There have been articles written by various sports media critics regarding the way the NCAA Tournament will be handled by CBS Sports and new partner Turner Sports starting this year. Some are salivating over all of the games being aired nationally. Others are lamenting the end of the old way CBS aired the tournament, cutting away from and cutting into action to show potential buzzer beaters.
I think we’ll be in good hands. With as many as four games at once, we’ll be able to change back and forth from CBS to TBS to TNT and then to truTV. In addition, if you have your computer and iPad/iPhone/iPod, you’ll be able to access the new March Madness on Demand which will be run by Turner Sports. You’ll be able to see as many as three games at once if you have your TV on as well. This is better than having to pay out of your pocket for the old Mega March Madness package from DirecTV to access all of the games.
CBS has given us previews of some of the announcing teams that you’ll see over the next three weeks. Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr will call the Final Four and they worked the Big Ten Tournament semifinals today. I thought Kellogg and Kerr had good chemistry and worked well off each other. They also called the BYU-San Diego State game three weeks ago and gave us a good indication that they will be on the ball at the Final Four in Houston in April.
Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner did the Conference USA Championship today and while Reggie sometime forces his opinion, I thought he did a good job working with Harlan with whom he has done NBA games on TNT. Dan Bonner is an average analyst, but gave Reggie enough room to give his opinions. In addition, Bonner and Miller showed the potential to be a decent announcing team.
My only regret is not having Gus Johnson call at least one game of the Final Four. For many fans, he has become Mr. March Madness with his calls of buzzer beaters and last minute wins. While Emmy Award winner Jim Nantz is a comfortable fit, having him call just one regular season game then 14 NCAA Tournament contests is similar to Joe Buck’s failure to work the entire MLB on Fox schedule and taking half the season off. CBS should assign Nantz to more college basketball regular season games instead of having him do early PGA Tour events. Bill Macatee can host the PGA on CBS in his place.
CBS unveiled a new studio set and instead of making it look like the NCAA Tournament renting the NFL Today studios, it appeared like an actual set for basketball complete with a hoop and multiple screens. This is a welcome addition on this end.
Come Sunday, we’ll get another preview of how TNT’s Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith will be worked into the studio segments when they make their CBS debuts during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. While Barkley has been feuding with former CBS
bitter curmudgeon analyst Billy Packer, he won’t go over the top as he does on TNT and he’ll give the NCAA Tournament an added dimension.
I do like how CBS will give us different combinations in the studio, Greg Gumbel or Ernie Johnson, Jr. hosting with Greg Anthony, Seth Davis, Barkley and Smith rotating throughout the first two weeks of the tournament. And unlike in past tournaments, we’ll have pregame and postgame coverage which will be hosted by NBA TV’s Matt Winer from the Turner studios in Atlanta.
The wild card in the coverage will be truTV. It still is not on every cable system, but Turner is using the NCAA Tournament to get wider carriage for the channel. In addition, it’s not in high definition on most systems where it is picked up. DirecTV has announced that all truTV NCAA Tournament games will be seen in HD, but that is the only system that I have heard that has made the commitment. No other cable or satellite provider has announced its plans for truTV as of yet, but you may hear of some as the First Four games approach on Tuesday.
Turner’s touches have already been seen with the use of contemporary music acts for the music as the theme for a particular sports property, i.e. Bon Jovi for MLB Postseason on TBS. And Turner is known for its promotion of its sports properties which has been high gear since February for March Madness. This has not been over the top and has been respectful of the Tournament.
Here’s looking forward to watching the coverage this season.