March Madness is truly a made-for-television event, full of great games and legendary sports calls. CBS and Turner Sports (TBS, TNT, TRU) will provide live coverage of all 67 games, with the Final Four on TBS for the first ever time and the National Championship on its usual CBS home. Here is isportsweb’s media preview for who you should be expecting to hear from the next three weeks.
Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Tracy Wolfson
The top broadcast team for the 2014 tournament is a familiar face with a new partner. Nantz has been the face of CBS for over two decades, anchoring their Masters coverage, calling Super Bowls, and having Final Four duties every year since 1991. Clark Kellogg returns to the studio after three years with Nantz and as a result, Anthony receives a huge promotion. It concludes a remarkable comeback story for the former Runnin’ Rebel, who joined CBS in 2008 after leaving ESPN on some shaky terms. Talent wise though, Anthony is excellent as a courtside analyst; he’s quick and smart with the X & O’s of the game and very well-prepared. During the Final Four and National Championship, Nantz and Anthony will be joined by Steve Kerr.
Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager
Albert is one of the most famous announcers in basketball history known for his signature “Yes!” calls. He was NBA on NBC’s top game-caller for the majority of 1990-2002 and the voice of the New York Knicks for 37 years from 1967-2004. Today, he can be heard on TNT and is a major addition to CBS’s coverage since their merger with Turner Sports in 2010. He’ll be paired with his buddy from TNT, Steve Kerr. The following sentence is not meant as hyperbole: Kerr is the best television analyst at any level of basketball for any network. Smart, funny, and thoughtful, Kerr is on the same level as Cris Collinsworth for the NFL and Kirk Herbstreit for college football. As usual, Sager’s wardrobe should be entertaining television.
Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Allie LaForce
Lundquist and Raftery have increasingly become an institution in college basketball over the years. Even with age, Lundquist brings a steady yet exciting voice to March in a distinguished career that has included Super Bowls, Olympics, the Masters, and SEC football. He’s joined by the eccentric Raftery. Nobody has more fun calling games than Raftery, and for all his witty and humorous one-liners that have taken a life of their own, he’s also a superb analyst at the top of his game. Get ready for a lot of “man-to-man,” “nickel-dimers,” “lingerie on the deck,” and “ONIONS.”
Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore, Rachel Nichols
Harlan is an outstanding play-by-play man for the NFL, NBA, and especially college basketball. He has a deep, resounding voice, is self-deprecating, and makes the game about the players and not himself. He’s joined by Reggie Miller and Len Elmore, who have at times struggled with chemistry in a slightly crowded booth. When this team is clicking though, they can be a very enlightening and interesting combination. Nichols, who has added March Madness sideline duties since moving from ESPN to Turner in 2013, is always professional and informative.
Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Lewis Johnson
Eagle and Spanarkel have been calling New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets games for years have a really solid rapport. The “Bird Man,” as Eagle is known, has a certain energy and fun quality to his broadcasts that have the ability to transcend to his audience. Spanarkel is very solid in his role as an analyst. Likewise, Johnson gets the job done soundly on the sidelines.
Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy
Anderson could very well be the best baseball play-by-play man on television at the moment as the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers and TBS’s MLB postseason coverage, where his fame exploded after calling Roy Halladay’s NLDS no-hitter in 2010. A terrific storyteller that really caters towards the pace of baseball, Anderson is still an all-around adept basketball announcer. He’s joined by Dan Bonner. Not a shy analyst, Bonner can sometimes have moments where he injects himself a little too much into the action, but he can also have moments of greatness. His call after this shot by Northern Iowa shows him at his best.
Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb, Jaime Maggio
Dedes is a young announcer who joined CBS in 2009 and is also the national radio voice for the New York Knicks. He’s smooth in his role, with a flair for the dramatic and has had some great calls in March. Gottlieb is lightening rod – there can be an argument made from him being anywhere from excellent to annoying. What isn’t arguable is his knowledge of the game and the teams involved which is very robust.
Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski, Otis Livingston
Catalon is a newcomer to March Madness, replacing the spot vacated by the longtime broadcaster Tim Brando who left CBS earlier this year. In one of the most unexpected rises to prominence imaginable, Catalon gained national fame as the voice of curling during the past two Winter Olympics on NBC. He’s joined by Brando’s old partner Gminski, an old-school basketball mind who tends to do consistently good work during the tournament action.
Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Clark Kellogg, Kenny Smith, Greg Gumbel, Seth Davis, Grant Hill, Matt Winer, Steve Smith
Studio coverage in between, before, and after games will be aired sporadically throughout all four networks live from studios in both New York and Atlanta. Davis of Sports Illustrated is in his 11th season covering March Madness and is one of the brightest minds in all of college sports. He’s also the inventor of the “sharpie” expression and a must-follow on twitter @sethdavishoops. The chemistry of Johnson, Barkley, and Smith is always must-watch television. Johnson, besides maybe ESPN’s Chris Fowler and Rece Davis, is the best sports studio host possible. Hill is in his first year on the job after a lengthy NBA career.
Of important note, during the Final Four and National Championship, CBS and Turner Sports are doing something revolutionary in sports broadcasting and executives David Levy, Craig Barry, David Berson, and Sean McManus should be celebrated for their ingenuity. On TBS during the Final Four and CBS during the Championship game, Nantz, Anthony, and Kerr will be on the air for a call of the game aimed at neutrality. However, on TNT and TRU, the telecasts will be team-specific with a separate play-by-play announcer, analyst, and sideline reporter that is familiar with each team and is encouraged to show “homerism.” In addition, these productions will have separate crews, a custom halftime show, and custom graphics. Commercials will be the same on all networks. It’s a fascinating concept and if successful, can be expected to be emulated on other sports networks for upcoming events.