Now that the 2007-08 College Basketball regular season and the Conference Tournaments are over, it’s time to hand out the 1st Annual Fang’s Bites College Basketball TV Awards. Just as I did with the College Football TV Awards and the NFL TV Awards, I’ll give you Best and Worst, no real fancy names for these awards. You’ll notice this is ESPN heavy as ESPN covers the sport quite well, but there are mentions of other networks.
Best Play-by-Play Announcer – Dan Shulman, ESPN. He has quietly become a go-to guy for the Worldwide Leader. Not only can he rise to the big moment, but he also allows his color analyst whether it be Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas or Len Elmore to be themselves, and he’s also not afraid to challenge them when necessary. Plus, Dan’s very good. In TV, the play-by-play man has to be a traffic cop and be the point guard, distribute and be the team player. Shulman does it very well. He’s so good that ESPN has put him on the NBA as well. I would prefer him to remain on college basketball and MLB solely, but ESPN wants him to be one of its big time players and I don’t blame the network at all. Dan Shulman is one of the best at what he does. Honorable mention, Sean McDonough – ESPN, Verne Lundquist – CBS, Tim Brando – FSN/Raycom, Tom Hammond – Raycom.
Best Game Analyst – Jay Bilas, ESPN. He has had quite a fast ascension at ESPN. I can remember him doing the A-10 Championship and other smaller conference games. Now, he’s doing Big East games, filled in for Dick Vitale on the Saturday night games and can also be a very good studio analyst. Bilas is concise. He used to have a tendency to overanalyze, but being teamed with Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery on Big Monday, he has learned to condense his thoughts and work well in a three man team. There’s a reason why CBS signed him to do the NCAA Tournament the last couple of seasons. He’s very good and thanks to working with McDonough and Raft, he’s learned to loosen up and show more of a sense of humor. I can see Jay taking over the #1 spot eventually either on ESPN or CBS. Honorable mention, Clark Kellogg – CBS, Len Elmore – ESPN, Mike Gminski – FSN/Raycom.
Best Announcing Team – I think you know where I’m headed on this one. Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery, ESPN. Raft is colorful. Jay has learned to roll with the punches and Sean is a very good traffic cop especially when Jay and Bill argue. They can make the most boring game enjoyable. I’m not a Big East fan, but I can watch when these guys are on. Honorable mention – Tim Brando/Mike Gminski – FSN/Raycom, Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery – CBS.
Best Studio Show – College Gameday, ESPN. There really isn’t any other show to go up against this, although it’s a very weak cousin to its football counterpart. Just last season, it started to go on the road just like during college football season. The magic isn’t quite there. It’s not the fault of the cast of Rece Davis, Hubert Brown, Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps, they just don’t compare to Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso. Plus, seeing the show on center court of various arenas doesn’t have the same feel as when the show is at the large football stadia. However, if you want information on college basketball, there’s no better show than College Gameday. Plus, Rece Davis is a very good host. And that brings us to ….
Best Studio Host – Rece Davis, ESPN. There used to be a time when I couldn’t stand Rece Davis, but now, I feel he’s one of the best hosts ESPN has. Along with Chris Fowler and Karl Ravech, Rece is part of a very deep bench at ESPN and he does a great job in making his analysts better. He knows how to get answers from his studio crew and he shows the right humor especially when he’s working with Digger Phelps. As I mentioned in the College Football Awards, Rece would be a natural fit on the football side if Chris Fowler ever left ESPN. He’s a very good host and very good at what he does. Honorable mention, Greg Gumbel – CBS.
Best Studio Analyst – Stacey Dales, ESPN. I love Stacey Dales. She does a fantastic job whether it be on the sidelines, analyzing games or sitting in the studio. She holds her own whenever she works with Digger on Big Monday. I like the way she works and she can break down a zone defense with the best of them. Stacey will work the Women’s Basketball Tournament for ESPN, but she finished doing the ACC Tournament where she worked quite well with Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale. When the sideline reporter is used as second analyst … well, we’ll get to that in a second, but Stacey does a great job in the studio. Honorable mention, Tom Brennan – ESPN, Hubert Davis – ESPN.
Best Insider – Andy Katz, ESPN. There are times when Andy comes up with stuff that makes me scratch my head, but he is connected and he got the scoop that Coppin State would be in the play-in game this Tuesday.
Best Game Coverage – Raycom. You thought I was going with ESPN, didn’t you? The guys at Raycom whether it’s the ACC or the SEC do a great job. After watching what Raycom did when it covered the tornado that hit Atlanta during the SEC Tournament or its coverage of Duke-North Carolina in its ACC syndication package, I’m convinced that its game production is comparable to CBS and ESPN. In fact, sometimes Raycom does it better. For those who can watch either conference through the regular syndication package or through ESPN Full Court, just watch and you’ll see what I mean. Raycom is one of the best at broadcasting basketball.
