That NCAA Championship scheduling committee sure doesn’t make things easy. No less than 64 college basketball teams in the opening draw, for a grand total of — wait, let me get out my calculator — 72 games before the whole shebang wraps up mid-March. Add to the mix enough cable channels to televise each and every contest, and how is a guy supposed to pay attention to his signficant other (or, if he doesn’t have a significant other, get off his butt long enough to find one)? Here are some tips:

Don’t stay for the blowouts. Sure, it’s fun to watch Oklahoma State take on Wallabee Community College, on the off-off-off chance that the Fightin’ Marsupials actually make a game of it. But if the score is 49 to 7 by the middle of the second quarter, the Marsupials have less odds of making a comeback than a real live girl does of dropping through your ceiling and landing on the couch. Call it a day and grab a beer before the featured game, the Duke Blue Devils vs. the Wossammatta Wombats.

Take advantage of halftime. The calm at the center of the NCAA playoff storm, halftimes are ideal for indulging in some quality time with your gal — provided, that is, you can think of a fun, mindless activity that can easily be wrapped up in 15 minutes. (Yes, yes, I know, but we’re talking about a 72-game schedule here.) Think along the lines of Scrabble Junior, Hungry Hungry Hippos, or a quick game of Twister.
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Pretend. Nothing impresses the gals like a guy who was on his college basketball team, whether as a starting center, third-string benchwarmer, or wet-towel dispenser. (If you do claim to have been starting forward, don’t worry about your lack of height — after all, Spud Webb was an NBA All-Star, and he was only 4-foot-9.) But be careful: If you indulge in this fantasy at your local bar, do it out of earshot of real college hoops players who’ll fold you up like a paper airplane and sail you out the nearest window.

Go easy on the pre-game previews and post-game wrap-ups. Like the chewy center of a Tootsie Pop, the NCAA Game of the Day is buried between multiple layers of shiny, colorful, dubiously-nutritious “analyses” by underemployed ex-jocks and badly-toupee’d professional announcers. Do yourself (and your girlfriend) a favor: Don’t turn on the tube until the opening tipoff, and get up off the couch as soon as you hear the closing buzzer (unless, of course, the game has gone into overtime).

Install a buzzer in your living room. Speaking of buzzers, purchasing one of these annoying gizmos (which can easily be found at your local sporting-goods store or college basketball emporium) will do wonders for your relationship. Before the game starts, inform your girlfriend that she is not, under any circumstances, to disturb you until she hears the closing buzzer. If she understands, you’ll be able to watch the game in peace; if not, she’ll have moved out by the second quarter.

Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on About.com, the online information network owned by the New York Times.