CBS moved the start of its NCAA men's basketball tournament coverage to cable channel ESPN yesterday because of its news coverage on the war in Iraq.
At noon, when CBS Sports' pregame show was scheduled to start, the network told viewers looking for NCAA action to tune instead to ESPN.
The day's first game, between Marquette and Holy Cross in the Midwest Region in Indianapolis, tipped off at 12:20 p.m. on ESPN -- with CBS announcers and production. CBS resumed telecasts last night.
"We're prepared to accommodate every window today and tomorrow, if needed. They've sent the first window to us so far," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. "Beyond that I don't know. It's a fluid situation."
ESPN is in about 20 million fewer households than CBS, and ESPN2 reaches about 22 million fewer.
If CBS opts to switch games today, they would be shown on ESPN in the afternoon and ESPN2 in the evening. ESPN's previous schedule includes NBA coverage tonight.
Utah's Johnsen Sidelined
Utah senior forward Britton Johnsen, the 2002 Mountain West Conference player of the year, will miss the NCAA tournament because of mononucleosis and an enlarged spleen. A member of Rick Majerus's 1998 Final Four team as a freshman, Johnsen (6-9, 213) had emerged as the Utes' leading defender this season, averaging 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Majerus said he had known since last week that Johnsen wouldn't be able to play today in Nashville, but Utah's team physician didn't rule him out until examining him one last time Wednesday.
"You want to give him hope," Majerus said, "and I think that's what the doctors were thinking."
Johnsen's senior season was riddled with challenges. He tore a ligament in his hand in December, then missed the conference tournament with mononucleosis. Still, he accompanied the team to Nashville and has been a supportive and enthusiastic presence in practice.
Majerus on War
Coaches and players expressed support for U.S. troops as they gathered at tournament sites around the country this afternoon. And most said they were proud to provide the country and its soldiers a diversion in time of war.
But Majerus was among those who said he wished the NCAA had postponed the tournament once the ground war began. "Irrespective of whether or not we agree with the war, now that we're in this, I take the position of a team member and support wholeheartedly the administration," Majerus added.
Majerus explained that his father had served in Okinawa and that he had lost an uncle in Normandy. Back in Utah, he added, he has numerous friends who have been deployed through the National Guard -- friends he swims with in the morning; others who work at the hotel where he lives; and others who work at the restaurants he frequents.
He also spoke about an essay by Mark Twain, "The War Prayer," and the film "Saving Private Ryan," saying he wished they were mandatory reading and viewing before launching into war. . . .
In Tampa, St. Joseph's Coach Phil Martelli wondered why he was being asked about security at the event.
"We have experts handling Homeland Security and an NCAA security team," Martelli said. "Why would you ask a basketball coach about this?"
His Friday Best
Kentucky may be a prohibitive favorite against No. 16 seed Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis, but IUPUI Coach Ron Hunter guaranteed today that he'll top Kentucky counterpart Tubby Smith in attire for Friday's first-round game.
Hunter made highlight reels nationwide with his midcourt belly flop after his Jaguars clinched their first NCAA berth by upsetting Valparaiso in the Mid-Continent Conference tournament. In the process, he split the seams of his best Sunday suit. Now, a sympathetic clothier has outfitted him with a $3,000 suit, shirt and tie for Friday's game, which Hunter is characterizing as the "David and Goliath" of college basketball.
"I'm not like Tubby Smith and Gary Williams! They've got suits they can throw away!" Hunter said, staring into a bank of TV cameras. "But I'm going to look better than you, Tubby."
Carmelo Anthony, who has bulked up from 185 pounds to 225 in a little more than two years' time, will face his best friend, Manhattan freshman point guard Kenny Minor. The pair grew up together in Baltimore, and Anthony helped get Minor into the prestigious Adidas ABCD Camp by refusing to show up unless Minor received an invitation.
"We never thought this situation would come about where we would play against each other in the tournament," said Anthony, who is averaging 22.7 points and 10 rebounds per game this season. "But on the court, I don't know him and he doesn't know me. It's all business."