As we approach the NCAA Final Four, let’s take a look at those who have done well and not so well for CBS and Turner during the NCAA Tournament. Every year there are standouts and bustouts. So let us list the men and women who belong to both categories. Again, this is one person’s list. You will have your own winners and losers. Feel free to agree or disagree.
Let’s check out the Winners and Losers. They are in no particular order:
Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery: We have to team them together as they’re practically one entity during the Tournament. They call nine games in the postseason and when they’re done with the Regional Finals, we’re left clamoring for more. Lundquist’s contract with CBS is up this year, but let’s hope that CBS/Turner allows them to call at least one Final Four before their run in the Tournament is over.
Allie LaForce: Her second year on the Tournament has been a breakout as she was assigned to the Verne and Raft team. LaForce was very good during her halftime interviews plus her experience playing basketball in college showed as she can speak the game’s language. That’s an asset not every reporter has. She could be a prime candidate to be on the sidelines for Thursday Night Football if CBS elects to have a sideline reporter on the package.
Greg Anthony: His first year outside the studio has been a winner. Anthony as the lead analyst can spot trends and has correctly first guessed the action throughout the Tournament. He has good chemistry with Jim Nantz and has shown during the Big Ten Tournament that he can work well with Steve Kerr which he will do again at the Final Four and National Championship Game.
Greg Gumbel/Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Clark Kellogg and Kenny Smith: The New York studio has had its best year under the CBS/Turner partnership. Bringing in Clark Kellogg from game analyst into the studio has paid off big dividends. Charles Barkley helped to draw out some personality from Clark and the chemistry was there from the beginning (unlike in years past). And Kenny Smith as we know is a great foil for Barkley. Greg Gumbel is more comfortable with Barkley and Smith and led Chuckster into the best moment of the CBS/Turner studio this year, the roasting of Shaq. Add push-up bets into the mix and you have Must See TV. And a very good move by CBS/Turner to not employ current coaches in the second week to upset the chemistry apple cart in the studio.
Marv Albert: In his 70’s, Marv still has his fastball and proved during the Tournament that he remains on top of the action. His calls of close games this year are still among the best. He works well with Steve Kerr and Craig Sager. Marv also knows when to provide humor, but also knows when to let the action speak for itself. One of the best basketball broadcasters of all-time and a very welcome addition to the Tournament.
Jaime Maggio: A bright spot on what otherwise was a very dull team with Spero Dedes and Doug Gottlieb. Another potential candidate for Thursday Night Football should CBS use sideline reporters.
Ian Eagle: Yes, Ian is an Awful Announcing favorite, and he’s deservedly put on this list. Another solid job by the Bird on the Tournament this year.
Kevin Harlan: Kevin had a very good Tournament. The only thing missing was a “With no regard for human life” call, but Kevin normally saves that for something extraordinary. Another announcer who could step into the Final Four with ease.
Steve Kerr: If this is Kerr’s last year on the Tournament before going to the New York Knicks (allegedly), then he’s going out on top. Another analyst who can spot trends, first guess and not fall victim to cliches, Kerr was on top of North Carolina’s loss in the third round spotting that the clock had not begun properly and thus, would not have been able call a timeout against Iowa State. He should be very good on the Final Four once again this year.
Honorable Mentions: Brian Anderson, Len Elmore, Rachel Nichols, Dan Bonner, Mike Gminski
Andrew Catalon: In his first Tournament, Catalon was having a decent debut when he came out with the unfortunate “Hack-a-Polack” comment during the Oklahoma State-Gonzaga second round game. He did apologize twice on-air and also directly to Przemek Karnowski plus on-air partner Mike Gminski came to his defense. Catalon has to use this as a big lesson and learn from it. We do expect him back on the Tournament next year.
Doug Gottlieb: It appears that CBS/Turner does not know what to do with Gottlieb. He’s a game analyst for second and third round games. Then he’s in the studio for the regional semifinals in Atlanta. CBS/Turner tried using him in New York last year with the studio crew, but did not have any chemistry with them. By shoehorning him this year with Ernie Johnson, Seth Davis, Grant Hill and Steve Smith, it looked as if the set was crowded. There were instances where Gottlieb was sent off-set to analyze action from a monitor. It seemed as if he had been banished to the kids’ table all by himself. Gottlieb may be a multi-dimensional and talented media personality, but CBS/Turner is still trying to find the best role for him.
Reggie Miller: Another analyst who is shoehorned by Turner into a very good team of Kevin Harlan and Len Elmore. It seems that all Reggie does is yell to be heard. And he constantly is making boxing analogies (“It’s a heavyweight fight!” or “It’s a knockdown!”). Elmore can be a very good analyst without Reggie’s help, but with Miller at the table, it’s a tough listen. With Miller part of the secondary studio panel for Turner at the Final Four, it’s not known what exactly he will add to a table with Gumbel, Gottlieb, Davis and college coaches.
CBS/Turner Producers: We didn’t have just one, but two instances of CBS/Turner using young, crying fans to try and add to the drama after close games. It was truly unnecessary in both cases and left a bad taste in plenty of viewers’ mouths. The action of the NCAA Tournament is exciting and compelling enough on its own that it does not need the Olympic primetime treatment.
So those are our Winners and Losers for the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Feel free to leave your comments and what you liked or disliked about CBS/Turner’s coverage.