The NCAA Tournament is technically underway although the action doesn’t start in full until tomorrow. So to prepare for the madness this year we’ve decided to take a walk down memory lane and remember the best announcing calls from the NCAA Tournament over the years. Here they are in chronological order…
1983 – NC State vs Houston, Billy Packer
When it comes to great announcing calls, you don’t think the very stern and serious analysis of longtime lead analyst Billy Packer. However, whether you’re a fan of Packer or not, his ability to lift up the irony of NC State upsetting Phi Slama Jama on a dunk of all plays has provided a proper soundtrack to one of the iconic moments in tourney history.
1992 – Georgia Tech vs USC, Al McGuire
Former Marquette coach Al McGuire was once broadcast partners with Packer and Dick Enberg in one of the great three man booths in the history of the medium in the late 70’s. For those of you who don’t remember McGuire, his energy, humor and love for basketball is much like Bill Raftery or Dick Vitale. That was perfectly symbolized in just two words: holy mackerel.
1992 – Duke vs Kentucky, Verne Lundquist
Uncle Verne has had the good fortune to call some of the greatest moments in sports history over the last 30 plus years. This epic Christian Laettner shot is one of them.
1998 – Valparaiso vs Ole Miss, Ted Robinson
Bryce Drew’s three pointer is always lifted up as one of the great buzzer beaters in NCAA Tournament history and Ted Robinson’s excited call definitely helps.
1998 – Washington vs Connecticut, Sean McDonough
It’s a bit of a shame Sean McDonough isn’t the lead announcer for any sport at a network. He’s done such good work for so long that he flies under the radar somewhat at ESPN. His dramatic call of Rip Hamilton’s frantic buzzer beater may be tops on this list.
1999 – Gonzaga vs Florida, Gus Johnson
Gus Johnson and March Madness were made for each other. And yes, every March we visit a lonely hillside to lay a solitary rose on the final resting place that pays tribute to his NCAA Tournament career. The call that launched Johnson into cult favorite status, and the call that has been replayed thousands of times since and become the anthem for March, is this one from 1999. The slipper still fits.
2005 – Arizona vs Illinois, Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas
When it comes to exhiliarating tournament comebacks, Illinois’ miracle against Arizona just might top the list. They didn’t work together long, but the legendary Dick Enberg and up-and-coming Jay Bilas were a great announcing tandem in the mid-2000s. The 2005 Illini comeback (which you can view in full here) is one of Enberg’s great moments behind the mic in his latter career.
2006 – George Mason vs UConn, Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
Before mid-majors making the Final Four was en vogue, George Mason made history in 2006 by defeating UConn. They had to do it the hard way in overtime. The popular combo of Lundquist and Raftery were fantastic throughout the game with the highlights being Raftery’s call for Denham Brown’s game-tying bucket and Lundquist’s game-ending call.
2007 – Ohio State vs Xavier, Gus Johnson
2009 – Siena vs Ohio State, Bill Raftery
Bill Raftery’s vegetable of choice has become his trademark catchphrase. So when he dished out a “double order” for Ronald Moore’s heroics for Siena in the 2009 first round, you knew you were watching something special.
2010 – Xavier vs Kansas State, Gus Johnson
You can put the entire call of this Sweet 16 classic into the March Madness Hall of Fame. Gus Johnson has never been better than this game, with big shot after big shot being made. It’s one of my favorite NCAA Tournament games of all-time and having Gus on the call is one of the major reasons why.
2010 – Duke vs Butler, Jim Nantz
You wouldn’t think a missed shot would make our list, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard Jim Nantz as excited as this Gordon Hayward half court heave that almost won Butler a national championship.