CBS may have added TNT’s Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith to its NCAA Tournament Selection Show, unveiled a new set, new graphics and a jazzed up theme, but it was the same old, same old when it came to unveiling the teams for the expanded 68 team tourney.
We had an energized Greg Gumbel hosting, sitting in the middle in between CBS’ Greg Anthony and Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated to his right, our left and TNT’s Barkley and Smith to his left, our right. But as the selections of the first region were drawn out past a commercial break, it was the CBS formula from past years that took over the Selection Show. And a surprisingly subdued Barkley choosing to hold back on the personality that we have come to know and love from TNT’s NBA coverage.
Barkley did say last week that he would not be as critical of the college players as he would normally be on the professionals, but I didn’t think that he would also mean taking the edge off his TV personality as well. Instead of being strong and charismatic on TNT, Barkley deferred to Davis and Anthony. Kenny Smith is Kenny Smith, very good and smooth in his first appearance on CBS.
The first appearance for Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg did not come until after the entire 68 team field was announced. And their interview of Selection Committee Chairman Gene Smith of Ohio State was filled with softball questions rather than seeking to find out why VCU and UAB made the tournament and teams like Colorado, Virginia Tech and Harvard did not.
I was also surprised that questions did not come from the studio panel in New York, having the entire interview conducted in Indianapolis, where Nantz and Kellogg called the Big Ten Tournament and where the Selection Committee was based.
The strongest opinions came from ESPN’s Bracketology show where Dick Vitale yelled about the Colorado and Virginia Tech omissions and Jay Bilas outright questioned the committee’s basketball knowledge. Of course, ESPN does not have the rights to the NCAA Men’s Tournament so the opinions from Vitale, Bilas, Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps were more pointed than CBS’ which chose to focus on strengths of the regions rather than question the committee’s integrity.
I do wish Barkley was a bit more forceful in his opinions, but it showed that he hasn’t focused on college basketball. I hope we see more of the personality that has made Barkley into one of the stronger studio analysts in the last ten years, instead of the subdued person that was seen on CBS Sunday night.
Also, the satellite delay from several locations attempting to show the reaction of schools making it into the NCAA Tournament has to be fixed. The delays appear to be getting worse each year. Gumbel tried to make light of the delayed reactions, but they just slowed the show down.
Overall, it’s the CBS formula with the Selection Show. Provide the #1 seeds, go to break, then go over all of the regions followed by an interview with the Selection Committee Chairman, followed by reaction, then 60 Minutes. Wash, rinse, repeat. Here’s hoping CBS/Turner can do a bit more with the studio when the NCAA Tournament rolls around on Tuesday.