Wednesday, CBS and Turner announced all the details for their coverage of this year's NCAA Tournament. Yes, even without Gus Johnson the NCAA Tournament will go on. With Gus Johnson gone, it perhaps opens up a platform for a new announcer to either improve their stock or make a name for themself in this year's March Madness. Aside from perhaps only the NFL, nothing intrigues me from a pure announcing perspective more than the NCAA Tournament. It is perhaps the most anticipated single sporting event on the calendar from the on-court action to the office pools to dissecting the coverage. For the second year in a row, games will be broadcasted nationally on four networks - CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV.
Turner's top NBA talent make their return to the college game for the second year running as well. There is that small charge for March Madness On Demand this year, but hopefully you'll be able to avoid the value meal cost if you can't get around paying for it. The announcers and studio personnel are much the same from last year with just a couple changes to note. Here's all you need to know about this year's NCAA Tournament coverage. Let's start with the announcers for the Final Four...
Play by Play: Jim Nantz
Analysts: Steve Kerr, Clark Kellogg
Sideline Reporter: Tracy Wolfson
Analysis: Jim Nantz has been announcing the Final Four, believe it or not, since 1991. This will be his 22nd Final Four. 22nd!! That has to be one of the most impressive streaks in the history of broadcasting. By the end of his career, he could easily reach 30 and maybe even 35 as he's only 52. For as much stick as Nantz is given for some of his more poetic efforts, he is a vastly underrated basketball announcer. Nantz is not my favorite announcer, but he gets the job done. Nantz is as smooth as they come (sometimes to his own detriment), but I thought his excitement level was up a notch or two in last year's tournament - see Ohio State v Kentucky. Ultimately, because he is the unquestioned numero uno at CBS for any and everything, we're always looking for someone to knock him off his perch and underrating him for doing a solid job.
This will be Clark Kellogg's fourth Final Four since taking over from Billy Packer in 2009 and Steve Kerr's second Final Four as this three man booth returns in 2012. If Clark just sticks to analyzing and not trying to compare every single event happening on the court to random and bizarre items (orange, allen wrench, Dairy Queen, etc.) then he's quite good. Kerr is one of the best game analysts anywhere and he definitely made this top team better. I thought Kerr and Kellogg's chemistry was surprisingly good as they seemed to be in conversation with their analysis. This threesome will also open the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, March 13th with the first two games of the First Four in Dayton.
Regional Announcing Pairings (fist & second Weekend)
1) Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
2) Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
3) Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
4) Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore
Analysis: The only change here is Kevin Harlan getting the call up to the second weekend of the tournament to replace Gus Johnson. That move is a no brainer. Harlan is well known, popular, and one of the best basketball play by play men in the business. He joins NBA on TNT partner Reggie Miller alongside Len Elmore, who formed a three man booth with Gus last year. Reggie has never excited this blog for his announcing capabilities, but at least he and Harlan have experience together and their pairing with Chris Webber proved to be surprisingly good in a three man booth. Perhaps Elmore can provide the same effect...
Nantz/Kellogg, Marv/Kerr, and Verne/Raft all return as the other regional teams. Albert was outstanding (to no surprise) in his first year in the tournament even though he battled an ailment during the second weekend. Lundquist and Raftery are an institution together in the tournament. Verne isn't going to give the best description at this point in his career, but his exuberance alongside the effervescent Raftery always makes them a great listen.
First Weekend Announcing Pairings
5) Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel (also covering First Four)
6) Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner
7) Tim Brando, Mike Gminski
8) Spero Dedes, Bob Wenzel
Analysis: Ian Eagle's star is slowly rising in the industry and with fans alike. That fact shows with he and Spanarkel getting the platform of night two of the First Four in Dayton. Brian Anderson, lead play by play man for TBS's coverage of the MLB Playoffs, makes his NCAA Tournament debut alongside Dan Bonner (Harlan's old partner). Anderson was terrific in the MLB Playoffs, but I can't say I've heard him announce basketball before. He will be one to watch on the first weekend as the only debutant in March Madness. Brando/Gminski and Dedes/Wenzel return to fill out the announcing pairings. Of those two teams, I've enjoyed Gminski's work more and more as I hear him in the touranment each year.
Anchors: Greg Gumbel, Ernie Johnson (New York), Matt Winer (Atlanta)
Analysts: Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Greg Anthony (New York), Seth Davis, Steve Smith (Atlanta)
Analysis: No changes here from last year as CBS/Turner again will feature Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith as the star analysts for the NCAA Tournament. You can't blame the networks for going back to EJ, Kenny, and Charles as they are without a doubt amongst the best studio personalities in sports. Notably, TNT's newest analyst, Shaquille O'Neal, will not make an appearance on NCAA Tournament coverage. Barkley especially fell under pressure for not quite knowing the college game early on last year, but as the NBA talent got acclimated to the teams and the games their analysis improved. I'd expect a much more concentrated effort out of the gates this year to ensure a stronger start in the studio for Charles and Kenny. Winer, Davis, and Smith provide a solid second string in the studio that will originate from Atlanta while the featured studio crew of Johnson/Gumbel, Barkley, Smith, and Anthony will predominantly be in New York.
There's your full breakdown for the 2012 NCAA Tournament. What do you think of the NBAers making another appearance? Are you looking forward to Nantz/Kellogg/Kerr calling another Final Four? What changes would you make? Let us know in the comments below with March Madness just a few weeks away.