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Viewers got too little of NCAA epic

Talk about March Madness. On Thursday night, CBS made Channel 4 viewers suffer watching 20 minutes of garbage time in Cornell's loss to Kentucky.

Those viewers saw most of the deciding second overtime in Kansas State's 101-96 victory over Xavier, but before that they saw only exciting glimpses of a game that featured big shot after big shot in what was a mini-tournament classic.

It should have been the other way around. Channel 4 viewers should have been sent the double OT game a lot more quickly and gotten glimpses of the Big Red in the second half.

A wire service story in Friday's paper even referred to the Kansas State-Xavier game as an "epic."

The reason Western New York viewers saw only glimpses of the overtime game was because CBS made this area one of natural interest for Cornell in the Sweet 16 even though it wasn't one last week. Western New York is closer to Cornell, there are a lot of Big Red alumni here and the game was being played nearby in Syracuse. But Western New York also is interested in good games. Kentucky's superior talent was obvious after a few minutes and only a total collapse at the foul line could have made the game closer than its 62-45 final score.

Besides, fans here also are aware of Xavier, which plays in St. Bonaventure's conference.

The extensive coverage of Cornell's loss did remind me how good ageless play-by-play man Dick Enberg still is alongside analyst Jay Bilas. Enberg has maintained his enthusiasm level, notes things that analysts are expected to see and makes colorful remarks.

When the cameras focused on a section in the Carrier Dome featuring Cornell fans in red alongside Kentucky fans in blue, he called it "the Mason-Dixon line of college basketball."

Syracuse fans were feeling blue after the Orange fell apart down the stretch in a 63-59 loss to Butler that was enthusiastically called by play-by-play man Gus Johnson alongside analyst Len Elmore.

Johnson, who called the games a week earlier in HSBC Arena, is a love-him-or-hate him analyst. It depends on how one feels about Johnson's enthusiasm when he describes Syracuse sharpshooter Andy Rautins as "an assassin" after hitting a three-point shot.

He made one head-scratching comment when he said there was "a lot of time left" when Syracuse was down four with fewer than 10 seconds on the clock. Johnson probably meant there was enough time for a miracle.

If Dick Vitale were next to Johnson, basketball fans would be driven mad. But the low-key Elmore is a perfect match and Thursday he had a strong game noting Syracuse's problems.

"Syracuse has a size and skill advantage but they lose it with quick shots," Elmore astutely noted.

He and Johnson were especially tough on Syracuse's Rick Jackson, who had a very tough time hanging on to the ball all night.

Johnson has a reputation at CBS for getting the best and most exciting games, a reputation that will be enhanced because he also called Kansas State's double overtime victory.

Thankfully, CBS switched Channel 4 viewers to Kansas State-Xavier with State holding a three-point lead and trying to prevent Xavier from taking a tying three-point shot. Instead, a player committed a foul that resulted in the Musketeers' Terrell Holloway hitting three free throws to tie the game and send it into the first overtime.

Elmore alertly noted that Kansas State committed a non-shooting foul that wasn't called before the three-shot foul was called.

Bilas also was critical of the officiating in the Cornell game, vehemently saying Jeff Foote should have been called for an intentional foul when he took down a Kentucky player. It was a closer call than Bilas thought. It looked like Foote might have been trying to keep the Kentucky player vertical to avoid injury.

But there's no question that Channel 4 viewers should have been crying foul over CBS' decision to stick here with the Big Red.

* Butler's upset of Syracuse had a preliminary rating of 7.9 on Channel 4. Kentucky's win over Cornell, which ended after midnight, had a 5.1 rating.

* NBC Sports carries a two-hour highlights program at 3 p.m. April 10 from the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver. The nightly coverage at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Universal Sports continues through Tuesday.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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