks (TBS, TNT, truTV), which allows live telecasts of every game in full for the first time. Another new twist is the presence of outspoken former NBA star Charles Barkley as a CBS commentator. He has used airtime to emphasize the need for academic support so athletes earn diplomas as well as cheers. "You can't just give them basket-weaving degrees. You can't just put them in classes to keep them eligible," he said at a media preview. "They need to be in real classes. . . . At the end of this season, only 50 of these kids are going to make it to the NBA."
After this week's games, the tournament moves to Houston on April 2 with the Final Four teams and the April 4 championship game. Along the way, excitement is generated by rooting for local or home state teams, or schools attended by friends or family members. There's also the drama of freshman heroes and surprise outcomes -- "Cinderella stories" of scrappy underdogs and tight finishes, such as last week's upset of Louisville by Morehead State and of Georgetown by Virginia Commonwealth.
Editor says: "This year, starting today, this newspaper will print each team's graduation rate in our tournament bracket, right next to the team's won-loss record. . . . I challenge other media outlets to do the same. The University of Arizona should be publicly shamed for its 20 percent graduation rate, just as Villanova should be widely praised for its rate of 100 percent." -- Larry Platt, Philadelphia Daily News editor
Charles Barkley says: "They've got to make some of these kids go to school. . . . They all think they're going to play in the NBA, but 99.9 percent of them are going out into the real world. . . . These kids aren't thinking about getting an education. They only think they can play sports. They don't think about becoming doctors, lawyers, firefighters, policemen."
Blogger says: "The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament is the most exciting American sporting event, period. It is because of the upsets." -- Jon Gilbert at bleacherreport.com
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