March 14, 2000, Singapore . . . It’s that time of year again. Madness is in the air across America as conversations at the workplace water cooler turn to college basketball and the ever-popular office betting pools. STAR Sports brings the atmosphere to Asia with numerous key games throughout the next three weeks. Sixty four college teams vie for honours in the Championship tournament, beginning with the first round clash between Arizona and Jackson State at 16:30, March 17 (Hong Kong/Singapore time).

It’s a straight knockout system so one loss means you’re out. Seven wins and you’re the kings of college hoops. It’s a time of great excitement, buzzer beater endings and glorious upsets as minnows take on the powerhouses in the early stages, all heading towards Indianapolis where this year’s Final Four will be held.

Last year the University of Connecticut won the championship in a fabulous final against perennial contenders, Duke. This time around it’s an extremely open field. The selection committee who decide on the entrants, their seedings and bracketing have come in for stronger than usual criticism, especially for their decision to choose two of the number one seeds, Stanford and Arizona, from the same league, the Pac-10.

Stanford were made number one in the South while Arizona are top seeds in the West. The other top seeds are Michigan State in the Midwest and Duke in the East.

Michigan State, of the Big Ten conference, have the most losses (seven) of any top seed since the current system was introduced in 1979. Even so, the Spartans do have one of the best players in Mateen Cleaves.

Stanford come in with a powerful triple threat in the shape of team leader, Mark Madsen and the Collins twins, Jason and Jarron.

Cincinnati of Conference USA, Iowa State of the Big 12 and Temple of the Atlantic 10 were all thought to have strong claims to top seeding but were disappointed.

The Cincinnati Bearcats, in particular, are unfortunate because they were many people’s selection as the best team in the country in the regular season, but a season-ending injury to star senior Kenyon Martin in the Conference USA tournament changed all that. Now the Bearcats are seeded second in the South, behind Stanford.

Now Iowa State’s Marcus Fizer is the player many will be expecting to take the championship by storm. Arizona are another team who must make do without a key player, but at least they have shown they can win in their past few games without Loren Woods.

Auburn are a team who suffered a key personnel loss when the NCAA suspended their star player, Chris Porter. The Tigers lost the SEC tournament final to the Arkansas Razorbacks without Porter. Arkansas, themselves, could ruffle a few feathers with their ’40 minutes of hell’ style of play that works better in the post-season.

Despite losing several players to the NBA last year, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke side, from the ACC, have been very impressive. With Chris Carrawell and Shane Battier the stars and Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jnr and Jason Williams part of a very impressive squad, Coach K’s Blue Devils won two championships early in the 1990s and could be due a third this time.

Temple, who finally won the Atlantic 10 tournament after a 10 year drought, beat St Bonaventure to earn the number two seed in the East, thanks to an MVP performance by Quincy Wadley.

The St Louis Billikens, who upset Cincinnati and went on to lift the Conference USA crown with four wins in four days, are led by John Redden and are dark horses as ninth seeds in the Midwest.

St John’s have ridden out the saga of star Erick Barkley’s suspension and now have Barkley and Bootsy Thornton raring to go after they won their first Big East title in 14 years, by beating reigning national champs, UConn. The Red Storm start as second seeds in the West.

So here it is. All the ingredients are in place, the teams and their colourful, noisy fans are primed and the unique excitement of college hoops is about to be unleashed. Let the madness begin.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship- LIVE on STAR Sports

Mar 17 16:30 (S) First Round (West): Arizona (1) vs. Jackson State (16)
Mar 17 18:30 (S) First Round (West): Wisconsin (8) vs. Fresno State (9)
Mar 18 08:30 (L) First Round (East): Kansas (8) vs. DePaul (9)
Mar 18 11:00 (L) First Round (East): Duke (1) vs. Lamar (16)
Mar 19 04:30 (L) 09:30 (R) Mar 20 Second Round *
Mar 19 06:30 (L) 11:30 (R) Mar 20 Second Round *
Mar 19 09:00 (L) 13:30 (R) Mar 20 Second Round *
Mar 20 01:00 (L) 16:00 (R) Mar 20 Second Round *
Mar 20 03:30 (L) 18:00 (R) Mar 20 Second Round *
Mar 20 06:00 (L) 20:00 (R) Mar 20 Second Round *
Mar 24 11:00 (L) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 24 14:30 (S) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 24 16:30 (S) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 24 18:30 (S) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 25 08:30 (L) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 25 11:00 (L) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 25 20:00 (S) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 25 22:00 (S) Regional Semi-finals *
Mar 26 05:30 (L) 18:00 (R) Regional Finals *
Mar 26 08:00 (L) 20:00 (R) Regional Finals *
Mar 27 03:30 (L) 18:00 (R) Regional Finals *
Mar 27 06:00 (L) 20:00 (R) Regional Finals *
Apr 2 06:30 (L) 23:00 (R) Semi-final # 1 *
Apr 2 09:00 (L) 01:00 (R) Apr 3 Semi-final # 2 *
Apr 4 09:00 (L) 18:30 (R) Final *
All times Hong Kong/ Singapore. Schedule subject to change. Away team first.
* Team matchups to be confirmed

-ENDS-

For the latest schedules and program information on ESPN STAR Sports, catch us on the net at www.espnstar.com
Or contact Edward Yip, Program Publicity Manager at:
Phone: (65) 488 6422 Fax: (65) 488 6308 Email: yipe@espnstar.com