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MARCH MADNESS PROVIDES MADDENING MOMENTS

NOW THAT only one basketball game is being played at a time in the NCAA regional finals today and Sunday, CBS no longer will face unwelcome, maddening decisions during March Madness.

Nothing was more maddening than last Sunday's coverage of two exciting games running simultaneously -- Syracuse against defending national champion Arkansas, and No. 1 UCLA against Missouri.

Since Western New York is considered a pro-Syracuse market, CBS naturally concentrated on that game and never veered.

For the most part, this made sense. The game was tense and tight throughout. It would have been nice to see some action in the UCLA game, but constant switches can get maddening, too.

But with 4.8 seconds left and Missouri holding a one-point lead, CBS foolishly stayed with the Syracuse game during an insignificant moment rather than switch to UCLA's final attempt.

As a result, viewers here missed Tyus Edney's end-to-end rush that resulted in UCLA's one-point victory. It was shown several minutes later on replay, but that just isn't the same thing.

CBS also blew the big story in Syracuse's loss to Arkansas. Play-by-play man Dave Sims and analyst Dan Bonner didn't immediately realize that Syracuse was calling a timeout it didn't have with a one-point lead and seconds left in regulation.

And when they did realize it, they (Bonner later took all the heat) blamed the wrong player, Lucious Jackson. This despite the fact that you could hear over the arena public address system that the technical was being called on Lawrence Moten.

More maddening was the fact that CBS never corrected its error and had viewers believing throughout the overtime that Jackson was trying to redeem himself right up to his missed shot at the buzzer.

No discussion was made about official Tim Higgins' quick decision to grant the timeout, which became the focus of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's post-mortem.

ESPN and several other news organizations have made the obvious comparison of Moten's call to the illegal timeout that Michigan's Chris Webber took in the Wolverines' 1993 national championship loss to North Carolina.

Webber's decision prevented Michigan from having a chance to tie or win the game. After Moten's mistake, Syracuse still was fortunate enough to have a five-minute overtime to redeem itself while playing an Arkansas team that had three of its top players on the bench with five fouls.

If this tournament has shown anything, it is that, like Moten, even CBS experts can make huge mistakes.

Billy Packer, CBS' top analyst, was among those who criticized the NCAA Tournament committee for choosing Manhattan as an at-large team over Georgia Tech or George Washington.

But in the long run, the choice of Manhattan could be the best thing for college basketball and for television.

The Jaspers won one game and their selection means that teams in big conferences next season no longer can assume they'll get in with double-digit losses. That will make the regular season more important, which it needs to be to continue to appeal to television viewers.

I'll miss Barry Buetel's voice but not his work as WGR's Buffalo Sabres reporter. He didn't seem to ask questions, he seemed to filibuster and then wait for a response. Paul Hamilton, who used to be the voice of the Rochester Americans, has taken Buetel's place on the Sabres beat.

Fox, desperately seeking an audience at 7 p.m. Sundays, will air a basketball documentary, "Hollywood Dreams," on April 2, the night before the NCAA title game. It is narrated by Wesley Snipes ("White Men Can't Jump") and focuses on five high school seniors who played basketball in 1993 for the defending California state champions. It has been shown at several film festivals, including the 1994 Sundance Film Festival. One of the players is Donminic Ellison of Washington State, which lost to Canisius on Thursday in the National Invitation Tournament.

Wondering what the highest-rated sporting event in Buffalo was during the February sweeps? The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl carried by ABC had an 18.4 rating, almost triple the audience for the NBA All-Star game a week later.

Play-by-play man Francis Tommasino called his last St. Bonaventure game Monday in its NIT loss to Marquette. The voice of the Bonnies since 1989, Tommasino is leaving WHDL-AM and WPIG-FM because he is moving to Newport News, Va. He doesn't have a new job as yet. Gary Nease, who has worked at WMNS-AM and WMXO-FM in Olean for 20 years, is replacing Tommasino, effective April 3.

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