With the first weekend of the tournament in the rearview mirror, four announcing pairings will go home while four move on to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. Few other events in sports place as much importance on the announcers than March Madness as announcing assignments are always eagerly anticipated. Announcers work 6 games in 2 days on the first weekend of the tournament, guide us through upsets, close finishes, and buzzer beaters. Some of the best calls in sports have come during March Madness. So how did the 2012 field of announcers break down through the first weekend of the tournament? Can one of these current announcers become the face of March Madness? Ryan joins me as we break down every booth in our NCAA Tournament Power Rankings.
1) Marv Albert & Steve Kerr
Matt: With the new television arrangement of the NCAA Tournament between CBS and Turner, the networks took a risk by hiring Turner's big name NBA talent to cover the college game. This move has certainly had its hits and misses. However, bringing in the NBA announcers has been a success if only for the work of Marv Albert and Steve Kerr. Currently, they are the best announcing pairing in pro or college basketball. Granted, Marv wasn't perfect last weekend. He repeatedly called Missouri's Phil and Matt Pressey "Presley" in the second half of their game against Norfolk State. But, Marv Albert is simply the best to ever call basketball on television and his work remains at an overall high level.
Where this team really excels is Marv's chemistry with Kerr. The two can just as comfortably break down the game or rib each other while reading an ad. Since he returned to television after a stint in the Phoenix front office, Kerr has become one of the top analysts in sports. CBS and Turner know Kerr is the best they have as he was immediately moved up to call the Final Four with Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg last year. Whereas most of the other NBA talent fly in for just the tournament, Kerr periodically works college games for FSN on the West Coast during the season, so he has a fine grasp of the college game. Even though they can't be classified as college basketball announcers, these two are the best pair working the NCAA Tournament.
2) Verne Lundquist & Bill Raftery
Matt: The combination of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery may be the most beloved of all the tournament pairs. They've called NCAA Tournament games together for CBS since 2000 and no other broadcast pairing has quite the chemistry and relationship to viewers. The fun that Verne and Raft have calling a game jumps out of the screen and into your living room (or office building) as the case may be. At this point in his career, Verne isn't going to be on top of everything calling a game. However, the pairing with Raft brings out the best in him and he's still up for the big moments.
Bill Raftery may be the single most popular NCAA Tournament announcer at the moment. It seems that many announcers are trying to emulate his trademark sayings and way of speaking (as we'll get to later on), but nobody can be like Bill Raftery. Phrases like "ONIONS!", "a little kiss", "lingerie on the deck", and "MANTOMAN!" have become staples. Raft's personality shouldn't take away from his game analysis though, which is incredibly sharp. A tournament game is simply more enjoyable when Verne and Raft are on the call.
3) Ian Eagle & Jim Spanarkel
Ryan: Ian Eagle is slowly starting to get the recognition he deserves on a national basis. This past season, Eagle was one of the best announcing teams in the NFL as one half of "The Bird and The Beard" with Dan Fouts. With CBS, Eagle is also slowly rising up the pecking order. Case in point, Eagle and his basketball partner, former Dukie Jim Spanarkel, were given the duties to broadcast the second night of the First Four in Dayton. And once again, the pair did a stellar job with their assignments this past week.
With his personality and sense of storytelling, Eagle is the best on the CBS roster at conveying the excitement of a Cinderella run, such as with Ohio this year to the Sweet 16. And while Spanarkel isn't the flashiest announcer, he is usually devoid of tired cliches and has a better handle on late-game strategy than most of the CBS stable of announcers. Believe it or not, this pairing is the longest tenured NCAA Tournament booth, announcing games together since 1997. All things considered, they deserve a call up to the second weekend of the tournament.