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.

NBA Fight: Serge Ibaka Just Tried To Kill Marquese Chriss

https://twitter.com/gswchris/status/1105269698994659329

BY GAWD THAT MAN HAS A FAMILY!

I love a nice NBA fight. I’m not a huge fan of Ibaka going right after Chriss’s neck, but as the father of a kid on my high school basketball team once told me with a straight face, “There are no rules in a fight.” This is the time of year where basketball starts to get “serious.” The “Regular season doesn’t matter” crowd starts to shut up as teams battle it out for a better seed in the playoffs. Teams begin to fine tune their lineups and pick up some momentum before April. As a basketball fan, it’s great to watch.

Back to the fight. It looks like Chriss said something to Ibaka when Serge was on the ground so I take back what I said early. You can go after someone’s neck if they talk shit to you. Talk shit, get hit, and get suspended. That’s the NBA fight game.

I Would Do Anything To See Trevor Lawrence As A New York Giant

I’m drunk. I’m actually wasted and yet, I have not had a sip of alcohol. I am drunk on the Trevor Lawrence Kool Aid. When my head hit the pillow last night, Lawrence was all I could think about. His back shoulder throws, his poise in the pocket, his hair, etc. Trevor Lawrence owns my entire brain at this current moment in time and you know what, I’m perfectly ok with that.

I’ve watched these throws over and over and I’m still impressed.

Also, to Quinnen Williams, Lawrence did throw some 50-50 balls and yes, he did get away with some throws thanks to miraculous catches.

My counterpoint would be that the Alabama receiving core is just as good as Clemson’s and yet Tua was not making those throws or taking care of the ball. People always want to bring down quarterbacks and say, “Well, if he didn’t have good receivers, he wouldn’t be that good.” Really? Do you not want your quarterback to have good receivers? You can’t make chicken salad with chicken shit. I’m not holding the talented Clemson receiving corps against Lawrence’s 50-50 balls.

In my lifetime (just about 26 years), there has been one NFL prospect that I can remember that has been a “can’t miss, no brainer.” One prospect that everyone believed would be a star in the NFL and a franchise talent for over a decade. That prospect was Andrew Luck. I firmly believe Trevor Lawrence will be added to that list when he declares for the draft.

Now before you tell me to simmer down, I get it. I’m throwing out a lot of hot takes for a freshman that has only played one season. I’m 200% on the hype train, but Joel Klatt rationally explains why Lawrence still needs reps even though he would be the number one prospect in this year’s draft and next year’s draft.

I said to my friends that Lawrence could have come out of the high school and played in the NFL. Obviously, I’m exaggerating. (Truthfully, I stand by it to an extent. Lawrence would not have been selected in the early rounds, but could he be taken in the middle / late rounds, sit on a practice squad for a season, work his way up to backup, and start on a team when he’s 21 / 22? I think he could. Lawrence threw for 3,042 yards and 26 touchdowns as a FRESHMAN in high school. Lawrence was also considered the best quarterback prospect out of high school ever by Rivals. Some NFL team would’ve gotten drafted Lawrence out of high school).

So here we are. The day is January 8, 2019. Fans everywhere have to wait until mid-January 2021 to see if Lawrence declares for the NFL draft. I don’t care what happens in this draft nor do I care what happens in next year’s draft. (Well, I do care. Draft a billion offensive and defensive lineman.) I want Trevor Lawrence on the New York Football Giants. I’m willing to do whatever it takes *Imagine Dragons voice* to make sure this kid ends up on Big Blue. I tweeted this out last night and the offer still stands. If selling my soul is what it takes, where do I sign?

Trevor Lawrence is Peyton Manning with the ability to throw on the move and lower his shoulder when he runs the ball. I want him and so should you, but he’s going to the New York Giants in 2021.

Eli Manning Responds To Jalen Ramsey’s Comments, Says “Who?”

If you haven’t read Jalen Ramsey’s GQ article, take some time to read it. If you are a starting quarterback in the NFL, odds are Jalen called you out.

We always ask for honesty from athletes, but when we get it, we’re hypocrites. When athletes are not honest, we rip them. When athletes are too honest, we rip them. Jalen Ramsey loves to talk shit. That’s his M.O. This shouldn’t surprise you that he called out every QB. That’s how he stays sharp on the field and right now, it’s working as Ramsey is in discussion for best cornerback in the league. Here is the short rundown of what he said about each QB.

I really don’t have any problems with what he said besides a few things. Zero reason to call out Josh Allen. That’s a cheap shop. Calling Big Ben “decent at best” even though he’s going to the Hall of Fame and he carved up the Jags in the playoffs is hypocritical. Then, there’s what he said about Eli.

