ABC, ESPN bulging with basketball

NEW YORK — The regular-season version of CBS’ March Madness begins early next month with the first batch of a record 1,000 men’s college basketball games on ESPN, ABC and all their platforms.

Last season, ESPN and its siblings covered 884 games.

New elements in 2006-07 include an expanded 10-week “College Game Day” and “Saturday Primetime” schedule (from seven weeks last year) and three new events: Old Spice Classic, Student Spirit Week and the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge.

Games from all 31 Division One conferences will be represented, featuring at least 196 teams. ESPN 360, the net’s broadband platform, will do 20 exclusive games.

Some 150 games will go out in high definition on ESPN HD and ESPN HD2. A lot of Texas Tech games are on the schedule — a testament to the team’s coach, Bobby Knight, who, with 869 wins, is expected to break Dean Smith’s all-time record of 879 before the season wraps up.

ABC’s coverage includes seven Saturdays, beginning Jan. 13, highlighting some of the top teams, including North Carolina, Duke, Arizona, Connecticut and Syracuse.

ESPN and ESPN2 will do the most games overall, led by weekly tripleheaders every Monday beginning Jan. 10 from 7 p.m. to about 2 a.m., the first two on ESPN and the latenight one on ESPN2. ESPN will have Tuesday doubleheaders from January to March from the Big 10 and the SEC, plus Wednesday games from the ACC, Big 10 and Big East.

ESPN, ABC, ESPN2 and ESPNU also will cover dozens of games, starting March 1, during the 11-day eliminations in advance of the 65-team NCAA Championship.

The other ESPN platforms for men’s basketball are pay-per-view operation ESPN Full Court and ESPN Regional TV.

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