Everyone has their own opinion on who's terrible and who's fantastic at announcing this great sport of basketball. Some may think a legend like Dick Vitale is awesome, some may think he's extremely biased against anyone NOT wearing Duke related garb (me). However, this piece will not be a slight on Mr. Vitale. No, we will be profiling a few other voices of the tournament. Here we go.
Brian Anderson / Dan Bonner // Kristine Leahy
Kristine Leahy has some basketball experience under her belt. She's covered the Boston Celtics with pre-game interviews and is currently working sports for a CBS station in LA. She'll be doing reporting work, which she has some sideline experience. However, I haven't come across any footage of her in-game work, but there's no way she can be as bad a Dorris Burke...Right? Easy on the eyes too.
Dan Bonner has served for 20 years as an analyst for the NCAA Tournament, so he's got himself some miles under the hood. One would think I've heard of him then, but I haven't. However, he must be doing a decent job if CBS keeps calling him up.
Marv Albert / Steve Kerr // Craig Sager
Craig Sager is the literal definition of a color commentator. The guy wakes up next to a 120 count box of crayons, blindly grabs a handful of them, and makes an outfit out of the colors he grabs.
Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Len Elmore // Rachel Nichols
Harlan is a veteran announcer who currently calls NFL and college basketball games on CBS. He has been calling basketball games for over 30 years, starting out behind the mic for the Kansas City Kings before working for Missouri, the Timberwolves, and then Westwood One's Final Four radio coverage. He's called some good NCAA games, including VCU's upset over Duke and the massive win for FGCU over Georgetown last year. Harlan can get a little catch-phrase happy, but he's not a bad play-by-play guy on the whole.
Joining him will be Reggie Miller and Len Elmore. Miller, aside from being the greatest clutch three-point shooter the world has ever known, generally works as an NBA analyst. He has been working the NCAA tournament since 2011. Elmore works as an NCAA analyst for ESPN (two of my least favorite four-letter organizations) and has been broadcasting or analyzing basketball off and on for upwards of 25 years. Rachel Nichols will be the sideline reporter; while she works for CNN now, she cut her teeth on TV working the NFL for ESPN.
This isn't a bad crew, but they have the same problem a lot of the big name announcing teams have, and that's that they don't live and breathe college basketball for the entire season. When names are pulled in because people recognize them rather than because they're great college announcers, there are going to be informational gaps. They'll be better than tolerable for game action, but take their analysis with a grain of salt, because they're probably just parroting points laid out in front of them by an intern.
Andrew Catalon / Mike Gminski // Otis Livingston
This crew is fun to me primarily because of Andrew Catalon. If you're wondering where you've heard that name before, buckle up: he is the man who calls curling... games? matches? Whatever curling contests are called for NBC. He got started when he was offered a freelance gig doing play-by-play of curling events back in 2005 and has kind of worked his way forward from there. He is a trained broadcaster and general sports anchor/reporter of CBS. He has done college basketball and NFL games for CBS before, but that's not nearly as interesting as his curling exploits.
Mike Gminski, like me, is a three-time Academic All-American. Unlike me, he did it in D1 NCAA basketball while playing at Duke. After a 14-year career in the NBA, he retired and spent eight years commentating for the Charlotte Hornets. He works as an analyst for FOX for their ACC coverage and has called NCAA tournament games for CBS since 2004. Otis Livingston will be working the sidelines; his full-time gig is with NBC, where he has covered the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, the World Series, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, the U.S. Open Golf Championship, the Triple Crown, the Olympics, and the New York City Marathon. Pretty impressive CV.
I'll be honest in saying that I haven't heard any of these guys broadcast anything, at least not to my recollection. Gminski is well-regarded on Google, and Catalon calls curling, so he must be a pretty laid-back dude. The announcing teams that seem to know they're anonymous always seem to be having more fun, which makes the games more enjoyable to watch. Assuming none of these guys decides to use the tournament as an audition tape, this should be a good crew to listen to.
Verne Lundquist / Bill Raftery // Allie LaForce
Verne Lundquist is like listening to a hot toddy. He's smooth, he's comforting, and when you are done with one of his games you want another. Most recently Lundquist called the incredible return made by Chris Davis in the 2013 Iron Bowl. Verne frequently gives, and adheres to, three rules: don't ever mention your name on television, don't talk over a golf shot, don't state the obvious.
Bill Raftery, on the other hand, is like listening to being punched in the face. He routinely breaks two of Verne's three rules (I've never heard him call golf, but I'm sure he ruins that, too), he relies almost completely on cliche, and, most inexcusable for a color man, he fails to provide any insight into the game beyond what his limited amount of grating catchphrases allows.
