Weekend Watch – 2007 Final Four Edition

This weekend begins what one national media columnist has anointed the best TV sports week of the year. It starts with the NCAA Final Four games tomorrow, goes through baseball opening day and week and continues through next weekend’s Masters.

There’s plenty of local action with the Celtics in action tonight and on Sunday evening, and the Bruins playing both Saturday and Sunday. Celtics fans will want to watch the Final Four games on Saturday night as a scouting exercise on Greg Oden and perhaps some of the other top players that will be in action. Red Sox fans can expect plenty of preview articles over the weekend.

A couple of shameless self-promotion plugs here, if you haven’t checked out the latest Patriots Game Day roundtable, it’s worth the read. We’re also constantly added NFL draft profiles to the page and will have a draft profile mashup at some point in April.

Also, if you missed the piece here yesterday on The Struggles of Boston Newspapers in Making the Transition to New Media, I think it’s another read worth your time.

One note from that piece, I mentioned that if you wanted to go to the archives for an article from the Globe from last year you’d have to pay up. That’s true, and it’s not true. If you follow the archive links and go to the article you’ll likely be presented with a payment page. However, of you use the search box at the top of Boston.com and find your article that way, you can go back to mid-2003 for free.

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ESPN will present the first pitch of the 2007 Major League Baseball season with a special Opening Night Built by the Home Depot telecast featuring the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals hosting the New York Mets Sunday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPN2 HD). The telecast will feature the Sunday Night Baseball commentator team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, who have worked together in the booth since the franchise’s inception in 1990, returning with Peter Gammons issuing reports from field level during each telecast.

ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecasts, all available in high definition, will continue to feature the use of “K Zone 2.0,” the enhanced version of ESPN’s Sports Emmy Award-winning “K Zone.” In addition to identifying the speed and location of a pitch in replays, “K Zone 2.0” is also capable of tracking the path of the ball from the pitcher’s hand through the strike zone and numerically sequencing pitches thrown.

ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to televise five games on Opening Day (Mon., April 2), leading off with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees hosting Carl Crawford and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at 1 p.m. Karl Ravech will provide play-by-play with analyst John Kruk. ESPN’s Opening Day afternoon doubleheader will continue with David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox visiting Mark Teahen and the Kansas City Royals at 4 p.m. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan will call the game. Dusty Baker will make his debut in the booth during ESPN2’s Baltimore at Minnesota telecast (7 p.m.).

ESPN will also air the inaugural Civil Rights Game on Saturday between the Indians and Cardinals at 5:30pm. This exhibition will be played in Memphis, site of the National Civil Rights Museum, and the telecast will feature tributes to Jackie Robinson, Vera Clemente, widow of Roberto Clemente, and Negro League legend Buck O’Neill

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Bill Simmons previews the outstanding sports weekend on tap for us all.

Richard Deitsch has his Media Power Rankings for March.

Dennis Dodd has 91 year old big man guru Peter Newell eager to see tomorrow night’s matchup between Greg Oden and Roy Hibbert.

Gene Wojciechowski say Oden isn’t ready for the NBA yet.

ESPN has Chuck Klosterman blogging the Final Four.

Jeff Goodman has a Final Four preview for FoxSports.com.

Kevin Paul Dupont in a column for MSNBC has players to watch in the NHL playoffs.

Dr Z’s mailbag is overflowing with comments about Joe Theismann’s boot from Monday Night Football.

Jessica Camerato has Celtics rookie Allan Ray talking about his brief stint with Dennis Johnson in the NBA DL.

ESPN has an interesting feature from Robert Weintraub on the 1983 NCAA national semifinal game between Louisville (Doctors of Dunk) and Houston (Phi Slama Jama) and where some of those involved are now.

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Sports Media Columns From Around the Country

New England

Susan Bickelhaupt has NBC making a commitment to their NHL broadcasts and looking into flexible scheduling for games next season. Bill Doyle has Don Orsillo and Worcester Tornadoes GM R.C. Reuteman talking about their time together in Binghamton, where Orsillo started his career as a 22 year old “announcer boy.” David Scott has a look at the online war of words between Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy and Red Sox ace Curt Schilling. Andrew Neff looks at the University of Maine sports broadcasts changing addresses, but perhaps not voices.