Most Valuable Network – ESPN. College Basketball is one of the first sports ESPN covered when it began in 1979. Along with Australian Rules Football, tennis and college football, this was the sport that ESPN got to cover regularly and does it very well. I don’t know why the network can’t take the same approach it does with this sport and carry it over to the NFL or the NBA, but that’s a subject for another day. I’m not afraid to praise ESPN when it does something well and college basketball is something it does very well. Honorable mention, CBS, Raycom.
Best Sideline Analyst – Doris Burke, ESPN. Doris is one who can coach if she so chooses. In fact, I think she was using TV to try to get a coaching job, but now that she’s firmly entrenched at ESPN, I think she’s now comfortable doing games. She can be a studio analyst, she can call games or she be the second analyst on the sidelines. Doris has the respect of coaches around the game because she has played the game and can break down a play just like coaches can. She’s very good and she can call both a men’s and women’s game without breaking a sweat. Honorable mention, Stacey Dales – ESPN.
We’ve given out our best awards, now it’s time to give out the Worst.
Worst Play-by-Play – Barry Tompkins, FSN. Here’s a guy who mispronounces names. He sometimes forgets where he is. I just shake my head whenever he’s assigned to a game. The PAC 10 makes some strange decisions like staying with FSN as its main rightsholder when it should be distributing its games like the ACC does. FSN could do itself much better than allow Barry Tompkins to call games. Tompkins used to do the French Open for ESPN and he butchered names so often that the late Johnny Carson called him out on the Tonight Show. Whenever he calls a game, I have to go to the internet to get the rosters because I know Barry will make mistakes. Barry Tompkins, Worst Play-by-Play by far. Dishonorable mention, Brent Musberger – ESPN.
Worst Analyst – I really don’t have one the regular season. When I do the NCAA Tournament Awards, perhaps I’ll have one, but not for the regular season.
Worst Announcing Team – Brent Musberger/Steve Lavin, ESPN. It’s not Lavin’s fault that Musberger is losing it. Just scroll down for some bizarre moments involving this team. Brent can really go off on a tangent when a game is in blowout mode. And some of Brent’s comments are totally out of left field. And during the UCLA-Cal game, Brent failed to notice several key moments including a shot that went over the backboard and a foul that wasn’t called just before it. Brent used to be very good, but that’s no longer the case. Steve tries his best when teamed with Brent, but sometimes, he gets dragged down by his partner. And when Erin Andrews is with them, the banter gets much worse. Dishonorable mention, the PAC 10 crews – FSN.
Worst Studio Show or Lack Thereof – FSN. It really should have a studio show. For the conferences it covers, the ACC and the PAC 10, FSN should make the effort to produce one, but instead relies on halftime interviews at game sites. What is that? For all of the money that FSN spends on each conference, you would think it could produce a decent halftime show, but it doesn’t. Shame on you, FSN.
Worst Studio Analyst – Doug Gottlieb, ESPN. Is there a team that Doug likes? Is there a conference that Doug likes? Does Doug like anyone in general? Yeah, he played for the legendary Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, but it seems like Doug has this proverbial chip on his shoulder and wants to get back at every coach, every player, and every conference that is not in the Big 12. And Doug doesn’t seem to show any respect to former Vermont coach Tom Brennan whenever they’re teamed together. Doug is pretty good on ESPN Radio, but he takes a “no prisoners” approach on television and it’s quite annoying. He always seems angry. It works for Charles Barkley, but it doesn’t work for Doug Gottlieb. Try going to Hedonism III and loosen up, Doug. Dishonorable mention, Seth Davis – CBS/Sports Illustrated (a very close second).
Worst Game Coverage – PAC 10, FSN. First, the games are at 11 p.m. ET on Thursdays. Second, FSN is supposed to be able to draw from its parent, Fox Sports, but its game coverage looks as if it’s produced by some local cable access company. It feels as if I’m watching three camera, one replay machine coverage. The PAC 10 deserves much better.
Most Bizarre Moment I – Bruce Pearl feeling up Erin Andrews at the Tennessee-Memphis game.
Most Bizarre Moment II – At the Illinois-Wisconsin game, Erin does a report, has her name chanted by the student section and then Brent Musberger says he wants to go to the Playboy Mansion with her. What?
Most Bizarre Moment III - Brent repeats what Steve Lavin said, and they proceed to talk about MySpace, YouTube, steroids, Rocky and the blue dress. You can’t make this stuff up.
There you have it. Let me know what you think.
We’ll have an NCAA Tournament edition for both CBS and Westwood One Radio during the Final Four.