Monday, March 24, 2008
Well it was a crazy four days of Basketball wasn't it (or three rather)? The announcing was right on par with the games the first two rounds meaning that it was all over the place. Four pairs have moved onto the Regional Semis and Finals while four others have been relegated to radio work or the bench. Let's get into it....
In a complete contradiction to how I normally do things, I'm going to start with the positives first and then move onto the negatives. CBS' changes to the teams seemed to have worked on a whole based on the fact that I enjoyed the first two rounds more than I have in quite some time. Nantz and Packer weren't nearly as bad as last year, and while they are still somewhat boring to me they still provide more stats and information on players and teams than any other pair on the roster. Billy Packer even actually seems to be interested in the games this year which is a drastic improvement.
Another team that surprised me was Lundquist and Raftery. At this point last year my least favorite announcer was Verne. He just couldn't keep up with the games and his partner, but this Tournament he's hanging right there with Raft. Sure they make mistakes and are a little goofy, but they're fun to listen to. I was also very impressed with Carter Blackburn who filled in for Dick Enberg in the first round. He and Stephen Curry both looked 10-years old, but both acted a lot older than their appearances let on. So much so that Blackburn and Bilas was probably the best team of the first two rounds (up for debate).
Here are the passing grades......
Carter Blackburn and Jay Bilas, A-
I just couldn't find anything wrong with this team. Normally Bilas is paired with Enberg whom he feels he has to fill in dead air for. He is constantly talking when he's paired with someone who can't keep up with his analysis. Blackburn actually got him to shut up for a few seconds giving the two a perfect balance of lead and analyst.
Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel, B
I'm an unabashed Ian Eagle fan. He was starting to dig into the "Pun Well" in the Second Round, but this team was as solid as they come. Spanarkel is a perfect compliment to Eagle and this team shows what happens when you stay away from the "age gap" pairing. Two young guys and two old guys together is better than the mix and match approach CBS took last year.
Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, B-
Pretty much explained it above but these two are just plain fun. They don't take themselves too seriously and Raftery hasn't gone annoying on us.....yet.
Jim Nantz and Billy Packer, B-/C+
Again, I mentioned it above, but these two actually seem like they care about the games they are covering. Points taken away for "Hansbrough Love" and having to call blowouts.
Gus Johnson and Len Elmore, C
This probably is the first time that I've given Gus and his partner anything under a "C", but I just wasn't that impressed. A lot of that has to do with some boring games to call, but at times it seemed like Gus was trying too hard. The "Notre Dame- popping their collars" line was just too much. Len Elmore impressed me though and seemed to do much better with anyone other than James Brown.
Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner, C
This grade should probably be incomplete because I saw this team less than any other (damn you Tim Brando and your upsets), but they too seemed a little lackluster as compared to usual. Maybe Harlan thought he was still calling NBA games.
Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas, C-
Enberg actually did a pretty good job with the rest that Blackburn provided him. Having to call only two games in a day worked well for the veteran and Jay Bilas has seriously upped his telestrator work this Tourney.
Okay, now onto the bad. There are no words to describe how ridiculous Bob Wenzel and Tim Brando were this Tournament. Bolerjack and Wenzel were hands down the worst team in the first two rounds and if were up to me, would never set foot in a Basketball Arena ever again. The two are not nearly as bad on Football coverage and I've even praised Bolerjack during SEC coverage in the past. Wenzel just provided us with pun after pun and as evidenced with the clock problems he had....didn't really even know the rules.
Brando had far and away the worst individual performance this Tournament. Mike Gminski is actually pretty solid, but Timmy kept throwing off his game every chance he got. Brando had multiple problems with math during the tournament trying to explain leads and how many possessions a team was done, and it was basically a snowball effect from the opening tip of the first game he called. I almost feel cheated that Tampa got all of the upsets.
Tim Brando and Mike Gminski, F+ (only because of G-Man)
Craig Bolerjack and Bob Wenzel, G or lower
So there you have it. Hopefully now that the dead weight has been dropped the four teams moving on will be able to shine. Although I'm feeling a strong push from Gus coming during the Sweet Sixteen.
Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.