The weather hasn't been very cooperative but, regardless, on Sunday it will be pool weather, so prepare to jump headfirst into it - the NCAA March Madness pool, that is. ESPN will start its wire-to-wire selection coverage with a Bracketology special at 5 p.m. On "SportsCenter" at 6 p.m., immediately after the 65-team field is announced, there will be analysis and features to explain who is in, who is out, and why.
"I thought for a while that the bubble was really soft," said ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, the original Bracketologist. "I think more teams are attempting to play their way in than we normally see. Some of the teams are going to make it in because for some of the bubble teams, the conference tournament might be a little bit more important than normal."
Lunardi thinks the conference with the most compelling subplots in the East is the Atlantic 10.
"Here you have a conference in which one team that was ranked this year - Dayton - finished eighth," he said. "Another team that was ranked this year - Rhode Island - finished 11th. A 21-win team was the 11th seed in the tournament. That doesn't happen in majors, it doesn't happen in mid-majors, it doesn't happen in low majors. It's just a league that did everything it was supposed to do in the nonconference to position teams for an at-large bid and then they started cannibalizing each other. Teams at the top were having really bad losses - UMass losing at home to Fordham, St. Joe's losing at home to La Salle . . . this league is playing a series of elimination games over the next day or two."
One aspect of the coverage bound to pay dividends for the viewers is the addition of bombastic ex-coach Bob Knight. The Hall of Famer, who made his ESPN debut Wednesday, will be a studio analyst for the rest of Championship Week, Selection Sunday, and for the tournament.
"I think there are more top-flight teams in the Big East than any other conference in the country and therefore I don't think we can consider a game in the Big East from here on as an upset," Knight said.
Knight was asked which was more challenging, his beloved fly-fishing or coaching.
"You can miss where you're casting. You just pick it up and cast it again," he said. "You never know if a kid is going to do what you've told him to do and, actually, I've had flies that have reacted a lot better to my instructions over the years than a lot of the players I've had, so maybe I'm better at fly-fishing than coaching."
Ladies' nightsOn Monday, the 64-team NCAA women's field will be announced at 7 p.m. on ESPN, simulcast on ESPNU. The one-hour show, hosted by Trey Wingo along with analysts Stacey Dales and Kara Lawson, kicks off the network's coverage of the tournament, which runs March 22 through April 8 on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN360.com, and ESPN FULL COURT . . . For those looking for a hockey fix, look no further than NESN tonight. Beginning with a half-hour pregame show at 7, NESN will broadcast Hockey East Friday Night Live with Boston University going against UMass-Lowell. In addition, the network will air two Bruins games - against the Flyers at 1 tomorrow and Sunday at Washington at 3 p.m. Sunday's Red Sox spring training game against the Pirates will be aired - tape delayed - at 6 p.m. after the Bruins. On Monday, NESN will show the Red Sox-Yankees matchup at 1 p.m. followed by a postgame show. The Sox' last game in Fort Myers, Fla., will be Wednesday against the Blue Jays at noon . . . The Tiger Woods watch should be in full swing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational tomorrow and Sunday from 2:30-6 p.m. on Channel 7. Woods is going after his fifth straight PGA Tour victory, dating to September, and his fifth at Bay Hill. Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller lead the coverage. Hicks said Woods's popularity is unparalleled. "Even the not-so-crazy golf fan wants to know where Tiger is all the time, because Tiger is probably the most popular athlete in the world. There's electricity when he's there, and when he is not in contention there is a little bit of a deflated feeling."
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.