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