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What are basketball fans to do? UB, Bona playing at same time in NCAA Tournament

Call it March Scheduling Madness.

The odds of two Western New York college basketball teams qualifying for the NCAA men's tournament have been pretty long over the past half century.

The University at Buffalo and St. Bonaventure qualified this March for the field of 68 to give the region two teams in the tournament for the first time since 1970 when Bona and Niagara were among 25 teams that qualified.

That is about four years before broadcaster Brent Musburger was credited with calling the tournament "March Madness" after hearing a high school tournament in Chicago referred to that way.

In an unfortunate bit of odds-defying timing, both local teams will be playing on national television at the same time.

UB is scheduled to tip off in Boise, Idaho, at 9:40 p.m. Thursday against the University at Arizona on CBS about 15 minutes before St. Bonaventure is scheduled to play Florida in Dallas in a game carried by Turner's truTV.

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St. Bona's victory against UCLA in a play-in game Tuesday night assured a double burst of basketball joy for local fans. That undoubtedly means many Western New Yorkers will be switching channels more often than the teams switch defenses.

But if it goes well, the staggered starts of the games should at least enable fans to see the end of both games, as well as see Bona play at halftime of the UB game. Bona and UB are both scheduled for the second games of the night session in their respective arenas so the length of the first game will determine actual start times.

It is less than ideal for local college basketball fans or for CBS and its cable partner, Turner, to have two teams from the same TV market competing for eyeballs at the same time. As a rule, schools in the same conference and in the same geographical area are kept away from playing at the same time. However, sometimes it is unavoidable.

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Dan Weinberg, executive vice president of sports programming for CBS, put a positive spin on the situation by saying how much technology has changed the way people view games.

After noting that CBS is a partner with both UB's Mid-American Conference and St. Bona's Atlantic-10 conference, Weinberg added that there are ways for fans to watch both games at once.

"The good news is there are so many ways to watch this tournament," said Weinberg, a Cornell graduate.

He said all the tournament games are streamed, which enables someone to watch a game on TV while watching another game simultaneously on a computer or mobile device.

In addition, many televisions have picture-in-picture functions, allowing people to watch two programs at once.

Weinberg wouldn't bite when asked if he sympathized with Western New Yorkers over the scheduling.

"It is great that schools like Buffalo and St. Bonaventure made 'The Dance,'" said Weinberg. "They are the type of schools that fans embrace at this time of year. They are David against Goliath."

He said that Bona's upset victory over UCLA qualified in that regard.

"These are the type of stories that make the tournament fun," he concluded.

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