There hasn’t been a war update during the tournament in nine years. Halftime is still 20 minutes — actually closer to 22 minutes, because the clock doesn’t begin until one of the coaches has given the obligatory halftime interview to a sideline reporter and has been escorted to the tunnel.
The halftime breaks are so long one almost expects to see Madonna being wheeled in to perform.
Several years ago, when committee members were asked why halftime continued to be 20 minutes, this was the answer: “In some buildings, it can take the teams a long time to get to the locker room.”
Really? Even in the most massive domes, out-of-shape reporters can walk from courtside to the locker rooms in no more than 60 seconds. Of course, answering the question by saying “the networks pay us billions, they need more commercial time” would be out of the question because it would involve, well, telling the truth.
The NCAA does euphemisms better than anyone — on Saturday there were 17 references made to “student-athletes” by the news conference moderator after the Syracuse-Kansas State game. It is the truth that it has trouble with.
If you are watching at home, the never-ending parade of timeouts is hardly a big deal because you can switch to another game. Sort of. With the new stretched-out TV schedule, there was only one game on at any given time before 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. And on at least two occasions on Friday, with four games going on at once, all four networks were in commercial. Seriously.
It is far worse in the arena, where everyone, including players and coaches, does a lot of squirming to kill the dead time.
“You do kind of run out of things to say,” Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said Saturday in Pittsburgh, where his team bowed out to Ohio State. “Especially when you get that called timeout that becomes full followed by the TV timeout.” He smiled. “I tend to be redundant during timeouts. I guess I end up telling the guys the same thing four times instead of two.
“The good news is you can keep your guys rested. There’s no reason for anyone to get tired.”
Except, of course, the cheerleaders.
For John Feinstein’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein. For more, visit his blog at feinsteinon