8. Curt Gowdy/Billy Packer (NBC)
Before Packer became a really big name on the NCAA Tournament, he was teamed with NBC legend Curt Gowdy in 1975. That year, they called John Wooden’s last game as UCLA coach and they also worked the 1976 Final Four when Indiana became the last team to run the table undefeated through the season. And their last game on a national championship was in 1977 when Marquette defeated North Carolina.
Gowdy called every major sport for NBC including baseball, football and the NCAA Tournament. While Gowdy was more associated with MLB and the NFL, his favorite sport was basketball as he played it growing up in Wyoming.
Packer joined NBC in 1975. He was known then for calling ACC games for C.D. Chesley and NBC brought him in to replace Tom Hawkins who worked with Gowdy from 1971-1974.
We have rare video of Gowdy and Packer calling the 1975 National Championship Game between UCLA and Kentucky.
Here’s Gowdy’s last time on the NCAA Championship Game between Marquette and North Carolina. Packer and Dick Enberg were the analysts. This would be Al McGuire’s last game as coach and the following year, he would join NBC.
After Gowdy’s death in 2006, Packer told the Los Angeles Times, “He was always polite to people. There was no ego whatsoever.”
7. Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg (CBS)
Clark Kellogg had been a long-time studio analyst when CBS tapped him to replace Billy Packer in 2009. After years of Packer’s bombast, Kellogg gave a calming voice to the CBS coverage on the Final Four. Kellogg was never as controversial as Packer on the mic and he maintained a very even keel. He remained with Nantz until 2013 when CBS/Turner moved Kellogg back into the studio and moved Greg Anthony into main analyst slot along with Steve Kerr.
One of their memorable games was the Lehigh upset of Duke in 2012 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
6. Dick Enberg/Jay Bilas (CBS)
Dick Enberg’s time at CBS from 1999-2010 marked a return to the NCAA Tournament after being away since 1981. He had a few partners when he started with CBS including James Worthy, Bill Walton and Matt Goukas, but the person with whom he worked with the most was Jay Bilas who was lent to CBS from ESPN in 2005.
Enberg meshed well with Bilas as they would work the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament. Bilas showed the analysis that would bring him become the top analyst for ESPN. Enberg was Enberg. Their call of Illinois’ 2005 Elite 8 comeback against Arizona is one of the best in tournament history.
5. Brent Musburger/Billy Packer (CBS)
For years, Brent and Billy were synonymous with the NCAA Tournament as they called some great classics in the Championship Game including the Villanova upset of Georgetown in 1985, Indiana’s win over Syracuse in 1987, the Danny and the Miracles win for Kansas over Oklahoma in 1988 and Michigan over Seton Hall in 1989.
Brent seemed to be on his way to becoming the legendary Voice of the Tournament until CBS unceremoniously fired him at the 1990 Final Four. The firing transcended sports as Musburger was interviewed by ABC’s Sam Donaldson and on Late Night With David Letterman.
But before Musburger left CBS, he called some great games including the Michigan-Ilinois national semifinal game in 1989:
Here’s the Keith Smart shot that won the 1987 National Championship for Indiana:
And here are highlights of Brent and Billy calling the Villanova Wildcats upset of Georgetown in 1985:
4. Jim Nantz/Billy Packer (CBS)
After Brent was let go by CBS, the Tiffany Network tabbed Jim Nantz to be their voice of college basketball and he’s remained as the Voice of the Final Four since 1991. For the first two years of their partnership, Nantz and Packer would be in the studio with Mike Francesa for the first weekend and then travel to the Sweet Sixteen. But after that, they would call games for the entire tournament.
Packer’s bombast really came through when he started working with Nantz. A lot of it was seen during the Selection Show when Packer would get outraged at certain picks like St. Joseph’s being named a number one seed or George Mason in 2006.
Jim and Billy called the 1999 classic Duke-UConn game:
They were also at the mic for the 2003 Syracuse-Kansas final:
But what probably marked the beginning of the end for Packer at CBS was his proclamation that the 2008 Kansas-North Carolina Final Four game was over in the first half and it would be his 34th and last Final Four:
Packer’s longevity at the Final Four probably won’t be matched and while his career was swathed in controversy, there’s no mistaking his influence as a college basketball commentator.
As for his legacy, Packer really doesn’t care what you think:
3. Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery (CBS)
One of the fun announcing teams, Uncle Verne and Raft were one of the longest-running announcing tandems on the NCAA Tournament lasting from 2000-2014 to be interrupted when Raftery was tapped to join Jim Nantz and Grant Hill last year. The two would call one of the conference championships and then go all the way to one of the regional finals. With Verne on the play-by-play and Raft saying “ONIONS!” on a big shot, they got to call some exciting games as in 2009 when Siena upset Ohio State in double OT and we got a double order of “ONIONS!”
In 2006, Verne and Raft were at the mic for the George Mason run to the Final Four and the great “What can Brown do for you” and “By George, the dream is still alive” calls:
2. Marv Albert/Steve Kerr (CBS/Turner)
It was great to have Marv Albert back on the NCAA Tournament even if it was only for a short five years from 2011-15. His best partner on the tournament was Steve Kerr with whom he also worked on the NBA on TNT. Albert and Kerr had a pre-existing chemistry from the NBA games and worked very well together on the tournament. Kerr even boned up on college basketball by working Sunday night Pac-12 games on Fox Sports Net and pairing with Dick Enberg for the “Battle of the Midway” in 2012.
Marv and Steve had an overtime barnburner in their first year on the Tournament with VCU and Florida State going to OT in the Sweet Sixteen:
And in 2013, Marv and Steve had another great overtime Sweet Sixteen game with Michigan and Kansas.
When he signed a new contract with Turner this year, Marv asked off the tournament citing the strain on his voice with so many games in a short period of time. It’s too bad as Marv was one of the exciting voices on the tournament.
1. Dick Enberg/Al McGuire/Billy Packer (NBC)
The trio began in 1978 after McGuire retired from coaching. At first, NBC put him in a booth away from Enberg and Packer. When McGuire wanted to comment on the game, NBC had him press a button so he could interject. It was very disjointed. Then NBC moved him to the press table, but several seats away from Enberg and Packer. Finally, Packer suggested moving Al to sit with them both and once the shackles were chucked, we had television magic.
McGuire and Packer would argue about calls, strategy, players and even the weather. But they were so entertaining, viewers didn’t seem to mind. They were so popular, fans began to look for them at games. NBC wanted to mine their popularity that it would assign Packer and McGuire to two regional finals. They worked four wonderful seasons together from 1977-78 to 1980-81.
Packer and McGuire got back together for two games on CBS in 1994 while the network’s regular announcers were away at the Lillehammer Olympics, but when Enberg joined CBS in 2000, they finally got a one-game reunion with Michigan State-UConn.
The trio called the Michigan State-Indiana State Championship Game matching up Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in 1979 which still remains the highest-rated college basketball game on television:
Their last NCAA Championship Game together was in 1981 when Indiana beat North Carolina. Packer would go to CBS while Enberg and McGuire would remain at NBC. McGuire would leave in 1992.
Honorable mentions: Dick Stockton/Al McGuire, Don Criqui/Gary Thompson, Sean McDonough/Bill Walton, Sean McDonough/Bill Raftery, Greg Gumbel/Quinn Buckner.