New York

Bob Raissman says that the A-Rod follies will be a ratings boost for the YES network all season long. Phil Mushnick says that ESPN finally made the right move by taking Joe Theismann out of the booth for Monday Night Football. Richard Sandomir has the Strat-O-Matic company finally seeking an investor. He also reports on the head of SNY moving on. Pat Reichart has Joe Buck sticking to the broadcast booth for FOX’s NFL broadcasts in 2007. Neil Best checks out a new DVD release of The Natural (Director’s Cut) with 15 minutes of added footage and a reworked opening. Reichart also has 5 Questions for Peter Gammons.

More East Coast

Marc Narducci has a little bit of a different take on the MLB Extra Innings situation, noting that the MLB Channel is the bigger component in this deal. Laura Nachman has Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams landing a regular gig on “Phillies Post Game Live” this season. She also has broadcast questions heading into opening day. Michael Hiestand has NBC preparing to put the Beijing Summer Olympics online, totaling “700-1,000 hours of live online action — the first live Olympic action ever available in the USA.” Jim Williams has Bonnie Bernstein’s quest to educate the public on Deep-Vein Thrombosis. Chris Zelkovich looks at the low TV ratings for the Raptors despite having having a talented young team.

South

Dave Darling has a look at “the best week of sports television on the calendar,” which starts with the Final Four on Saturday, continues with Baseball’s opening week and then culminates in the Masters. Barry Jackson looks at FOX pulling the NFL traveling pregame show off the road and putting it back into the studio. He also reports that Joe Theismann has rejected an offer to become a college football analyst for ESPN/ABC, as he still wants to do NFL work. He remains with the network, and his departure has not been discussed. Barry Horn says Theismann is out because he wouldn’t play well with Tony Kornheiser. David Barron looks at the HD coverage of the Shell Houston Open this weekend.

Midwest

Ed Sherman says that Arnold Palmer is magnetic in a special airing of CBS’ original broadcast of the 1960 Masters, set to air next weekend. Bob Wolfley has Dick Enberg remembering his friend Al McGuire. Judd Zulgad says that ESPN’s desire for “a fresh voice to play off the colorful Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football” is the reason for Joe Theismann’s departure. Jeffrey Flanagan has Royals announcer Ryan Lefebvre with a new outlet on Sunday mornings to discuss issues on emotional health, such as his own battled with depression and alcohol. Teddy Greenstein has former Northwestern basketball player Tim Doyle making his mark on Chicago radio and TV.

West Coast

Larry Stewart has Billy Packer and Clark Kellogg giving UCLA the edge in the rematch of last season’s NCAA championship game. Stewarts’ notebook has NBCsports.com making history by streaming this weekend’s Florida Derby online. Jay Posner has San Diego State changing radio homes. Tom Hoffarth has a feature on Angels announcer Jose Mota who has already done it all in his career – TV, radio, play-by-play, analyst, English and Spanish. John Maffei has a preview of channel 4’s 144 game Padres coverage. Joe Davidson has a soccer announcer who knew nothing about the sport coming to love the game.

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TV Highlights

Friday, March 30

7:00pm, FSN – Celtics @ Sixers
8:00pm, ESPN – Pacers @ Magic
10:30pm, ESPN – Rockets @ Lakers

Saturday, March 31

1:00pm, NESN – Thrashers @ Bruins
3:00pm, ESPN – Cavs @ Bulls
3:00pm, FOX – NASCAR Truck Series Kroger 250
3:00pm, NBC – Houston Open
5:30pm, ESPN – Indians/Cardinals (Civil Rights Game)
6:00pm, CBS – Final Four – Georgetown/Ohio State
8:45pm, CBS – Final Four – UCLA/Florida

