In an attempt to capitalize on viewership, CBS decided this year to stretch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show into a full two-hour affair. It was a complete disaster on a handful of fronts, although CBS probably succeeded anyway in its primary goal of keeping all of our eyeballs on our television sets for as long as possible.
The show started this year at 5:30 p.m. ET, a half-hour sooner than usual. The network's brazen teasing of the American and global public started almost immediately. It named the tournament's four No. 1 seeds right off the bat – just as it does every year – but then started firing salvos in an increasingly obvious ploy to extend viewership at the expense of the sensible and convenient exchange of information.
It was about 5:51 – more than 20 minutes after the show began – that CBS first started revealing the bracket. The network has always done this one bracket at a time and included a bit of analysis in between each regional reveal, but this year's unveiling was the TV equivalent of a gasoline-doused dumpster fire.
Charles Barkley is not really a college basketball person, at least not by trade. He made his name in the NBA, then made his name again talking about the NBA. "Operation of NCAA Tournament bracket touchscreens" is distinctly absent from Barkley's resume, yet CBS had him do it anyway. It was disastrous, so much so that Barkley's co-talent on the CBS set had to break an uncomfortable silence by poking fun at him about it.
Host Ernie Johnson – bless him – tried to help Barkley through the touchscreening process, but to no avail. Colleagues needled Barkley about his lack of finesse with the technology, to which Barkley responded, "Hey, man, I'm a metrosexual. I get a mani-pedi every week," which is something that seems good to know.
Congratulations to "HOME TEAM NAME 2," which Barkley really likes in a Cinderella role.
The whole Barkley thing maybe could've been cute, if not for the point that it prolonged what had already become a significant delay in handling the primary duty here: the actual release of the tournament bracket.
While CBS diddled, a watchdog on Twitter going by "Sarcastic Prick" leaked what turned out to be an entirely accurate bracket by 5:55 - just at the same time Barkley and company were doing their Mac Store routine with three-quarters of the bracket yet to be revealed on television.
Fans were getting antsy, and teams, too, were taking matters into their own hands.
Teams yet to be announced seem to be accepting the bracket leak as legit, per a few texts. Already studying their leaked opponents.— Luke Winn (@lukewinn) March 13, 2016
It took an hour and 15 minutes from the show's start for CBS to reveal the last region, the Midwest, on TV. By the time the network was done revealing the full bracket, people were already moving on.
Good work, executives.