The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament is one of the most popular and widely watched sports events of the year. For the millions of fans who have money on the game, or are rooting for their school to go all the way, instant access to scores, brackets, and online coverage is imperative. For the sites providing this coverage, it can be a challenge.Â After all, nobody wants to be remembered as the biggest flop of the season. (Sorry, Kansas.)
So how have sports sites performed thus far in the tournament? First, you'll have to indulge in a little NCAA analogy. You may not realize it, but the roads to NCAA and Web site success are actually quite similar.
GAME PLAN FOR A SUCCESSFUL NCAA TOURNEY
Practice, Practice, Practice.
For months, the 64 men's basketball teams that made it to the Big Dance (and countless others who didn't make the cut), have been hitting the court and the weight room daily to make sure they are in tip-top shape and playing at peak performance. So, too, should have been the announcers, TV crews, and Web sites involved in producing the event. For popular sports Web sites such as ESPN.com, NCAA.com, and CBSSports.com, this means testing the capacity ofÂ the sites to ensure it would remain up and running smoothly for the millions of fans using the Net to follow their favorite teams and check their brackets.
On Thursday, the first day of the tournament, 3 million unique visitors logged onto the Web for CBS'sÂ live on-demand coverage of the games. During the first four days of the tournament, more than 6 million fans logged on to stream 8.7 million hours of live video and audio. So did the site hold up to this record-breaking traffic? Stayed tuned to find out.
A well-prepared coach that can handle to the pressure.
Every company Web site needs a strong IT guy to lead team practices, react to adversity, and ultimately, lead the team to victory. Designate one person to receive regular performance reports and make adjustments should your site not be responding as well as you'd like. And don't panic. One missed shot won't lose you the game. An effective team leader will stay calm, grab the rebound, and pick your site back up.
The B team.
Ideally, you want to have your best talent on the court at all times, but what happens when they get tired or enter into foul trouble? Time to make a substitution. Have a back-up plan waiting on the sidelines that you can throw in should your initial game plan fall apart. A quick personalized message should do the trick.
THE ROAD TO THE SWEET SIXTEEN
So with the first two rounds of the tournament behind us, how did the Web hold up? Surprisingly well. The majority of the sites we were monitoring have reported relatively consistent response times in the 0-25 second range. Only one site, FoxSports.com, experienced truly irregular response times and sporadic slowdowns throughout the weekend.
Based on performance thus far, we're going to have to go with mmod.ncaa.com as this year's champion. With the exception of a few blips late Friday night, availability (on average, 97.92 percent) and response times (on average, 9.21 seconds) have been steady throughout the first two rounds. With fewer games to air in each upcoming round, we anticipate the strong performance to continue.
As for the teams on the court, I'm going to pick Kentucky. They're by far the most athletic group, and they demand performance! ;)