Grading the March Madness Announcers Heading Into Weekend Two

It is almost time for the remaining 16 teams to get back at it in my favorite sporting event. First, here is a look at each crew that called tournament games last week:

1. Spero Dedes/Steve Smith/Len Elmore or Jim Jackson/Ros Gold-Onwude:

I start with this crew because they were the worst. We were subjected to Spero calling First Four games. Jim Jackson joined the crew. I guess they wanted him to get extra work since this was his first time doing these games, but it was strange because he worked with two different crews. Smith and Jackson sound alike. I could not tell the difference. Elmore replaced Jackson on Friday. Those guys either did not listen to each other or were competing. All three announcers made the same point in a span of about five seconds.

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Awful Announcing‘s Ken Fang tweeted that he would take AT&T announcer Phil over Spero. Dedes remarked that a player would be shooting two free throws. I had no idea why he said that when it clearly was not a shooting foul and there was no double bonus situation. He eventually figured it out and corrected himself after about a minute. The biggest mistake for this crew was made by their reporter. Actually, two of them. Ros mistakenly said that UC Irvine was 0-9 in close games. Five points or less. She obviously meant 9-0. Although UC Irvine’s coach let the incorrect record slide, he did call out her math skills. They won 70-64. He mentioned that the margin was six points.

2. Brian Anderson/Chris Webber/Allie LaForce:

Although he is not the only person to struggle with this, Webber finds himself thinking or at least saying that day games are being played at night by using the word tonight. I did hear Webber catch himself once. When Washington played Utah State, Webber combined the two names and mentioned Washington State. They did not qualify. He also said that they had a good one going as the broadcast headed to break during a game that was not especially close at that particular time.

Virginia and North Carolina each trailed at halftime Friday. Two top seeds were down at halftime against 16s in one day for the first time. Anderson either misspoke or simply got the information wrong when he said that it was the first time a 16 held the lead over a top seed at halftime. It had just happened hours earlier. A March Madness TV twitter account then tweeted the same mistake. Probably because Anderson said it.

3. Brad Nessler/Steve Lavin/Jim Jackson/Evan Washburn:

Around the same time that Spero botched the call about a shooting foul, Nessler did it twice. One time for each team in Ohio State’s game against Iowa State. Brad called Buffalo Bulls games, too. Somebody tweeted that he called them the Braves more than once. I saw a shot that did not hit the backboard, but Nessler thought it hit glass. Maybe he borrowed Marv Albert’s glasses. Chemistry seemed to be an issue with this crew, and Nessler seemed to lose focus. I remember him complaining about the long days of calling games when he replaced Uncle Verne.

4. Carter Blackburn/Debbie Antonelli/John Schriffen:

I’m still salty (that’s what the kids call it these days) that Antonelli replaced Mike Gminski. Although a friend complained to me about her last week, I did not think she was terrible from what I heard. They had some horrible games. Especially Saturday. I did not hear them a whole lot. She should do at least one regular season game with Blackburn. Antonelli broadcasts the women until March Madness. Then, she comes to the men. I don’t get it. They should leave her with the women if she knows them well and is praised for her work on those broadcasts.

5. Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas/Lisa Byington:

A Seinfeld reference by Andrew about sending soup back went over well. There was an awkward moment when the person in charge of graphics erroneously advanced Syracuse instead of Baylor in the bracket. Catalon called them Butler at one point, but corrected himself. Probably because Baylor had a player named Butler. It also could have been because Butler knocked out Syracuse in Salt Lake City nine years ago. The Baylor-Syracuse game was in Salt Lake City. Catalon knows the history. He attended Syracuse.

6. Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner/Dana Jacobson:

This crew got off to a rocky start with the First Four. There was a strange transition from Harlan to Jacobson before the tournament even started, but that was more of a camera thing. Prairie View A&M’s head coach is Byron Smith. Bonner referred to him as Byron Scott. Kevin confused the substitution signal for a travel call in one game. He has made that mistake before.

7. Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Jamie Erdahl:

I am a big fan of all three. They were excellent. Four of their six games were close, and the Seton Hall game against Wofford was tight before a late run by the Terriers. They had two weekend games with no others at the same time. I listened to them a lot. They were fantastic calling the exciting Maryland-LSU contest.

