To get the most out of the 2008 NCCAA men's college basketball tournament, keep your TV close and your laptop closer. Because while the action on TV can be riveting, the real goodies can only be found online.
There's no bigger office productivity killer than March Madness. The 63-game race to college basketball's Final Four was one of the largest live Internet events last year, with more than 1.2 million college basketball fans watched 2,130,369 hours of live streaming video, reports CBS Sports.
This year, for college hoops fans with unimpeded network bandwidth, CBS is once again offering an online basketball bonanza. For the 2008 tourney, the network is trying out a new media player (16:9 aspect ratio with 640 X 360 pixels) which should make the action easier to follow than last year. Fans who were wishing for HD video will have to wait a bit longer -- that enhancement has been sidelined for now.
Watching the games online is free with registration to the CBS site, but capacity is limited. So before each game, fans are ushered into a virtual waiting room. Those who registered early enough to be granted "VIP access" will have a shorter wait than the hordes with only General Admission passes.
Last year, CBS posted an NCAA Tourney channel on YouTube, but as of this writing there's no sign of a channel for 2008. Word is that an inability to embed videos kept the channel from really taking off last year. That hasn't stopped fans from uploading their own videos and clips of NCAA games. Check this link often for user-uploaded March Madness videos. An upstart online venue for user-uploaded college hoops videos is Vimeo.
In Your Facebook
In 2007, more than 2.6 million Facebook users joined at least one bracket group. This year, more than 63 million Facebook users have the opportunity to fill out brackets and compare their picks with friends. And they'll have access to links for watching games live via the NCAA March Madness on Demand service. The CBS Facebook application is only one option. Sports Illustrated has the SI Bracket Challenge. Find other March Madness Facebook apps here.
Know The Score
For a quick overview of this year's tournament match-ups, read Bill Trocchi's 5-Minute Guide. Check out team profiles here , and Bracketology's Official 2008 Tournament Bubble Breakdown here. What's the official field goal distance in the NCAA vs. the NBA? Find out, and settle any other squabbles about the rules quickly with this comparison of NCAA, NBA, and FIBA official rules. Other sites worthy of bookmarking are:
For a blogs-eye-view of the games, bookmark these:
Hoops To Go
This year CBS is again providing game coverage to mobile devices -- but there's no live streaming yet. Verizon Wireless and AT&T customers can get real-time scoring updates, stats, highlights in video clip form, and tournament news on their handhelds. Just about everyone else can get free alerts from ESPN via SMS service. ESPN says the service is compatible with most mobile carriers.
Despite the variety of digital options for enjoying the tournament, there are always those who want to cheer from courtside seats. The bad news is tickets to NCAA championship games are tough to come by. The good news is that there's Ticketwood, a ticket comparison shopping service, and Ticket Solutions, a site that boasts, "all tickets are backed by our unprecedented 200% money back guarantee."
If you can't be online, there's always that other glowing box: your TV. Check broadcast schedules here.
live streaming audio is available from some Westwood One radio stations; find one near you with the station finder.
Finally, if watching 63 basketball games isn't enough madness for you, try NBA Live's March Madness '08 for xBox reviewed here.