It is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament like you have never seen it before. Never has there been so much instantaneous television coverage. And never before has March Madness had such a cyberspace presence, either.

While much to-do has been made of the new television partnership between Turner and CBS that allows up to four games to be televised at once, there hasn’t been as much said about the online presence that the tournament has this season.

As I sit here writing this blog, Clemson-West Virginia is on in the background of my computer screen. Butler-Old Dominion is about 16 inches away from that… on my iPhone. Underneath my MMOD window on the computer is TweetDeck… following some of the top sportswriters in the country from my personal Twitter account @hirsch_in_media. (Shhh… don’t tell the bosses.)

Videostreaming has worked its way into college sports over the last several years. Most people know about (former ESPN360) and there are those that have used the pirate sites for several years like ChannelSurfing. More diehard fans know that the smaller schools that don’t have the big television contracts have turned to video on the Internet as a way to broadcast their games more and more.

This year’s NCAA videostreaming is easier than it has been in the past… no more early sign-ups, priority numbers and “waiting room” if bandwidth is getting stretched. Click on a link and there’s your game.

But Twitter and social media being involved… well that’s different. There was a time when bloggers and tweeters weren’t welcome on press row. At one time, for Andy Katz to write an column, he had to get assigned to a television task, as well.

Some venues and conferences are still very restrictive with the traditional media in their social media coverage (the “you can only tweet six times per hour and no play-by-play” policies) and some refuse to issue credentials to someone who is not from a traditional outlet. But now, really for the first year, so many traditional reporters are on Twitter that it has become another great resource for following the tournament – so much so that there is even an section for Facebook and Twitter coverage with its own corporate sponsorship sold to Coke Zero.

So what’s on Twitter right now? @PeteThamel from the New York Times retweeting about how Clemson is losing its legs in the second half as West Virginia is on a huge run from down 10 to up 10, then he tweets himself from the Butler-Old Dominion game about someone in foul trouble (as does @dgoneil1). @espn4D tweets that Louisville is a slow starter in NCAA games, down 12-0 last year, down 7-0 right now to open against Morehead Sate.

Earlier today, the tweets from others weren’t about live action, they were from things like Bruce Pearl’s press conference – the first since some controversial comments by his boss about his future the day before, including @wesrucker247, who was tweeting as Pearl was talking on the dais.

All the while, many media members respond and answer followers’ questions all day, like @jaybilas (who happens to be the funniest one out there, by the way). Ask a good question and maybe you will get your answer… in all of cyberspace. (Ask a bad one, and, well… they do get a lot of questions, you know.) Sometimes you can even get in on some great reporter banter, like I did with a few News & Record guys at the ACC Tournament (@gwitt and @jefemills). Other times the reporters go back and forth with each other and you can be a spectator.

Feel free to raid my follower list for some great coverage over the next few weeks. If you haven’t even gotten into Twitter, this is a great chance to learn. For true fans of March Madness, it is coverage like never before. For social media enthusiasts, it is an example of a great online conversation. Either way, don’t forget your hashtag #marchmadness.

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