Basketball Weekend

After watching and listening to a lot of college basketball since Thursday, I must say that viewers got to see great games and high quality of play with a few exceptions here and there. But overall, CBS is pretty happy over the three day ratings from Thursday to Saturday. And after NBC got rare wins for Thursday and Friday nights due to competition from the NCAA Tournament, CBS won the Saturday night ratings thanks to the West Virginia-Wake Forest double overtime thriller.

ESPN.com promised a continuous blog from the former Boston Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, but it was very disappointing and there were times when posting was sparse. The guy who did a fantastic job blogging during the tournament was Dave Scott, the man from Hull, MA who kept up his posts despite being asked to leave a friend’s house after the WVA-Wake game. Funny stuff. He blogged from Thursday-Saturday and kept up his posts while Bill Simmons gave a really piss-poor effort. Scott even acknowledges Simmons’ poor posting schedule.

Now, to my review of CBS’ coverage. I have to say on the whole, the network does have this down pat. It only took them about 13 years to get this right. CBS got the entire tournament in 1991 and after several starts and stops, it seems to have most things down, but not everything. So after watching and listening to the tournament, here are my bests and worsts of the TV and Radio coverage.

First, CBS-TV:

Best Play-by-Play

1. Gus Johnson (Dave Scott pointed out that Johnson is now a regular voice on the tournament)
2. Ian Eagle (Did an excellent job on the Wake-West Virginia game)
3. Verne Lundquist (Is an old pro and does his job very well)
4. Kevin Harlan (Emotes a bit much, but he’s very good)
5. Jim Nantz (Is slipping, but he spent most of his time in the past few months on the NFL)

Worst Play-by-Play

1. Tim Brando (Too many cliches)
2. Craig Bolerjack (Too many cliches and also a very pedestrian call on the Bucknell upset of Kansas)
3. Dick Enberg (A once great announcer shows the way not to end a career)

Best Analysts

1. Len Elmore (Great move by CBS to “rent” him for the Tournament)
2. Jay Bilas (Ditto as Elmore)
3. Jim Spanarkel (Started his excellent work on the C-USA Final and kept it up during the Tournament)
4. Bill Raftery (Love his “MAN TO MAN!”)
5. Mike Gminski (Has a good chemistry with Brando having worked with him on FSN during ACC games, but has to carry him at times)
6. Bob Wenzel (pointed out Wayne Simien’s shot looked a lot like Christian Laettner’s shot in 1991, but with a different result)
7. Don Bonner (Did well)

Worst Analyst

1. Billy Packer hands down

Best move #1: No sideline reporters this year and more time to halftime switches.
Best move #2: Games on CSTV.com for $19.99
Best way to watch the Tournament: Having Mega March Madness on DirecTV then having games on CSTV and checking on the scores through ESPN.com’s Real Time Scoreboard. This is the best of all worlds for Tournament geeks.
Best Studio Wrap-up show: ESPN’s College Gameday Scoreboard
Worst Studio Wrap-up show (tie): CSTV and ESPNU. Mike Hall is the Anti-Christ. The guys on CSTV are horrible.
Best Host: Greg Gumbel
Best Studio Analyst: Clark Kellogg
Worst Studio Analyst: Seth Davis

Best and Worst of Westwood One Radio Coverage:

Best Play-by-Play

1. Mark Vandermeer (Has great experience from his days at UMass and Miami)
2. Bob Papa (Is a very good all-around play-by-play man)
3. Dave Sims (Great awareness of where the ball is)
4. Ted Robinson (Has done this on TV so he knows the emotion of the tournament)
5. Chuck Cooperstein (A radio pro from Dallas)
6. Brad Shamm (Ditto)

Worst Play-by-Play

1. John Castleberry
2. Barry Tompkins
Both did TV play-by-play on radio. Guys, that doesn’t work when we can’t see something and you say, “Look at that play.”

Best Analysts

1. John Thompson (Very good and talked about the coach’s perspective. He should know)
2. Glen Consor (He did talk over Ted Robinson a bit)
3. Kevin Greavey (Excellent radio analyst)
4. Larry Conley (Like Robinson, he’s done the tournament on TV going back to the early days on ESPN and CBS)
5. Dave Gavitt (Had to carry Castleberry when he disappeared in stretches)

Worst Analyst

1. Bill Frieder (A tough listen in his raspy and hoarse throat)

Best move: John Tautges as host over the pun-happy Tommy Tighe who was host during the regular season
Worst move: Not enough switches at halftime and during games.

Great basketball weekend. Hopefully, next weekend will be even better.

I would love to hear your comments and who you would suggest to call tournament games on TV or radio whether it be your favorite local or national announcer.

Monday links tomorrow.