Tuesday, March 15, 2011

03/15 (First Four) Quickie

You do not want to know what time I got up this morning to head back from Austin to NYC. Let's put it this way: It looked like I was the only person at the airport for a good two hours at least.

But I put the early hours to good use, loading up Quickish with all sorts of new and awesome NCAA Tournament analysis -- if you scroll down through yesterday (and even Sunday night), you'll get a ton of really good insights and recommendations to longer* takes.

* - One of my favorite things about the NCAA Tournament is that EVERYONE writes in the "quick-hit" style; it's the only way to hit on all the interesting issues in bracket regions that have so much going on.

(Can I claim to have helped popularize the form? You be the judge: Take a trip back to the "First Thursday" coverage from 1999. I will tell you that my friend and old ESPN.com editor Kevin Jackson once told me my quick-hit, bold-n-bulleted Tournament coverage for SI.com was a key proof-point for him in him supporting me when I brought him the Quickie a few years later. And when you look at it, you can see the philosophical line from that to the Quickie to Quickish. I am bleary-eyed, and I digress....)

Anyway, the point is that there's a ton of good stuff ready for Quickish today. Please give it a look -- and please tell a few friends about it. This is the most important week in the company's young history, and your support through referrals and recommendations are a HUGE help.

Tonight's opening half of the "First Four" should be a nice test run for Thursday and Friday.

Let's talk about the First Four for a sec: I'm a longtime proponent of Tournament expansion. Forget the "soft bubble"; I think that there's a huge appetite for more games if -- IF -- it is executed right. In its first year, the "First Four" is not executed right, on a couple of levels:

*Most of all, the promotion has been horrible. As soon as the First Four was established, CBS and Turner should have been pimping it constantly; I'd be willing to bet that most fans who will avidly tune in on Thursday and Friday have no idea where to find the games tonight -- or why to care. (That online bracket games don't count the First Four is a huge problem in trying to create some validity for it.)

*Competitively, it's a mish-mash: Two of the games are 16-seed play-ins (meaning two 16-seeds don't have to play-in at all). And two of the games are "last four in," which is totally fine. I wish all four "First Four" games had been between at-large teams.

It's way too early to deem the First Four a failure -- there are plenty of lessons from which to learn and improve for next year.

But remember: I've always had a soft spot for the Tuesday night "Play-In" game between 16-seeds in Dayton. It is neat that the games now involve almost-worthy at-large teams fighting to merely get the relevancy of a Thursday or Friday game.

By the way, watch this dynamic (as laid out in my annual Wall Street Journal picks column): I think VCU is going to win, then -- with a bit of a jump-start -- catch a cold Georgetown flat-footed. Typically, teams playing on Thursday or Friday can get away with a cold first half, because both teams are playing their first game. Not so this year. All of a sudden we will be talking about the play-in game as an advantage.

Anyway, I'll be done traveling -- and done with the fun-but-constant distractions of SXSW (which was terrific) -- this afternoon. Then it's full-throttle from here through the Final Four.

Really glad and appreciative you're along for the ride. I come away from SXSW (and the launch of Quickish's first year of NCAA Tournament coverage) so excited about the trajectory the company is on and the chance to keep giving fans a really awesome and unique complement to the rest of their sports diet. Huge thanks for your continued support.

-- D.S.

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