8. Jim Nantz/Bill Raftery/Grant Hill/Tracy Wolfson:

CBS has to be thrilled with their top crew. I still think Hill is coming along slowly, but Raftery is amazing and Nantz does a very solid job. The energy and knowledge from Raftery is unreal. However, his humor takes the cake. I like when he compares basketball contact to a New York subway ride.

Previewing the Voices of March Madness: Selection Sunday Edition

It’s the best time of the year, and I don’t mean Christmas. March is the month of madness. Selection Sunday and the tournament’s first Thursday are like Christmas morning if you ask me. Jim Nantz is calling games this weekend. You know it’s crunch time. I think it would be nice if he could be bothered with at least one regular season game when CBS does not have golf, but so be it.

A number of things have grabbed my attention in the past week. Last weekend there was a video review in the Northern Iowa-Bradley contest. This should shock nobody, because these reviews are out of control. I thought there was clearly some unnecessary late contact, and guessed that it would be a common foul that was followed by a technical. Gene Steratore, who chimed in during NFL broadcasts on CBS, thought there should be nothing other than the original call. My guess turned out to be correct. After the ruling, we suddenly heard that Gene agreed with the call. They got it right. Not what he said a few minutes earlier. There was also some talk by Gene on another play that a player had the ball hit his head and go out of bounds. Analyst Dan Bonner said that Gene must have great eyesight because he didn’t see it. That’s because this didn’t happen.

Later, Clark Kellogg mistakenly said that a flagrant foul was called when highlights were shown. This happened more than once. I believe he said that a flagrant was ruled in three different segments. This could be because of the lengthy delay like we saw during Friday night’s Seton Hall-Marquette contest. The officials take too long reviewing plays. There are other games going on. People stop paying attention and concentrate on live action elsewhere. Speaking of losing concentration, CBS is going back to the old format for revealing which teams are making the NCAA Tournament.

Last year’s debacle was on TBS. CBS will carry the show this weekend. It will again reveal teams in bracket format. Last year’s show revealed schools in alphabetical order, and drew plenty of criticism. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. CBS’s 2019 show will again last 60 minutes, and ironically airs just before 60 Minutes.

There are no major changes in the tournament crews this season. Some sideline reporters have switched teams, and Jim Jackson was added to one crew. He had a mistake on Friday at MSG. A common question is whether or not to foul when up three late. He said there would be a decision if both foul shots were made. Gus Johnson tried to point out his error in subtle fashion by saying that the lead would be four if both free throws were good.

ESPN’s Jay Williams has been in the news. He was critical of Frank Howard for attempting to trip Duke’s Zion Williamson, and claimed to have also been critical when Duke’s Grayson Allen tripped players years ago. However, footage has surfaced of Williams saying that he liked Allen tripping people. Fox broadcaster Charissa Thompson used to date Williams. I was reminded of her mocking him one time. Jay’s twitter handle calls him the real Jay Williams. I remember her saying that somebody was real one time in a post. She stressed that word, and wasn’t talking about Williams. It seemed to be calling out her former man as a liar, or fake.


I have also been less than impressed with his pregame and halftime work in recent days. He could not wait to mention that a spread was covered after one game. It felt forced, although that is probably more of an issue I should take up with his bosses. ESPN is suddenly all over point spreads. In the past it felt special when somebody referred to gambling. Often the references were in passing, and the subject seemed taboo. Things have changed, and ESPN now has a daily gambling show. I’m sure they are focusing on promoting that. Getting back to Williams, he mistakenly called Duke’s superstar Zion Washington instead of Williamson. There were several times when something he said has gotten my attention in the past week, and never in a good way.

One more analyst has annoyed me lately. I thought Jordan Cornette’s performance was poor during the Monmouth game against Canisius. After Iona won the following night, he said they looked like a second weekend tournament team. Iona had been projected as a 16, and possibly playing on Tuesday or Wednesday. This guy has them taking out a 1, and then advancing after that! They might not even make it to Thursday. UMBC was the first team seeded 16 to beat a 1 last year, but even they didn’t win the next game. Actually, second weekend means a win in the sweet 16 as well. Apparently he has Iona making an incredible run.