Allie LaForce is from Cleveland (Vermillion, actually), which automatically wins you points on Banners. LaForce played ball for Ohio University in college and can add a good bit of actual analysis to her sideline gig. She's very knowledgeable about the intricacies of the game, as evidenced by her local radio appearances, but it's hard to know how much of that will come through in a 15 second bit with Bill Raftery yelling at her. All season Allie has hosted Lead Off on CBS Sports Network with Doug Gottlieb.
Spero Dedes / Doug Gottlieb // Jaime Maggio
Spero Dedes is probably not a name you know unless you follow the NBA or the SEC closely. Spero is probably most famous for being disciplined for making ill-advised comments about Jeremy Lin while calling a New York Knicks game. Dedes also calls NFL games in the fall, but is not on one of CBS' top groupings.
Doug Gottlieb, on the other hand, is a name familiar to every fan of college basketball. Gottlieb played his college ball at Notre Dame until his tendency to steal credit cards got him removed from the team. His career was resurrected by Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, where Gottlied now holds a whole host of records. Gottlieb is very opinionated, often funny, and usually has a well thought out position on things.
Jamie Maggio will be the sideline reporter for this pairing. Maggio began covering college ball in 2011 and has worked the sidelines at both the baseball and NBA playoffs. Currently, she covers the Los Angeles Lakers for TWC Sportsnet.
Jim Nantz / Greg Anthony // Tracy Wolfson
If you don't know who Jim Nantz is, I'm assuming it's because you watch everything muted. Nantz is efficient, intelligent, and can be trusted to call a game without making any attempt to overshadow the vent itself. Nantz has won Emmy's for his work, written a book, owns a wine label, and probably routinely thanks God that he no longer has to work with Billy Packer.
Greg Anthony played with UNLV and won a national championship in 1990. His NBA career ended in 2002 and he got into broadcasting immediately thereafter. Anthony joins Nantz on one of CBS top line crews and has also parlayed his college work into a gig on YES Network calling the Brooklyn Nets.
Tracy Wolfson has handled the sideline work for SEC games for CBS for nine years now. Prior to that she worked as a runner for Verne Lundquist and as a chauffeur for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
Ian Eagle / Jim Spanarkel // Lewis Johnson
Ian Eagle frequently calls Cleveland Browns games, and for that he is to be most pitied. Eagle also calls Brooklyn Nets games on YES. Eagle has been called up to the NBA playoffs for each of the last two seasons for TNT. Eagle pronounces his name Eye-an instead of the normal pronunciation of Ian. You could definitely do much worse for a play by play guy.
Jim Spanarkel was the first 2000 point scorer for Duke and was the East Regional most outstanding player in 1978. Spanarkel works for CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports One, and, just like apparently everyone else, covering the Brooklyn Nets for YES.
Lewis Johnson is that guy who beatboxed so the US girl (Kate Hansen) who did skeleton in the Olympics could dance. I'm sure he does other things, but I prefer to cherish the awkwardness of that moment rather than try to learn anything new about him. If you haven't seen it, check this out and try not to cringe so hard that your eyes bleed.