Sunday, April 1

12:30pm – NBC – Red Wings @ Blue Jackets
1:00pm, ABC – Heat @ Pistons
1:30pm, FOX – Nextel Cup: Goody’s Cool Orange 500
2:30pm, ESPN – Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
3:00pm, NBC – Houston Open
3:30pm, ABC – Mavs @ Suns
3:30pm, NESN – Bruins @ Devils
6:00pm, FSN – Cavs @ Celtics
7:00pm, ESPN – Women’s Final Four – Rutgers/LSU
8:00pm, ESPN2 – Mets @ Cardinals
9:00pm, ESPN – Women’s Final Four – UNC/Tennessee

Sox Tuning Up For Opener.

Gordon Edes has Theo Epstein giving some thoughts on the state of his team, as the season opener looms on Monday. Jeff Goldberg has more from the Sox GM on his team. Tony Massarotti outlines three things you should keep your eye on with this edition of the Red Sox. Steven Krasner has Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen heading to Pawtucket to search for consistency.

Tony Massarotti tries to makes sense of the Red Sox payroll as it relates to the luxury tax and actual cash spending.

Edes also looks at Major League Baseball ruling once again that Johnny Pesky cannot sit in the dugout in uniform during the games. Michael Silverman looks at the outing by the club’s best pitching prospect, Clay Buchholz. Steve Buckley has the Red Sox adding 230 new seats to Fenway, and honoring Tony Conigliaro this season.

Edes notebook has the club taking a look at top prospect Buchholz by having him start yesterday’s exhibition game with the big club. Horrigan’s notebook has Jonathan Papelbon proclaiming himself OK after rolling his ankle yesterday. Goldberg’s notebook has more on Buchholz.

Japanese Baseball

The Globe also has a section on Japanese baseball, profiling some of the legends of the sport in that country. Are they selling this section in Japan?

Bob Ryan leads off with a history of the growth of the sport in Japan. Edes looks at how some Japanese stars have become stars here in the US as well. Dan Shaughnessy has a piece on the Babe Ruth of Japan, Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 home runs in his career.

Edes also examines how oddsmakers, analysts and other Baseball cognoscenti project solid numbers for Matsuzaka. Amalie Benjamin observes that those covering Matsuzaka this season are going to find it to be no easy task. Benjamin also notes that Matsuzaka isn’t the only Japanese import this season, as Hideki Okajima will also be on the Red Sox, and there are several other Japanese players coming to the US this season on other teams. Finally, Edes also notes that owner John W Henry has certainly made some pricey investments in this edition of the Red Sox, including Matsuzaka.

The section also profiles seven of the top Japanese who came to play here in the US and made an impact, one way or another. Here are the players:

(Nick Cafardo wrote all of these with the exception of Irabu.)

Celtics

Jackie MacMullan has Paul Pierce weighing in on this season and the future for the Celtics. He would still like the Celtics to acquire a veteran player this offseason to help them go deep into the playoffs. The message seems clear…start winning next season, or risk losing Pierce.

Steve Bulpett says that without the injuries that the club suffered this season, they would just be another middle of the pack team, but with the injuries they now have a shot at a franchise player. Mike Fine has the Celtics appreciative of the fan support in this tough season. Michael Vega says that Pierce traveled with the club to Philadelphia, but whether he plays is a game-time decision.

Patriots

We’ve got a new edition of the BSMW Patriots Game Day roundtable posted this morning, looking at the team’s gains and losses in free agency and a little bit on the draft.

Shalise Manza Young says that it sure appears that the Patriots a shopping for a linebacker in the draft this year. Albert Breer reports that Chad Jackson’s knee injury made actually not be as bad as most ACL injuries are. He could actually be running by the time mini-camp comes in June. Mike Reiss has Kevin Faulk talking about his own injury in the AFC championship game, which limited him to only 10 of the teams 59 offensive plays that day.

Bruins

Kevin Paul Dupont wonders if Dave Lewis will be the fall guy for the Bruins this season.

