The frenzy of college hoops reaches its summit in March, and ESPN will once again be there delivering all the excitement and drama on the court to sports fans across digital platforms. It begins today with the kickoff of Championship Week 2011 presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, with live coverage of 187 conference tournament games on ESPN3.com and 38 games on ESPN Mobile TV over eleven days of non-stop action.
Brackets are also back on ESPN.com with sign-ups now open for its popular free ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge presented by State Farm and Sprint and ESPN Women’s Tournament Challenge games. Fans will be able to research and strategize their brackets via in-depth coverage from ESPN.com’s college basketball experts and analysts, with news and predictor and analyzer tools exclusively available to ESPN Insider members. Other Fantasy games include its original player-based game ESPN Hardcourt Challenge and ESPN Round By Round Pick ‘Em served by Applebee’s®.
ESPN is also making it easier than ever to follow the games on the go, with a dedicated section on the ESPN mobile Web, real-time alerts and the new ESPN Bracket Bound app, now available in the App Store.
ESPN Tournament Challenge 2011
Both the Men’s Tournament Challenge presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Women’s Tournament Challenge games return for their 14th seasons on the digital hardcourt and will once again be free for entrants to submit up to ten entries on ESPN.com. Fans complete and submit a bracket of forecasted tournament game outcomes and points are awarded for each correct pick, with point values increasing as the Tournaments progress.
Last year, the Men’s Tournament Challenge game was again the most popular bracket game in the nation, with nearly 5.4 million entries, up 8 percent compared to the previous year and setting a new record. Among the millions of participants in 2010 was President Barack Obama, who failed to predict any of the Final Four teams but in 2009, correctly picked the North Carolina Tar Heels to win the title.
At the end of the Tournament, the Men’s Tournament Challenge entrant with the most points wins $10,000. The runner up will be named in a random drawing for $5,000. The Women’s Tournament Challenge winner will receive a $2,000 Best Buy Gift Card. Entries for the Men’s Tournament Challenge game will be accepted until just prior to the tip-off of the Tournament’s first game on Thursday, March 17. The Women’s Tournament Challenge will accept registration until just prior to tip-off of the first game on Saturday, March 19.
ESPN.com will have complete round-by-round coverage of the Tournaments from its line-up of experts and analysts including Brian Bennett, Eamonn Brennan, Pat Forde, Andy Katz, Diamond Leung, Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, Ted Miller, Dana O’Neil, Mark Schlabach and Gene Wojciechowski. Additionally, ESPN Insider will include a number of additional exclusive features before, during and after the tournament to help break down who gets off the bubble, who is most likely to be this year’s Cinderella and who will be the breakout stars of the tournament. They include:
• Giant Killers: Statistical analysis showing which Cinderella’s will stay in the dance and which favorites will fall early;
• Joe Lunardi’s Tournament Team Previews: Team-by-team breakdowns of every team in the field by ESPN’s Bracketologist;
• Dance Lessons: Hoops stat guru John Gasaway and Insider’s team of analysts explain how the past and the present provide warning signs for this season’s teams;
• College Basketball Experts Blog: Tips and insight from Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb and Fran Fraschilla before, during and after the Big Dance.
ESPN Insider members will also have the added advantage of utilizing a slate of predictor and analyzer tools to help fill out their brackets, including:
• Bracket Predictor – Tournament Edition: A “wizard” style interface leading through the process of making picks for a bracket, giving users predictions and other relevant information for every bracket matchup. Once the user completes all bracket picks in Bracket Predictor, the user will be presented with the option to transmit the completed bracket to ESPN Tournament Challenge;
• Game Predictor: Provides users with predictions and statistical information for actual or hypothetical basketball matchups within the ESPN Tournament Challenge page, giving users tips and guidance for every matchup without leaving the screen;
• Bracket Analyzer: Analyzes a complete bracket and predicts areas of possible improvement to better the chances for victory. The computer generated report includes round-by-round survival odds for all of a user’s game winner picks, the expected number of user picks to be correct, a high level analysis of the risk level of the user’s picks and recommendations for changing certain picks;
• Joe Lunardi Bracket Predictions: A tool that presents a variety of predictions and odds generated by Team Rankings and based on Joe Lunardi’s projected 2011 tournament bracket, as published in the “Bracketology” section of ESPN.com.
Hardcourt Challenge and Round by Round Pick ‘Em
ESPN.com is also bringing back its original player-based game in ESPN Hardcourt Challenge. Fans pick a roster of actual players as they follow the tournament games, competing for points based on their roster’s performance in statistical categories. The grand prize winner will receive a $2,000 Best Buy Gift Card.
ESPN Round by Round Pick ‘Em served by Applebee’s® is also available for sign-ups now. The game challenges fans to predict the winner of each tournament matchup and earn bonus points if lower seeded teams win games. The entrant with the most points wins a trip to ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, CT.
Fans won’t be far from checking their brackets with the new ESPN Bracket Bound app for iPhone and iPod touch devices. The app, available now at no cost to fans in the App Store, will allow fans to sign up for Tournament Challenge, join groups, create and manage their brackets and follow all the action in real-time on the go. Additionally, it includes news, video and a premium layer of exclusive content.
ESPN Mobile will also carry complete coverage from writers and analysts, keeping fans up to date on the latest news and highlights on mobile devices via a special section on the ESPN mobile Web. Additionally, fans can sign up for ESPN Alerts to receive real-time information on the game (scores, starts, etc.), breaking news, upsets and more.
Championship Week 2011
Championship Week tips off today, and ESPN3.com will be covering 25 Division I conference tournaments on its signature broadband sports network, including the BIG EAST, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 and SEC. A total of 187 conference tournament games will be carried live, including simulcasts of every ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU men’s and women’s game and numerous out-of-market games. Additionally, ESPN3.com will once again provide live coverage of every game in the NCAA Women’s Championship presented by Capital One and select post-season National Invitation Tournament (NIT) games on its network.
A total of 38 men’s and women’s conference tournament games will be made available live on ESPN Mobile TV. A complete Championship Week 2011 schedule of coverage across ESPN platforms is available on the ESPN MediaZone website.
ESPN.com’s Championship Week 2011 index page features news, analysis, information and results for every conference tournament. ESPN.com’s Bubble Watch with college hoops writer Eamonn Brennan will give fans an in-depth look at teams on the bubble and the latest developments on NCAA Tournament selection status. The site will also preview major conference tournaments, examine storylines and offer in-depth expert examinations. ESPN.com writers will file stories from several tournament sites, including Andy Katz (ACC), David Ubben (Big 12), Dana O’Neil (BIG EAST), Pat Forde (Big Ten) and Mark Schlabach (SEC). Additionally, ESPN.com’s Bracketologist Joe Lunardi will update and adjust his Bracketology projections and outlook daily.