Sunday, March 23, 2003

NCAA Tourney notebook



Enquirer wire services

RATINGS DOWN: With viewers drawn to war coverage, the first two nights of the tournament had TV audiences roughly 25 percent smaller than last year's.

CBS Sports' broadcasts from 7 p.m. to about midnight Thursday and Friday averaged a 4.8 overnight rating compared with 6.3 in 2002, a drop of 23.8 percent. On Friday, the 7 p.m. games on CBS drew a 4.2 overnight rating, a 32 percent drop from last year's second night of the tournament. The 9:45 p.m. game got a 4.9, a decline of 14 percent.

Each rating point represents about 735,000 homes. Overnight ratings measure the 55 largest TV markets in the United States, covering nearly 70 percent of the country.

The NCAA has added time to halftimes, giving the network - which is paying the NCAA $6 billion over 11 years - more flexibility for war updates and some additional commercials.

CBS has moved some basketball action to cable channel ESPN so the broadcaster's news division can air war coverage. For Sunday, CBS worked out arrangements with ESPN, ESPN2, TNN, TBS and TNT so NCAA games could be shifted if necessary.

TBS could carry a game Sunday at 2 p.m., and TNT could at 7 p.m., Turner Sports Senior VP Greg Hughes said.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo concedes that reaching three consecutive Final Fours from 1999-2001 has set a tough standard for the Spartans to maintain.

Despite stringing together several outstanding recruiting classes during the program's dominant run, Izzo said his job has become even more challenging because of the early departure of NBA draft picks like Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph and Marcus Taylor.

"We did have good recruiting classes, and losing some of those guys has made it a little more difficult to maybe sustain the level that we were at," Izzo said.

The Spartans (20-12) can take another step in the right direction Sunday when they meet Florida (25-7) in the second round of the South Regional.

BONNER DOUBLE? Florida star Matt Bonner took some razzing from teammates when the Gators began watching film of Michigan State in preparation for second-round game of the South Regional.

The 6-foot-10, 240-pound senior forward could pass as a double for Adam Ballinger, the Spartans' 6-9, 250-pound senior forward.

"Yes, we look alike and have similar games," Bonner said, breaking into a smile. "Us redheads have to stick together, I guess."

SING ALONG: Besides being a basketball coach, Auburn's Cliff Ellis is a musician who has recorded several albums. His latest, People Get Ready, was inspired by Sept. 11.

"When 9-11 occurred, I went into the studio for the Red Cross," Ellis said. "I enjoy it."

His players are hesitant to rate their coach as a singer.

"He has a couple of songs on there that I like," Tigers star Marquis Daniels said.

Today's games

EAST

Syracuse (25-5) vs. Oklahoma State (22-9), 2:40 p.m.

Wake Forest (25-5) vs. Auburn (21-11), 4:30 p.m.

Louisville (25-6) vs. Butler (26-5), 2:20 p.m.

SOUTH

Xavier (26-5) vs. Maryland (20-9), 4:40 p.m.

Texas (23-6) vs. Purdue (19-10), 4:50 p.m.

Florida (25-7) vs. Michigan State (20-12), 7 p.m.

MIDWEST

Pittsburgh (27-4) vs. Indiana (21-12), 12:10 p.m.

Kentucky (30-3) vs. Utah (25-7), 7:10 p.m.




NCAA TOURNAMENT
Full coverage at Cincinnati.com

MEN'S TOURNAMENT
Maryland 77, Xavier 64
Underdog Xavier has upset in mind
Daugherty: Bookends on XU's roster
Coaches experts on Terps
Majerus has the big blues
UK, Utah still have ties to '98
Apology ahead for UC's Machock
Gators-Spartans: Things could get rough
Cowboys will test Orangemen
Butler now faces Louisville's press
IU ready to mount a charge
After spurning Spartans' offer, Gators' Roberson must face them

MEN'S TOURNAMENT - SATURDAY'S GAMES
East: OU's Bookout covers for ailing Price
Midwest: Little-known Novak burns Mizzou
South: UConn turns to top guns
West: Hot-shooting Irish burn Illini
NCAA Tournament at a glance
NCAA Tourney notebook
NCAAs: The Skinny
NIT: Providence tops College of Charleston

WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
New coach rebuilds XU from guards up
UC faces an uphill battle at home
Living legend roams Texas sidelines
Wright happy to be home
Women's tournament at a glance
Lady Vols have no problems at home

REDS / BASEBALL
Reds fans get first look
Graves lets go of bothersome pitch
Blue Jays 4, Reds 1
Harnisch is pleased with performance
Reds Q&A
It's the same old Angels, champs or not
Devil Rays release Vaughn

BENGALS / NFL
Bengals look to turn weakness into strength
Bengals Q&A
Rams bolster line with trade for Saints' Turley

PREP SPORTS
D-I state title: Moeller 73, Brookhaven 65
D-III state title: Reading 50, Sugarcreek Garaway 44
LeBron leads Ohio team to third state title
Ky: No. 1 Mason Co. 86, Lou. Ballard 65
Princeton's Davis joins elite crowd

GOLF
Tiger tames field, leads by five shots
Sorenstam closes in on 1st win of season

HOCKEY
Rangers keep slim hopes alive
Mighty Ducks beat Norfolk in overtime

NBA
Hawks stop O'Neal's shot at victory for Pacers
Hill won't give up despite surgeries

HORSE RACING
New York Hero tames Lion
Rider Cooksey injured in Turfway Park spill

TRISTATE SPOTLITE
Merchant's Harvard finale is memorable
Enquirer Page Two power rankings
Swarm gear up for af2 season
Following in footsteps of defunct Rockers

PLAN YOUR DAY
Sunday's sports on TV, radio