Steve Conroyhas the Bruins falling to the Penguins once again, this time by a score of 4-2. Bud Barth notes that the loss officially eliminated the Bruins from the playoffs.

Fluto Shinzawa has Tim Thomas being awarded NESN’s Seventh Player Award for the second straight year. Mick Colageo has the fans showing their appreciation for Thomas with the award. Conroy’s notebook has more on Thomas. Barth’s notebook says it is time for the Bruins to do some more tinkering.

NCAA

Bob Ryan has a preview of the “Too Good To Be True” Final Four. Mark Murphy notes that the Final Four should be a scouting exercise for NBA fans, though he says Celtics fans should have eyes for only Greg Oden.

Globe Shuts It Down On Celtics

It appears that that Boston Globe has shut it down for the NBA season before Paul Pierce and the Celtics have. Last night’s game was an exciting, double-overtime affair, which featured a clutch performance from Paul Pierce and more encouraging play from Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, yet there was no game story this morning in the Globe.

For the last few games the paper has abandoned the traditional game story/notebook format in favor of a single, notebook entry with a little information about the actual game. They did this last season as well, for both the Bruins and Celtics games.

This is interesting because there seems to actually be more interest in the Celtics this season than in past years, and even though the team is not going to the playoffs, there is still plenty to be watch and be reported on around this club. Why then, has the Globe scaled back their coverage recently? They might cite the NCAA tournament and the impending start to the Red Sox season, which will require a lot of preview articles and the usual intense coverage. The Celtics take a back seat during this time, which is understandable, but we’re not looking for five articles each day about the team, either. The paper has a Celtics beat writer, and an NBA writer. You’d think there would be a little more in the region’s largest paper about the Celtics. They’ve shut down their coverage of the team before the team has.

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  • Checked in with Mike Gorman, the FSN Celtics play-by-play man who has been sidelined with the flu recently. Gorman plans to be back in action for tomorrow night’s game with the 76ers.
  • FSN announced today that they has signed Jonathan Papelbon to be Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight’s weekly featured baseball interview for the 2007 season. Papelbon follows in the shoes of Kevin Millar (2004 & 2005) and Coco Crisp (2006) as the weekly player guest.

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FOX Sports announced plans for their NFL Broadcasts for next season. From their press release today:

After a whirlwind season on the road, FOX NFL SUNDAY, America’s most-watched NFL pregame show, and THE OT, the nation’s most-watched NFL postgame show, return to the friendly confines of Studio 2A at the FOX Network Center in Los Angeles this September. Simultaneously, Emmy Award winner Joe Buck devotes his attention to the lead NFL on FOX broadcast booth full time while FOX Sports veteran personality Curt Menefee becomes host to both studio shows. The announcement was made today by FOX Sports Chairman & CEO David Hill and Ed Goren, President, FOX Sports.

Menefee joins the stellar cast of Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, Pam Oliver, insider Jay Glazer and comedian Frank Caliendo, beginning with the 2007 season premiere on Sunday, September 9 at Noon ET/9:00 AM PT. Buck, a six-time Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Play-by-Play, continues as FOX Sports’ lead NFL and MLB voice with analysts Troy Aikman and Tim McCarver, respectively. Buck and Aikman are also expected to have an increased role on both FOX NFL SUNDAY and THE OT.

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Tom Curran has Bill Belichick saying that Troy Brown is in the Patriots plans for next season.

George Solomon offers his thoughts on his time as ESPN Ombudsman, and has some final words of advice for the network.

The Sports Law Blog re-examines their stance on contact between NBA executives and parents of college players.

Bill Simmons is looking forward to the Kevin Love era at UCLA, where he hopes to see the revival of the outlet pass.

Gordon Edes had a chat on Boston.com today.

Dan Caesar looks at Joe Buck going back to just a play-by-play role on FOX NFL broadcasts next season.

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Tonight

7:00pm, NESN – Penguins @ Bruins
7:00pm, ESPN – NIT Title Game – Clemson/West Virginia
8:15pm, TNT – Pistons @ Bulls
10:30pm, TNT – Suns @ Warriors