This post is about a day old, but after staying up until 4am and then getting up at 8am the same day to continue watching the ESPN “Tip Off Marathon”, it’s taken me a bit to process the overkill. Well overkill isn’t really that right term. That would insinuate that I didn’t enjoy all of the coverage, which isn’t true, so let’s use the term “surplus”. USA Today’s blog, Game On, covered what the “surplus” told us about , but I wanted to look into what it told us about ESPN’s College BBall coverage.

I mentioned the other day that the games were boring, and outside of an overtime game between Hawaii and Fresno State at 4am and a Stephen Curry-Blake Griffin battle, that was definitely the case. While the games themselves weren’t the best, ESPN’s coverage throughout the day long event was actually pretty good. The marathon allowed the viewing audience to experience the full breadth of ESPN’s programming ability in the Sport, and just about every announcing team seemed almost in midseason form.

The studio shows were all spot on, and for once, I was extremely impressed with the Basketball version of College Gameday. Rece Davis is a great host, Hubert Davis is improving, Bob Knight actually seemed to be enjoying himself and Digger Phelps….well, okay….I wasn’t impressed with everything! I’m beyond sick of his whole schtick with Bobby Knight, and hopefully he can just lay off it the rest of the season. Other than that they were enjoyable, and every announcing team that I questioned last year appeared to show improvement. Even the duo of Terry Gannon and Steven Bardo who gave us this great call of Fresno State freshman Paul George’s posterization of the entire St. Mary’s backcourt.

Bam! Watch that one again….I’ll wait. Okay, good. And while it’s true that the network has seemingly improved as a whole, there’s another spot where it’s lacking any semblance of betterment. And that’s within its constant, and nauseating, barrage of Dick Vitale. Look, I love the guy for his work in bringing attention to the Sport, and I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame, but his homerism and love for all things in the state of North Carolina is just beyond distracting at this point. I think The Dagger explained it best with the following statement….

Vitale seems less interested now in calling games than in using his two hours on ESPN as a bully pulpit for his pet causes [Ed note: Tyler Hansborough, naming the Indiana Gym after Bobby Knight, the one and done rule, and jump ball versus possession arrow]. I doubt many fans are interested.

Anyway, after UNC had sufficiently pulled away from Kentucky, I switched to the Davidson-Oklahoma game, and it was like this auditory crush had been lifted off my chest. I could just enjoy basketball.

Yep, that about sums up ESPN Basketball at this point, and in comparison, much of their coverage across all Sports on the network. I know it’s tough to fill so many analyst roles, but for every great analyst (Tom Jackson, Tim Legler, Dan Shulman, Ron Jaworski) and great show (NFL Live, OTL, PTI), you have three times as many distracting and just downright terrible ones (Emmitt Smith, Pam Ward, First Take, Any NBA Show, Skip Bayless, Jay Mariotti, Mike Greenberg, Chris Berman, Joe Morgan, etc.).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Every time that ESPN takes a few steps forward, in what seems like a matter of minutes, the take a gigantic leap backwards. I like what they’ve done with College Football, NFL Coverage and the start of College Basketball this year, but for some reason their main shows and announcing teams for each of those entities (I.E.- Monday Night Football and the team of Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale) continue to be terrible.

Let’s hope they can phase out the bad elements of each Sport as quickly as possible, and then let the cream rise to the top. Oh and one more thing….”Interactive Tuesday” for Basketball is just as bad as it is for Football.

After college basketball’s first two nights, a grade for ESPN (The Dagger)
What we learned watching 24-hours of hoops on ESPN (Game On)
Seriously, Stop With the ‘Interactive Tuesday’ (The Sporting Blog)

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