Luke DeCock

No complaints about late UNC, Duke NCAA starts this time

UNC players on playing a very late game

University of North Carolina players Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson talk about the challenges of playing a 9:40 game.
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University of North Carolina players Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson talk about the challenges of playing a 9:40 game.

Roy Williams was right to rant about North Carolina’s late-night start on Saturday, but even though the Tar Heels will be in a similar time slot against Indiana on Friday – after the Wisconsin-Notre Dame game, or approximately 9:57 p.m. – he has no grounds for complaint this time around.

The same goes for Duke, which will play Oregon in the second game of the West Regional on Thursday, approximately 9:55 p.m. That is, at least, a palatable 6:55 p.m. local time.

While North Carolina’s late tip Saturday was entirely avoidable, foisted on the Tar Heels and their fans by TV networks in search of ratings, there’s no way around it at this point in the tournament.

With eight games on two weeknights in the regional semifinals, it’s a 50-50 shot. Four teams play at a reasonable time in the 7 p.m. hour. Four have to play after that. And since the games are at the same site, there’s no way to do the usual ESPN 7 p.m./9 p.m. quick-change doubleheader. (How it became acceptable to play college games routinely at 9 p.m. and later is a discussion for another day.)

The issue in the last round was that there were other options in other time zones, places to play the latest session where it would be at a more reasonable hour locally than it was in Raleigh.

If Williams wants to complain about start times, he’ll have an opportunity if the Tar Heels win. Sadly, the traditional 2 p.m./5 p.m. Sunday times for the Elite 8 have been replaced by 6 p.m./8:45 p.m. to accommodate TBS, yet another negative of CBS’ awful partnership with Turner.

VIDEO: University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams voices his clear displeasure with the late game time for UNC in their second round NCAA Tournament game against Providence.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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