NEW YORK (AP) — The 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament will be revealed in the first 10 minutes of the selection show Sunday, and then the brackets and pairings will be unveiled one region at a time.
CBS and Turner announced the tweak to the selection show format Tuesday. The show will be aired on TBS for the first time since CBS and Turner Sports began partnering on NCAA Tournament coverage in 2011. The two-hour show will come from a new studio in Atlanta, customized for the selection show and will be done in front of a live audience.
CBS and Turner executives said Tuesday the entire bracket will be revealed within the first 45 minutes. The new twist comes in the first 10 minutes when first the automatic bids will be announced in alphabetical order by conference. Then at-large selections will be revealed in alphabetical order by team. Greg Gumble and Ernie Johnson will co-host the selection show and handle the announcement of teams and matchups.
In 2016, CBS extended the selection show to two hours and was criticized by fans for taking too long to unveil the entire bracket. With that in mind, CBS and Turner executives looked at the move to TBS and Atlanta as an opportunity to make some changes.
“We’ve been talking about it for three years,” Craig Berry, executive vice president and chief content officer for Turner Sports, said during a media event with network executives and announcers. “We tried some new stuff two years ago, that took too long.
“And then, knowing we were going to move the selection show to TBS and to Atlanta, we felt like what an opportunity to kind of incrementally improve the show to some extent. Understanding the format and the delivery have to be intact. What would be a great kind of open and reveal for selection Sunday? Oh, if you knew automatically what 68 teams were in the fray. That’s what I would want to know. We kind of just went from there.”
College basketball’s signature event will be played while the sport is roiled in scandal.
A federal investigation has alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks being funneled to influence recruits, an FBI probe that many fans believe reveals just a tiny slice of potential corruption in college sports.
In September, the Justice Department arrested 10 people, including four assistant coaches from Arizona, Southern California, Auburn and Oklahoma State. Payments of up to $150,000, supplied by Adidas, were promised to at least three top high school recruits to attend two schools sponsored by the shoe company, according to federal prosecutors.
Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said the scandal will be discussed during studio segments of the tournament broadcast, but it will mostly be limited during game coverage to if there is a school, coach or player directly affected by the investigation or subsequent news related to the scandal.
“We’re fortunate we have a lot of commentators, all of whom have really strong opinions,” McManus said. “Charles Barkley has strong opinions. Seth Davis. Clark Kellogg. Kenny Smith. We found this out in our seminar (Monday) when they all expressed their opinions. And they were all very diverse opinions, very different opinions. But all very articulate and all very well thought out. So we’re going to rely on our hosts and analysts to cover the story.”
McManus said he doesn’t expect the scandal and NCAA issues to drag down interest in this tournament.
“But if it doesn’t get fixed in the long run it could,” McManus said. “The country’s pretty divided right now. I think the NCAA Tournament is one of those things that really brings people together. So I do think in the back of everyone’s mind is talk of the FBI investigation and the department of justice, but I think once the games start, I think people look at it as an escape and an opportunity to get away from all the bad news and enjoy some really good college basketball.
“So I don’t think that it will affect our ratings. Our ratings will be determined by how good the games are and which teams win. As they always are.”