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Bay Area college hoops fans should look outside the men's NCAA tourney

March Madness is upon us once again. Time to put work aside, fill out your bracket, and watch games online all day Thursday and Friday, much to the consternation of your boss.

(4) USF tips off its NIT bid hosting (5) LSU, Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The drill is almost the same as last year: Matchups are split amongst CBS (channel 5 locally), TBS, TNT, and TruTV through Sunday. Next Thursday and Friday, it's just the first two, with CBS taking over that weekend.

However the Final Four will be simulcast on both CBS and TBS this year, with TNT and TruTV offering different angles. Here's the schedule, subtract 3 hours from all game times.

Another thing that's the same this year is the fact that, if you want to watch potential Bay Area champions, you'll have to look to other tournaments.

Like the NIT. The Bay Area has three squads involved. Cal is a 2 seed and hosts Utah Valley Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. It's available online at WatchESPN. Meanwhile USF, a 4 seed, entertains LSU at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. And St. Mary's, also a 4, has already made it through the first round, beating Utah. The Gaels will travel to Minnesota to play the #1 seeded Gophers on Sunday.

With a smaller field and weaker opponents, it's possible that any one of them could actually win this thing, but Cal has the best shot. Don't forget: the Bears won it in 1999, Stanford's won it twice, and even USF took it waaaaaay back in 1949.

Speaking of Stanford, the Cardinal are the one Bay Area squad invited to the big dance. But as a 10 seed, they're expected to have a tough time against 7-seeded New Mexico. The tip from St. Louis is on Friday at 10:40 a.m.

That's what makes this situation a bit unfair. The Cardinal played well enough to make the prestigious tournament, but it's likely one of the other teams will still be playing after Stanford's knocked out.

For even a better chance at a trophy being brought back here, turn to the Women's tourney. Saturday's action features a Bay Area doubleheader, starting at 1 p.m. when 7-seeded Cal, ranked #24, takes on 10-seed Fordham from Waco, Texas. That's followed by #6 Stanford, a 2-seed this year, tipping off against South Dakota, a 15, from Ames, Iowa. Both are on ESPN2 and both are more likely to be crowned champions than any of the men. Here's the women's schedule. Again, all times are Eastern.

Note: Cable TV viewers will automatically receive Cal and Stanford on a regional feed. Satellite viewers will get a national feed and will have to scour the channel lineup to find the Bears and Cardinal.

So definitely enjoy March Madness. Maybe there's another FGCU in the making. But if you want to see Bay Area success, you'll have to change the channel.

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