March 18, 2010, 9:05 PM — For fans of college basketball, there's no better time of year than the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It's wall-to-wall hoops action, particularly during the tournament's opening round when 32 games are crammed into two days. All those bracket-busting Cinderellas, buzzer beaters, and memorable moments--it's really a wonderful thing for sports fans.
Unless you're nowhere near a TV. Then, it's kind of a bummer.
But it doesn't have to be--not if you have an iPhone or iPod touch, at least. Because in one of those "It can't be too long before they start making flying cars" moments, CBS Interactive offers a $10 app that lets you watch every NCAA tournament game from your mobile device over any kind of network connection. If you live and breathe college basketball, that's not just a must-have app--that's grounds for a Nobel Prize.
This is the second year that an app has delivered the NCAA basketball tournament to the iPhone. Last year's offering was serviceable, if a bit frustrating. The video was a bit jumpy and prone to freezing. More significantly, you could only watch games over a Wi-Fi connection; if you only had 3G or EDGE connectivity, you were restricted to an audio-only feed.
That's the most significant change with this year's edition of CBS Sports NCAA March Madness on Demand. With AT&T getting less persnickety about which apps are allowed to send data over its 3G network, the March Madness on Demand app can now display live videos feeds over 3G and EDGE just as easily as it can over Wi-Fi.
In fact, in my testing during Thursday's opening games, I preferred the video quality I got over a 3G connection--it was a clean picture that very rarely stuttered or froze. In contrast, games streaming over Wi-Fi looked kind of like a LeRoy Neiman painting--a little bit blurry with unreadable graphics. And the Wi-Fi stream seemed more prone to dropping the video feed. (The app will keep streaming audio even if video disappears; more often than not, the video returns after a little while.)
March Madness on Demand made some other welcome changes since last year's edition. While streaming video, you can tap on the screen to pull up the stats of the teams involved in the current game, which will appear over the action. You can also summon scores from other in-progress games, tapping on those scores to switch over to that video feed.