NCAA Tournament Announcing Grades: Rounds One And Two

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.


It is almost as if they told Gus to calm down because he was pretty flat for the parts of games that I got to see.

Anonymous said...
Mar 24, 2008, 1:12:00 PM  

Found it interesting that Doug Gottlieb (Who i like as an analyst) is killing Wenzel for his Duke love to anyone who will listen.

Apparently not everyone at ESPN loves Duke...

Todd W. Smith said...
Mar 24, 2008, 1:56:00 PM  

Welcome to Sunday Night Hoops on Fox Sports Net!

If I head "the iron unkind" one more time...

Anonymous said...
Mar 24, 2008, 2:14:00 PM  

And then there were the times when the ball got jammed between the backboard and the rim and Brando called the iron "downright rude".
It's so bad, it's funny.

I have to disagree with you though with Craig Bolerjack. He has energy, enthusiasm, and can provide memorable calls like Gus Johnson. However, Wenzel is horrible. Has he ever heard of anything called a complete sentence? I feel like I'm the only one who noticed that Wenzel speaks in only words and phrases and he never puts the two together into a sentence.

Anonymous said...
Mar 24, 2008, 2:31:00 PM  

Ian Eagle and Spanarkel should have an A- at the very least. They made even the most boring game interesting. Ian Eagle IMO is the best announcer, and Jim is solid. They also have probably the most chemistry out of any team. They both do Nets games together as well. Great job guys.

As for Brando, he's so bad. i don't think Bolerjack is that bad though along with Gminski. Brando should not be doing NCAAB ever again for CBS, stick to football.

Overall besides for the Washington and Tampa sites, the other teams were very good, which was suprising in some cases.

I think Gus was not so good though.

Best Announcer: Ian Eagle
Best Analyst: Bill Raftery
Most improved: Verne

I did not hear much of Harlan though.

Anonymous said...
Mar 24, 2008, 3:43:00 PM  

I'm not the biggest fan of Eye-an Eagle, never have been. But I'd have to agree on the B (although he really obsessed over length the snippets of games I saw him do). Harlan would be better; it just seemed that Dan Bonner was dragging him down a bit. Brando & his puns can go, but the dude who does the pre, post & halftime shows for Westwood One is 20 times worse, if that's at all possible.

Mar 24, 2008, 3:58:00 PM  

Tommy Tyde I believe is his name?

Anonymous said...
Mar 24, 2008, 7:04:00 PM  

I heard a lot of Verne and Raftery. Both were good. Funny without reaching for it and Verne called a good game and Raftery had some good insights. I agree with anon 3:43 - Bolerjack was not THAT bad, but Wenzel is the worst. He should be doing Arena 2 games or maybe go to the CFL. I was surprised I liked Bilas as much as I did. He usually annoys me, but I thought he did some good analysis. The biggest surprise to me, however, was Carter Blackburn. I don't ever remember hearing him before, but he was very solid. Gus was a bit of a disappointment, but he didn't have much to work with and I don't care alot for Elmore, anyway. I have high hopes for Sweet 16 though especially if Davidson or Nova can pull an upset.

Mal said...
Mar 24, 2008, 7:13:00 PM  

Thanks, you were on the right track, Anon 7:04. Finally looked and it's Tommy Tighe. That dude always sounds like he's trying to write for the FreeCreditReport commercials (sorry; that'll be that last time I ever reference those monstrosities, I promise).

Mar 24, 2008, 7:30:00 PM  

Gus will be back on track this weekend in Daytwah. count on it. That was a (mostly) boring sub-regional in Denver. A potential (and I know it's a long shot) regional final between Davidson and Villanova? Curry vs. Reynolds? Gus'll be falling all over Ford Field if he gets that matchup!

Anonymous said...
Mar 24, 2008, 8:28:00 PM  

Packer is just unlistenable to me anymore. But I would listen to Verne call anyhting. He and Enberg are the classiest remaining announcers from the old school days, but Verne is able to better convey wonder. Think of it...the countless things he has witnessed, but I felt like he was celebrating the games he was calling.

The REAL story, AA, was the atrocious job by the CP in the CBS master control. How the fuck do we not get the closing minutes of a close game and instead must endure the start of whichever game is deemed number one (the game with Nantz/Packer)? Then, when there were two options going down to the wire, why weren't we immediately switched to the other great game upon a time out? They did not go to commercial, they just stuck with the time out.

Phil Mushnick in the NT Post wrote about this today. The marketing people took over and we all lost.

Also...after the first switch to a new site, we do not need Gumbel or anyone else to talk over, on camera or off, the action. CBS treated us all as sports infants.

AA....pleeeeeze do a post about this horrible regression by the programmers/CPs at CBS.

Unknown said...
Mar 24, 2008, 11:57:00 PM  

Gus has to lose Elmore. Gotta disagree with you on Elmore. With Wash St. up 20 with 2:30 left, he said something to the effect: "Don't count the Irish out just yet. They've been know to make their share of runs". Yeah..... right. Overcome a 20 point deficit with 2:30 to play? The way he Irish had been playing all game? What game was he watching.

Unknown said...
Mar 25, 2008, 1:17:00 AM  

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