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March 18, 1996

TAKING IN THE SITES / By MIKE ALLEN

The Sites: Arena for Hoop Dreams on World Wide Web

The total couch-potato workout now takes one hand for the remote, and one for the mouse. Sports services on the World Wide Web are jostling to make you feel busy while you watch slim men sweat.

The sites form a new arena for wallowing in the men's college basketball championship tournament, which has become a consuming national diversion since CBS began broadcasting it in 1982, hyping the dozens of games as "The Road to the Final Four."

This year, no one needed to cheat on the office pool by getting a hoops-savvy spouse or buddy to fill out the draw sheet. For each NCAA game, an ESPN site offers rosters, odds (before the tournament, the 8 runts in the field of 64 were listed at 2,000 to 1), probable starters, a game-by-game history of the season, "inside info" and "fun facts." If you like the excitement but not the game, try the "Battle of the Mascots" fantasy contest.

The site, "ESPNET Sportszone," was launched during last year's Final Four weekend. A spokesman for ESPN, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., called it "a 19,000-page sports section." Bring a snack: This is one of the busiest sites on the Web, and the pages can load slugglishly.

Subscribers to Sportszone's premium area ($4.95 a month) can tap the advice of Dick Vitale, the enthusiastic ESPN analyst, who sees the University of Kentucky cutting down the nets as national champions on April 1. And Sportszone invites all visitors to help "Dickie V" make his picks for the network's "Prime Time Performers" segment.

Rob Neyer, who has a "Stats Class" on the site, studied every game in the championship bracket for the last 11 years to correlate a team's performance with the number of time zones it had traveled through. Sportszone offers game flow-charts of scoring. Visitors with Java software can watch a game's score, updated in a corner of the screen, while working on the rest of the screen.

Another popular venue for modem madness is the "Hoops Hysteria" page on Sportsline, a service based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It features betting lines from Las Vegas, Nev., inside dope from "CyberSpy," and three tournament contests with grand prizes of $1,000 each.

For the lucky, "Meadowlands Madness," a zippy site from The Record, a newspaper in Bergen County, N.J., gives directions to this year's championship in East Rutherford, N.J. For the brave, the page tells how to apply early for 1997 tickets. The site's icons are basketballs that grin like jack-o'-lanterns.

CBS Sports offers a "Virtual Pressroom" on its March Madness page, including a glossary for following the 62 hours of coverage (a "matador" is a player who steps aside rather than take the charge), and biographies of all 22 announcers. But the site's black screens with gold and white type ("a classic sports look," a network spokesman said) might drive you back to the tube.

The college tournament can be heard worldwide by Web surfers whose computers have a sound card and speakers. Audionet, a Dallas company whose site consists of relayed radio broadcasts, will carry both men's and women's games live. Afterward, cruise the sports-talk shows from 35 cities. Click on the North Carolina Tar Heels, and a page with a swath of Carolina blue tells when to hear a call-in show with Coach Dean Smith.

If you wondered after its Round 1 if Drexel University was the only team with a dragon for a mascot, check out a page of 500 nicknames for all the nation's colleges posted by Adam Smargon, a senior at the University of Florida. Smargon found four other Dragons for his list, which runs 65 pages. Two schools' teams are the Polar Bears, but only Whittier College in California takes the field as The Poets.


Related Sites
Following are links to the external Web sites mentioned in this column. These sites are not part of The New York Times on the Web, and The Times has no control over their content or availability. When you have finished visiting any of these sites, you will be able to return to this page by clicking on your Web browser's "Back" button or icon until this page reappears.

  • ESPNET Sportszone.
  • Sportsline.
  • Meadowlands Madness from the Bergen Record.
  • CBS Sports College Basketball.
  • Audionet
  • College Nicknames posted by Adam Smargon, a student at the University of Florida.


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