Saturday was a spectacular day for college basketball. The two men’s Final Four games were closely contested to the final buzzer, with Gonzaga defeating South Carolina, 77-74, and North Carolina outlasting Oregon, 77-76. Even the WNIT championship played earlier in the day was a triple-overtime contest, with Michigan eventually winning, 89-79, over Georgia Tech.
But the weekend was ignited on Friday night by Mississippi State upsetting Connecticut in the Women’s Final Four, ending the Huskies’ 111-game winning streak, in overtime on a buzzer beater from Bulldogs freshman guard Morgan William.
If you happened to miss the shot — or the game — or perhaps heard about it on Saturday and wondered what all the hubbub was about, here’s one of the best moments we’ve seen this March:
But what we don’t often see — and shouldn’t see, since the game at hand is what matters — is how the broadcasters calling the game react to a buzzer-beater or other such big moment. Fortunately for all of us who love to hear the calls from such moments, ESPN had a camera on the announcing team of Dave O’Brien, Doris Burke and Kara Lawson. Lawson shared video of their reaction to William’s huge shot.
So about last night….. pic.twitter.com/jFGcdDiZt6
— Kara Lawson (@karalawson20) April 1, 2017
We often like to praise broadcasters who know when to be quiet and let the moment speak for itself during its aftermath. O’Brien provides just enough play-by-play — notably the very important “Got it!” — to frame the moment and put it in proper context. But Lawson and Burke are quiet, presumably letting the visuals being broadcast to ESPN’s audience provide the picture. In a moment like that, there really isn’t much that a color commentator can provide.
In the video Lawson provided, everything she could say is shown on her face. She’s jubilant, beaming over what they just witnessed, and elbows Burke as if to say, “Can you believe what we just saw?” Yet Burke is the picture of stoicism in the center of the frame. She’s wide-eyed with mouth agape when William hits her buzzer-beater, but from there, she’s surprisingly low-key, leaning back to take it all in. At one point, Burke even holds her palms up from her desk, as if she’s telling her colleagues to keep their cool in a frenzied moment. Or maybe she’s reminding herself to let the telecast do the talking, to just sit back and appreciate what she’s witnessing.
Lawson posting this video could set an interesting precedent for future postseason and championship broadcasts. Will we see how other announcers react to big moments more frequently in the near-future? Or is that all a little bit too self-indulgent?
UPDATE: A reader explained why Burke held her hands up at one point. All of the Mississippi State players jumped together in front of her. Maybe she was on guard for a possible collision.
@iancass Doris Burke put her hands up because the Miss State players jumped on William right in front of her. U can C it from another angle
— Rick Bouchard (@Rickybouchard) April 2, 2017