ESPN scheduled a college basketball sextupleheader Saturday. No, that’s not some kind of scandalous word. I don’t even know if it’s any kind of word. I might have made it up. But on ESPN2 Saturday, six straight games were scheduled:
11 a.m.: Virginia Commonwealth/LaSalle
1 p.m.: OSU/West Virginia
3 p.m.: Western Kentucky/Louisiana-Lafayette
5 p.m.: Pittsburgh-Maryland
7 p.m.: Alabama-LSU
9 p.m.: Brigham Young-Gonzaga.
Lots of good basketball. With no chance of any game but the first being televised completely on ESPN2.
I was gone for much of Saturday, so I taped the OSU-West Virginia game. When I flipped it on, VCU-LaSalle were still playing. There was 1:42 left in the game. At 1:02 p.m., ESPN announced that OSU-WVU would start in three minutes — and be shown on ESPNNews. Which is OK for most people watching at home, but if you were taping the game, good luck.
So when OSU-West Virginia tipped off at 3:06 p.m., the VCU-LaSalle clock had dipped to 50.2 seconds left. Alas, it was a tight game, so you knew there would be more timeouts, some fouls, some lengthening of the game.
At 1:08 p.m., ESPN2 showed us a live look-in on the OSU-WVU game, with the Mountaineers up 2-0 with 18:45 left in the first half in Stillwater. At 1:10 p.m., VCU-LaSalle ended — in terms of regulation time. The teams were tied 73-73. Which meant overtime. West Virginia led OSU 4-2 with 17:09 left in the first half at Stillwater.
Before overtime began in the VCU-LaSalle, we got another live look-in on OSU-WVU. Then it was back to Philadelphia for overtime. A permanent scoreboard sat in the upper right corner of the TV screen, keeping us abreast of OSU-WVU.
At 1:21 p.m., we got a studio update on OSU-WVU — the Mountaineers led 14-8 with 11:56 left in the first half. Then it was back to LaSalle-VCU. At 1:29 p.m., overtime ended in Philadelphia. The first overtime. The teams still were tied. In Stillwater, West Virginia led OSU 16-13 with 10:32 left in the first half.
ESPN2 shifted to another live look-in from Stillwater. West Virginia led 17-13. We saw nine seconds of game action. Then it was back to VCU-LaSalle.
Finally, in the second overtime, Virginia Commonwealth broke open the game and the second overtime would be enough to find a victor. At 1:47 p.m., the game ended. West Virginia led OSU 30-26 with 4:53 left in the first half. We got a short recap on the game, then ESPN2 shifted to studio update — score and highlights from the Syracuse-Miami game. Finally, at 1:48 p.m., with 4:38 left in the first half, OSU-West Virginia arrived on the screen for good.
Double overtimes happen. ESPN’s ability to shift games to another channel is cool. But there remains a simple solution. ESPN — and any other network that stacks games — has to stop this silly notion that ballgames can be crammed into two-hour windows.
The Big 12 Saturday package — shown in Oklahoma City on KOCB-34 — starts games two hours 15 minutes apart, which helps tremendously. ESPN ought to give 2:30 windows. 11, 1:30, 4, 6:30, 9 and, well, you get the picture.
By the time I saw OSU-West Virginia, Marcus Smart already had encountered trouble that would lead to further trouble and a self-admitted meltdown. Markel Brown’s rash of dunks, luckily, came after the game was joined by ESPN2.
But the idea that basketball games can fitted into two-hour windows, that’s just silly. It’s a plan designed to fail.
Monday night, Duke plays Pittsburgh with a 6 p.m. tipoff on ESPN. Bedlam is scheduled to immediately follow, at 8 p.m. If you’re taping the game, better tape ESPNNews, too.