Now that you know who everyone is, here's where they're all going to be working for the first two days:
Thursday's Game Schedule
|South||Dayton Flyers (11) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (6)||First Niagara Center (Buffalo, NY)||12:15p||CBS||Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery/Allie LaForce|
|West||American University Eagles (15) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (2)||BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee, WI)||12:40p||truTV||Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Lewis Johnson|
|South||Pittsburgh Panthers (9) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (8)||Amway Center (Orlando, FL)||1:40p||TBS||Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner//Kristine Leahy|
|East||Harvard Crimson (12) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (5)||Spokane Memorial Arena (Spokane, WA)||2:10p||TNT||Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Jaime Maggio|
|South||Western Michigan Broncos (14) vs. Syracuse Orange (3)||First Niagara Center (Buffalo, NY)||2:45p||CBS||Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery/Allie LaForce|
|West||BYU Cougars (10) vs. Oregon Ducks (7)||BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee, WI)||3:10p||truTV||Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Lewis Johnson|
|South||Albany Great Danes/ Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers (16) vs. Florida Gators (1)||Amway Center (Orlando, FL)||4:10p||TBS||Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner//Kristine Leahy|
|East||Delaware Blue Hens (13) vs. Michigan State Spartans (4)||Spokane Memorial Arena (Spokane, WA)||4:40p||TNT||Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Jaime Maggio|
|East||Saint Joseph's (PA) Hawks (10) vs. Connecticut Huskies (7)||First Niagara Center (Buffalo, NY)||6:55p||TBS||Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery/Allie LaForce|
|MidWest||Wofford Terriers (15) vs. Michigan Wolverines (2)||BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee, WI)||7:10p||CBS||Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Lewis Johnson|
|MidWest||North Carolina State Wolfpack/Xavier Musketeers (12) vs. Saint Louis Billikens (5)||Amway Center (Orlando, FL)||7:20p||TNT||Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner//Kristine Leahy|
|West||North Dakota State Bison (12) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (5)||Spokane Memorial Arena (Spokane, WA)||7:27p||truTV||Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Jaime Maggio|
|East||Milwaukee Panthers (15) vs. Villanova Wildcats (2)||First Niagara Center (Buffalo, NY)||9:25p||TBS||Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery/Allie LaForce|
|MidWest||Arizona State Sun Devils (10) vs. Texas Longhorns (7)||BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee, WI)||9:40p||CBS||Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Lewis Johnson|
|MidWest||Manhattan Jaspers (13) vs. Louisville Cardinals (4)||Amway Center (Orlando, FL)||9:50p||TNT||Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner//Kristine Leahy|
|West||New Mexico State Aggies (13) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (4)||Spokane Memorial Arena (Spokane, WA)||9:57p||truTV||Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Jaime Maggio|
Friday's Game Schedule
|MidWest||Mercer Bears (14) vs. Duke Blue Devils(3)||PNC Arena (Raleigh, NC)||12:15p||CBS||Kevin Harlan/Len Elmore/Reggie Miller/Rachel Nichols|
|West||Nebraska Cornhuskers (11) vs. Baylor Bears (6)||AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)||12:40p||truTV||Marv Albert/Steve Kerr/Craigh Sager|
|South||Stanford Cardinal (10) vs. New Mexico Lobos (7)||Scottrade Center (St. Louis, MO)||1:40p||TBS||Jim Nantz/Greg Anthony/Tracy Wolfson|
|West||Weber State Wildcats (16) vs. Arizona Wildcats (1)||Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (San Diego, CA)||2:10p||TNT||Andrew Catalon/Mike Gminski/Otis Livingston|
|MidWest||Iowa Hawkeyes/Tennessee Volunteers (11) vs. Massachusetts Minutemen (6)||PNC Arena (Raleigh, NC)||2:45p||CBS||Kevin Harlan/Len Elmore/Reggie Miller/Rachel Nichols|
|West||Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (14) vs. Creighton Bluejays (3)||AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)||3:10p||truTV||Marv Albert/Steve Kerr/Craigh Sager|
|South||Eastern Kentucky Colonels (15) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (2)||Scottrade Center (St. Louis, MO)||4:10p||TBS||Jim Nantz/Greg Anthony/Tracy Wolfson|
|West||Oklahoma State Cowboys (9) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (8)||Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (San Diego, CA)||4:40p||TNT||Andrew Catalon/Mike Gminski/Otis Livingston|
|East||George Washington Colonials (9) vs. Memphis Tigers (8)||PNC Arena (Raleigh, NC)||6:55p||TBS||Kevin Harlan/Len Elmore/Reggie Miller/Rachel Nichols|
|MidWest||Cal Poly Mustangs/ Texas Southern Tigers (16) vs. Wichita State Shockers (1)||Scottrade Center (St. Louis, MO)||7:10p||CBS||Jim Nantz/Greg Anthony/Tracy Wolfson|
|East||Providence Friars (11) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6)||AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)||7:20p||TNT||Marv Albert/Steve Kerr/Craigh Sager|
|South||Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (12) vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams (5)||Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (San Diego, CA)||7:27p||truTV||Andrew Catalon/Mike Gminski/Otis Livingston|
|East||Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (16) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (1)||PNC Arena (Raleigh, NC)||9:25p||TBS||Kevin Harlan/Len Elmore/Reggie Miller/Rachel Nichols|
|MidWest||Kansas State Wildcats (9) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (8)||Scottrade Center (St. Louis, MO)||9:40p||CBS||Jim Nantz/Greg Anthony/Tracy Wolfson|
|East||NC Central Eagles (14) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (3)||AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)||9:50p||TNT||Marv Albert/Steve Kerr/Craigh Sager|
|South||Tulsa Golden Hurricane (13) vs. UCLA Bruins (4)||Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (San Diego, CA)||9:57p||truTV||Andrew Catalon/Mike Gminski/Otis Livingston|