The NCAA Div. I women’s basketball tournament will be aired on the ESPN Networks (primarily ESPN2) starting Saturday. All games will be available on ESPN3.com.
Marist College drew Iowa State for its opening-round game, and fans of the Red Foxes won’t have to wait very long to see them. Marist has an 11 a.m. start on Saturday from Duke University in Durham, N.C.
The Marist contest is one of four taking place at the same time, and ESPN2 will be taking its national audience to all four games, focusing on the most interesting contest. ESPN2 will also provide home-market protection, meaning the Marist game will be aired in its entirety. If ESPN gets it right, then the Hudson Valley should be able to watch the Red Foxes uninterrupted — the network didn’t always get it right in the past.
Dave Flemming and Kayte Christensen will call the action from Durham, including the Marist game. The Red Foxes can also be heard on Poughkeepsie radio station WKIP (1450-AM).
Even before the first tip-off, I have to register a complaint: It’s great that ESPN is carrying the entire tournament, but there doesn’t seem to be any effort to stagger start times enough to maximize coverage. Why should all action be done by 8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday? It seems you could schedule some games at 8:30 and even 11 p.m., giving fans six windows rather than four — you don’t even have to put them on ESPN2; use ESPNU instead. An audience shouldn’t have to be switched to four different sites during a single-game window.
What is ESPN2 airing on Saturday evening? A repeat of the 2010 World Series of Poker, an edition of Baseball Tonight (during spring training, of all things) and a drag racing event. And on Sunday night? TWO episodes of the 2010 Poker.
C’mon, now. If you are going to make a commitment to the tournament, then do away with the Poker shows and the one drag racing event for just one weekend out of the year.
Here is the schedule for the first-round games:
11 a.m.: No. 10 Marist vs. No. 7 Iowa State; No. 12 Bowling Green vs. No. 5 Georgia; No. 16 Stetson vs. No. 1 Tennessee; No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 6 Penn State
1:30 p.m.: No. 13 Central Florida vs. No. 4 Ohio State; No. 15 Tennessee-Martin vs. No. 2 Duke; No. 9 Texas vs. No. 8 Marquette; No. 14 Navy vs. No. 3 DePaul
4 p.m.: No. 12 Fresno State vs. No. 5 North Carolina (game in entirety on ESPNU); No. 10 Temple vs. No. 7 Arizona State; No. 11 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 Iowa; No. 9 St. John’s vs. No. 8 Texas Tech
6:30 p.m.: No. 13 Hampton vs. No. 4 Kentucky; No. 15 Utah vs. No. 2 Notre Dame; No. 14 Montana vs. No. 3 UCLA; No. 16 Cal Davis vs. No. 1 Stanford
12 p.m.: No. 14 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 3 Miami (Fla.); No. 10 Vanderbilt vs. No. 7 Louisville; No. 13 Saint Francis (Pa.) vs. No. 4 Maryland; No. 16 Hartford vs. No. 1 Connecticut
2:30 p.m.: No. 11 James Madison vs. No. 6 Oklahoma; No. 15 South Dakota State vs. No. 2 Xavier; No. 12 Princeton vs. No. 5 Georgetown; No. 9 Purdue vs. No. 8 Kansas State (game in entirety on ESPNU)
5 p.m.: No. 14 Samford vs. No. 3 Florida State; No. 15 McNeese State vs. No. 2 Texas A&M (game in entirety on ESPNU); No. 9 Virginia vs. No. 8 Houston; No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock vs. No. 5 Green Bay
7:30 p.m.: No. 11 Middle Tennessee State vs. No. 6 Georgia; No. 10 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 7 Rutgers (game in entirety on ESPNU); No. 16 Prairie View vs. No. 1 Baylor; No. 13 Northern Iowa vs. No. 4 Michigan State