March is officially here which means the Madness is just around the corner. And no, I’m not talking about shoveling out from another blizzard, I’m talking about the NCAA Tournament! And aside from Selection Sunday, today represents one of the most exciting days at AA HQ – the release of the announcing pairings for the tournament. And although we tried our best to project who might be paired together in a season with an unusual amount of turnover, we have to admit that we’re stunned at the massive changes up and down the lineup.
In fact, CBS and Turner will debut eight out of eight all new announcing teams for the 2015 NCAA Tournament. CBS especially is known for their conservative approach to sports broadcasting and consistency in announcing assignments so it comes as a major surprise.
Of course, some of those changes are enforced. With Steve Kerr now coaching the NBA’s best team and Greg Anthony, well, not a part of the broadcast for wildly different reasons, CBS/Turner already announced their new lead broadcast booth of Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, and Grant Hill for the Final Four.
Rounding out the lineup, Chris Webber (who appears to be the favorite as TNT’s new lead NBA analyst) will join Marv Albert. This is noteworthy because Webber has kept his distance from CBS/Turner’s joint coverage of the tournament in years past as we all know about his strained relationship with the University of Michigan. But that’s not all. Veteran analyst Len Elmore will join Albert and Webber in a three man booth, which was hinted at when Albert and Elmore worked together this past weekend. And perhaps in the best news of all, Craig Sager will be on the sidelines with the group as well.
With Bill Raftery now on the #1 team, Verne Lundquist then needed a new partner. That man is the highly underrated Jim Spanarkel, who leaves his longtime partnership with Ian Eagle. Thus starts a domino effect seen throughout the rest of the CBS/Turner lineup. The Bird will then be joined by Doug Gottlieb, who had worked past tournaments with Spero Dedes. Dedes’ partner for this year’s tourney will be Mike Gminski, who called last year’s action with Andrew Catalon, whose new partner for 2015 is CBS Sports Network’s Steve Lappas.
Crystal clear, right?
The final changes come in Dan Bonner joining Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller for a new three man booth while Steve Smith moves up from the studio to the broadcast booth to work alongside Turner colleague Brian Anderson.
With that, here’s the full commentator lineup for the 2015 tournament including the sideline reporters for each broadcasting team. Given studio analyst assignments, it’s a safe bet that the first four teams listed will be the ones to call Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games as well:
1) Jim Nantz / Bill Raftery / Grant Hill // Tracy Wolfson*
2) Marv Albert / Chris Webber / Len Elmore // Craig Sager*
3) Verne Lundquist / Jim Spanarkel // Allie LaForce*
4) Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Dan Bonner // Rachel Nichols*
5) Ian Eagle / Doug Gottlieb // Evan Washburn
6) Brian Anderson / Steve Smith // Lewis Johnson
7) Spero Dedes / Mike Gminski // Jaime Maggio
8) Andrew Catalon / Steve Lappas // Jamie Erdahl
CBS and Turner will once again go with two studio teams in New York and Atlanta up until the Final Four. The New York team includes Ernie Johnson and Greg Gumbel as hosts with analysts Clark Kellogg, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith. No surprises there. Those gentlemen will also be the lead studio crew for the Final Four and National Championship Game, joined by Reggie Miller, Steve Smith, and Seth Davis. (Johnson will be the lead host in Indianapolis.) Matt Winer will host from Atlanta during the first week of the tournament with Davis and former Spartan Mateen Cleaves. For the second week, Johnson moves to Atlanta to host while Gottlieb goes to the New York studio and Steve Smith goes to Atlanta.
The NCAA Tournament begins with the First Four in Dayton. Anderson and Smith will call the Tuesday games while Eagle and Gottlieb will call the Wednesday games.
That should cover it all. Whew. What are your thoughts on all these changes to the announcing lineup for March Madness 2015?