March Basketball Mania Online Companion - InformationWeek

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March Basketball Mania Online Companion

Your guide to online coverage of the road to The Big Dance -- from streaming video and bracket resources, to the best blogs and Facebook apps.

To get the most out of the 2008 NCCAA men's college basketball tournament, keep your TV close and your laptop closer. Because while the action on TV can be riveting, the real goodies can only be found online.

There's no bigger office productivity killer than March Madness. The 63-game race to college basketball's Final Four was one of the largest live Internet events last year, with more than 1.2 million college basketball fans watched 2,130,369 hours of live streaming video, reports CBS Sports.

This year, for college hoops fans with unimpeded network bandwidth, CBS is once again offering an online basketball bonanza. For the 2008 tourney, the network is trying out a new media player (16:9 aspect ratio with 640 X 360 pixels) which should make the action easier to follow than last year. Fans who were wishing for HD video will have to wait a bit longer -- that enhancement has been sidelined for now.

Watching the games online is free with registration to the CBS site, but capacity is limited. So before each game, fans are ushered into a virtual waiting room. Those who registered early enough to be granted "VIP access" will have a shorter wait than the hordes with only General Admission passes.

Last year, CBS posted an NCAA Tourney channel on YouTube, but as of this writing there's no sign of a channel for 2008. Word is that an inability to embed videos kept the channel from really taking off last year. That hasn't stopped fans from uploading their own videos and clips of NCAA games. Check this link often for user-uploaded March Madness videos. An upstart online venue for user-uploaded college hoops videos is Vimeo.

In Your Facebook

In 2007, more than 2.6 million Facebook users joined at least one bracket group. This year, more than 63 million Facebook users have the opportunity to fill out brackets and compare their picks with friends. And they'll have access to links for watching games live via the NCAA March Madness on Demand service. The CBS Facebook application is only one option. Sports Illustrated has the SI Bracket Challenge. Find other March Madness Facebook apps here.

Know The Score

For a quick overview of this year's tournament match-ups, read Bill Trocchi's 5-Minute Guide. Check out team profiles here , and Bracketology's Official 2008 Tournament Bubble Breakdown here. What's the official field goal distance in the NCAA vs. the NBA? Find out, and settle any other squabbles about the rules quickly with this comparison of NCAA, NBA, and FIBA official rules. Other sites worthy of bookmarking are:

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