On the whole, CBS and Turner offer tremendous coverage of the tournament. From airing every game on every channel, to the depth and quality of announcers, to the production values. However, there's definitely some areas CBS should think about tweaking ahead of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Some of those suggested tweaks and other thoughts on last night's coverage of Louisville's victory over Michigan in 5 Takeaways from the National Championship Game…
1) The first area CBS needs to address is the studio. It isn't working.
Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith are fantastic, some of the best and most entertaining in the business at Inside the NBA. I know many readers find Doug Gottlieb grating, but I actually don't find him to be the worst analyst on television. Nevertheless, having all of them on the CBS set produced a jumbled, uninformed, argumentative mess that made CBS's infamous Super Bowl blackout coverage look Emmy worthy. From Kenny Smith mispronouncing names (Spike Allbright? Shane Buchanan?), to Charles Barkley's obvious fatigue, to the panel arguing over Trey Burke's foul trouble while Louisville was cutting down the nets, it was a bad night for the studio.
So what should CBS and Turner do for next year? Move Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley back to Inside the NBA where they excel. Their moonlighting college basketball analyst days should come to an end. Second, move Doug Gottlieb to the booth full time and have him team with Kevin Harlan for two weekends of the tournament where his strong opinions can take better hold. Finally, restore the studio team of Greg Gumbel, Greg Anthony, and Seth Davis. They aren't flashy by any means, but they get the job done. More networks are taking a "less is more" approach with the studio. There's a reason. It actually works.
2) Another area that was crowded? The broadcast booth. Steve Kerr and Clark Kellogg have shown good chemistry in the past, but last night's game was played at such a high pace the competition for airtime was even more dramatic. Way too often the two were interrupting each other, finishing each other's points, or parroting what was previously said. Kellogg in particular was criticized for his wordiness. It also affected Jim Nantz's call as I thought he was subdued once again and busy playing traffic cop after an energetic performance Saturday night.
3) Speaking of Nantz, where was the inspired championship game call last night? After Louisville's victory there were tons of solid punny options on the table. A championship on the Cards, the title going to a new Kentucky home, even a white smoke joke. And yet, Nantz's signature line was, "Louisville completes the emotional journey to the championship!" Talk about a letdown. You can hear the call in the video below, thankfully Rick Pitino's pyrotechnics made up for it.
4) CBS should actually be commended for showing some restraint in the amount of attention they paid to the storylines off the court last night. The Fab Five was shown in the crowd once in the first half and the Kevin Ware shots were kept to a minimum until it was obvious Louisville would win. I had no problem with him being interviewed on stage after the game or CBS sticking around for his cutting of the net. I think the network knew it went overboard Saturday night when the game was interrupting shots of Ware on the sideline. Last night was much more appropriate and the focus stayed on the court where it should have been.
5) With TBS reported to be taking over the Final Four next year and beginning to alternate years with CBS, there very well could be several changes put into place. You could see Ernie Johnson host the studio coverage and Marv Albert call the Final Four (which would end Jim Nantz's streak of 23 consecutive Final Four calls). Whatever Turner Sports decides to do, they should focus more on playing to the strengths of their announcers and analysts instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Whether that be sticking with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr in the booth or allowing the CBS studio analysts to take the reigns because they are more in tune with the college game, it's time for the networks to start refining their coverage versus throwing everyone they can at viewers.