March Madness: Is the Web Ready?

Forget Y2K, Forget the new Daylight Savings Time. If anything is going to crush the innerwebs, it will be March Madness, and all the well-educated desk-job jockeys who sign on to CBS starting Thursday to catch the NCAA men’s basketball tournament online.

Never mind CBS’s lame attempt to double the amount of tubes it will use to carry streaming video to the madness masses. I am going out on a limb here to predict an early ‘Net meltdown, with the attractive Stanford-Louisville tilt Thursday in the South sub-Regional in Lexington, Ky. Even though Stanford (over-rated!) is a virtual lock to lose, the 12:40 p.m. EST tip-off makes it a perfect Internet-watching game for West Coast types who have just sifted through overnight emails and are settling down at the cube (9:40 a.m. Calif. time) with their third cup of Peet’s. Add that to East Coasters watching Boston College taking on curmudgeon coach Bobby Knight and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at the same time, and you’ve got your perfect bandwidth storm. Game on!

The next real crush could come just a few hours later, when two cool matchups in the East regional — Washington State vs. Oral Roberts and Georgetown vs. Belmont — begin almost simultaneously, at 2:40 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. East Coast time. While both should be blowouts, they also offer intrigue (you may never see Oral Roberts or Belmont in the Big Dance ever again) and the possibility of ridiculous upsets, perfect corner-of-the-flat-panel fare.

(Need a good schedule? Here’s the best one I’ve found so far.)

Please spare us, however, the always-lame (and oh so predictable) stories about how the NCAA tournament can harm office productivity. Like the people you work with haven’t found YouTube by now to keep themselves from real work whenever possible.

If anything, the NCAA Tournament increases office productivity, since it forces people to actually talk to each other, instead of sending IMs across the cube-aisle. Granted, they are most likely comparing their bracket picks but you never know, they might seize the moment and spend a minute or two talking about how to close some end-of-quarter sales while they wait for the next score to post.

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