Louisville's Kevin Ware cutting net after national championship provided one last feel-good moment in three weeks filled with them in one of better NCAA Tournaments in recent memory. (Photo courtesy of the Newark Star-Ledger)
Now that the dust has settled on another college basketball season that ended with Rick Pitino making history by becoming the first coach to win a national championship at two different schools following Louisville's defeat of Michigan last night, it's time for something that has become an annual tradition, even requested by some fans and friends of the site. In each of the last two years, I provided a list of grievances and insights from the greatest three weeks in sports, and this collection of thoughts has been received so well to the point where I cannot help but continue on with it. Try to be patient with me on this, since it might ramble on in some places, but here it is.
First and foremost, the broadcast presentation and quality will get mentioned right out of the gate, since as a play-by-plauy announcer myself, I place a much higher significance on this than most others. If you know me well, you know it is no secret that I have no desire for Turner Sports' massive influence on the tournament, but that ship has pretty much sailed considering the length of the contract between Turner and CBS. I am still not crazy about the graphics and presentation, nor will I ever be, but I have learned to accept the multiple platforms and four games at once. It's the voices behind these broadcasts, well, some of them, that will turn this into a Frank Costanza impression:
Once again, there is no need to pollute college basketball broadcasts with NBA personnel. Charles Barkley, although entertaining, does nothing but provide a laugh track that is more unnecessary than entertaining, and the nonstop Capital One advertisements that showcased him even more only detracted from the tournament experience. Second, KENNY SMITH HAS TO GO. I cannot overstate that enough. I really don't like having to call people out on not knowing what they are talking about, but Smith has no room to escape here. He has been on this stage for three years, but continues to prove that he has no clue of what the subject matter is. This isn't the NBA, Smith, and you do not exist solely to make inside jokes with Barkley for the duration of the broadcast. Hopefully Turner gets it right and replaces him despite his work on their professional product. Greg Anthony and Seth Davis deserve better for not only having to work with this clown, but also to be upstaged by him. At least Doug Gottlieb was honest when he was brought into the studio, something I had no problem with.
Not only did Gottlieb bring diversity to the set in that he actually knew what he was talking about, regardless of skin color, he was actually a very pleasant listen in the booth with Spero Dedes as well during the first weekend of the festivities. Considering I was quite critical of Gottlieb during his time at ESPN, I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat relieved to be proven wrong. Doug was one of the few consistent bright spots during this year's tournament production, unlike Clark Kellogg.
During last night's national championship, Kellogg nearly destroyed a great broadcast and even better game alongside Jim Nantz, one of the best in the business. The decision to turn it into a three-man booth with Steve Kerr didn't do much to help matters either. I get the fact that Nantz is the face of CBS through his NFL and Masters coverage in addition to March Madness, but Sean McManus may want to explore the possibility of bringing in a different booth for the Final Four, maybe Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, who have been; and continue to be, CBS' best all-around announcer pairing.
While we're on the subject of announcers, I'll bring up Gus Johnson again just for the fact that all the close games in this year's field of 68 will naturally entice some into thinking Johnson would have enhanced the experience, but nothing could be further from the truth. As exciting as Gus can be, there is simply no need for him when you have play-by-play voices the likes of Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan on the call for the following entries on the list of historic March moments:
Finally, CBS' coverage of the stories within the tournament deserve commendation. From the Cinderella stories of Florida Gulf Coast, La Salle and Wichita State, to Michigan State forward Adreian Payne befriending with a cancer-stricken young girl, to the unfortunate injury suffered by Kevin Ware in the Midwest Regional final against Duke, it was not all about the game or all about the mouths in the booth talking about it. Every now and then, you need an angle away from the action to help tell your story. It's something I as a broadcaster don't do enough even though I should. Overall, despite the good and the bad, this year's NCAA Tournament was a positive one all around, with more than one shining moment even if it didn't feel like it.