Can you believe we've only been watching college basketball this way for three years now?
The last three NCAA Tournaments, on television at least, have made almost all of the ones that came before them seem like something from past, like black-and-white TV, getting up from your seat to change the channel, and only having three channels, for that matter. Doesn't having every game of the tournament available to you when you decide make it seem like we should've been doing this forever ago? Really, it was just 2010 when we were still (unless you had the online app) at the whims of CBS, usually only able to catch one solid game and cut-ins from others. That feels like a lifetime ago, at least in TV.
It goes without saying that CBS, TBS, TNT, and even little TruTV have this on lock. It's really kind of a bulletproof formula for airing this thing, so much so that the NHL has taken aspects of it to broadcasting its much longer Stanley Cup Playoff tournament. Air every game on a network, keep viewers updated on every game you can't see and let them know when you might want to flip over. Even though Twitter will have you doing that anyway.
With that all said, let's take a look at some of the things that were right and wrong about the first four (fine, "First Four", six) days of the NCAA Tournament.
Right: Ernie Johnson
Greg Gumbel is professional as it gets when it comes to hosting the NCAA Tournament, but I can't help but think EJ has an unfair advantage. He's worked with most of the analysts (at least Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley) on that panel for years and years now, with a chemistry that Gumbel simply is incapable of getting to. Don't get me wrong, both are very good at their jobs and have as much right to be doing it as anyone else in basketball. But it's hard not to feel an extra spark when Ernie and the guys are doing what gets them nominated for Emmy after Emmy, and has them regularly top the lists of best studio shows on Inside the NBA.
Wrong: Charles Barkley
Just by mere factual statement. Barkley was selling on the Big Ten (calling it "overrated") and buying the Mountain West, which he deemed the most underrated conference in the country. The Big Ten has four teams in the Sweet 16 while the Mountain West ... well, you all know what happened there. Also, does anyone else think the extra work affects Chuck's voice more than anyone else's? He seems to sound horse at the end of these four-day runs. Barkley's the best analyst in sports television, but he's never as airtight during March Madness as he is on the NBA.
Right: Bill Raftery
If there's anyone who enjoys watching a college basketball game more than Bill Raftery (no, Dickie V doesn't count) then I would certainly welcome hearing him on my television. Raftery's energy level and quirk never comes off as schtick, which is why he's always a joy to listen to, even when the main game I watched him on was Michigan State's blowout of Valparaiso. There are certainly broadcasters who try to hard to seem "into it" but Raftery's love of the game is natural and infectious.
Wrong: Doug Gottlieb
I like Doug Gottlieb, because I like the idea that there's someone on television who is as confused about the rules of basketball as I am. I gladly recommend searching Gottlieb's name into Twitter for some sarcasm and commentary as mean-spirited as he often seems. You can't help but think Gottlieb's using every one of his broadcasts as a platform for himself.
It was Gottlieb who had the groaner line of the weekend, maybe of the entire tournament (hopefully, I should say), when -- while going to a commercial -- he used Wichita State's Carl Hall's heart condition as a one-liner to go to commercial with. "He's got a heart problem, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have heart," said Gottlieb. I kind of wish TNT cut away late so we could hear Gottlieb silently whispering to himself, "nailed it!" He returns to the studio next week, where I can happily mute him without missing any of the atmosphere.
There were other announcers who bugged me throught the weekend. I think Reggie Miller and Len Elmore need to have a forced restraining order against one another. Nantz is always hit or miss for me, and I can never get Happy Gilmore out of my brain when I think of Verne Lundquist, but none seem to have the mean-spiritedness and smarm that makes Gottlieb a frustrating listen.
Right: Kevin Harlan
With the Gus Johnson soundboard gone over to Fox, seemingly never to return to March Madness, Harlan easily takes the reign as the NCAA Tournament's king of accentuating a moment with passion. He's perfectly suited to a tournament like this, similar to how Johnson was. One of the fun things about the tournament is that you listen to a ton of different announcers, all with different takes on how to convey the excitement of the whole thing. If CBS had eight Kevin Harlans, I might get sick of it, but having one work the tournament is all well and good for me.
Wrong: Saturday and Sunday scheduling
I understand that there's fewer games and CBS wants to space them out and give itself more ratings potential, but I'm just not a fan of keeping it to one game in a timeslot during the early rounds. Even in the round of 32, there's still a chance at getting a clunker. Especially Saturday, when VCU-Michigan was never close, and Memphis-Michigan State became a blowout late. CBS had a pretty rough day overall, save for Butler-Marquette late. I understand the rationale behind it, but it still took a little life out of the early part of the weekends.
Right: The networks of CBS and Turner
They really tend to get out of the way and let the March Madness work its magic. There's no overbearing promotions, the announcers (for the most part) tend to let it breathe, and the network captures every big moment as if it was made for a montage to be played years from me. There's some bad announcers, and the score ticker up top drives me bananas, and occasionally makes for some odd camerawork, I love how CBS and the networks of Turner broadcast the tournament now. To the point where I can't really remember them doing it any other way, nor do I wish to.