“Nothing without OBJ.”

Well, *checks watch*, I believe Eli is a two time Super Bowl MVP without OBJ. That being said, do you think these comments rattled Eli? Not a chance.

THAT’S MY QUARTERBACK! Did Eli crawl in his hole when the Giants had “no chance” to beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl? No. Did Eli go after McAdoo when he threw him under the bus? No. Do you think Mr. Cool Eli Manning is going to care what Jalen Ramsey says? Absolutely not.

Eli will bring his lunch pail and show up to work. Nothing scares him. We’ll see you in Week 1, Jalen.

P.S. The Jags defense scares me.

Wait a Second, I Can Bet On Sports Now?

I don’t think there is anything more overblown than all this nonsense about sports betting becoming legal. People are so stupid. The hosts have a pretty good idea of what’s going on, but even they aren’t completely keyed in. Mike Francesa thinks he needs to explain live betting, and of course, does a poor job of doing it. People have been doing that for over ten years. Mike said it is only during breaks. That is the most popular time, but it depends on your site and the game. You can call somebody or use a phone to log in.

I hear about how people could possibly bet right from a stadium. As if I didn’t call in a second-half wager from Giants Stadium in 2005. All the changes are things that most people don’t care about. It might be more accepted. The total number of people betting could increase. Money might go to or come from a different place. You would think we are going from legal wagering to illegal betting. That would be a story. I guess most people have no clue how gambling works, and I’m sure they don’t realize how rampant it is.

Suppose there is a controversial call and somebody lost 100 bucks. More people will think the games are fixed. I just heard that one. Good point. I don’t think there has ever been a controversial call that resulted in someone losing 100 dollars. Talk about opening Pandora’s box. Right up there with speculation that now athletes or officials will bet.

Think about this. There are different ways to place a bet. Now, somebody who is a popular public figure will wager in public. Even if they had a friend or relative do it, that would probably get out with social media.

Call me crazy, but I think that would probably be done on a site. As Francesa has always said, your local guy offers credit. Any new law or ability to wager legally will not put those people out of business. I just heard another great caller. College players should get paid because there is now more opportunity for fraud. Let me get this straight. You pay someone under the table, but then bet in public? Any large wagers will likely be monitored closely.

Another thing I hear is that people will become addicted to gambling. That does not happen with lotteries, casinos, and whatever else is out there today. I didn’t even get into fantasy sports. Scraping up 50 bucks and going to a window could really do you in. Much more than betting hundreds when you have nothing in your pocket. By the way, teenagers have bookies. Plus, they take bets. Don’t be naive and think otherwise.

 

I look forward to more ridiculous points and foolish questions. Sports betting was already here to stay (and growing) way before all of this came into public discussion. Educate yourself. Don’t add to the stupidity.

Mike Francesa’s Return to WFAN Makes Life Meaningful Once Again

I have been very depressed lately. Ever since March Madness ended. You just can’t find that thrill anywhere else. At least I can’t. Football comes close, but we are still months away. Plus, I’ve been struggling to come up with good writing topics. I had some lingering March Madness thoughts, but time got away from me. It became too late to go down that road again. Other than previewing and reviewing HBO’s Andre The Giant documentary, I have not had much to say.

Last week I was ready to write about all the postponements in baseball. Evan Roberts discussed this. He hit on all of my points. Writing an article that recapped what he said seemed foolish. People who had heard him would think I just stole his ideas, and even giving him credit would not really accomplish a whole lot. I’d just be typing points that had been said on WFAN earlier that day.

Suddenly, the sky brightened. Mike Francesa will be returning to WFAN. People never thought he would leave. They said they’ll believe that when they see it. I remember thinking that he had a chance to change his mind when Craig Carton was arrested. A friend texted me the same thing. Mike offered to stay around. At least for a little bit. This was our first hint about Mike regretting the decision to leave.

After Mike’s departure, we started to hear that he missed it more than anticipated. Everybody except Francesa knew that he would miss it, and we also knew that his fans would miss him. More importantly, WFAN was missing him from a ratings standpoint. Clearly losing to Michael Kay was unacceptable. The way to fix their ratings was obvious. I kept thinking about when Jay Leno left. Conan replaced him. They tried putting Leno on before Conan and local news. Leno ultimately proved that you could go home again. I figured, “Why not Francesa?” Mike always said that you didn’t want to replace a legend. Only Francesa could replace himself. Kind of like when Mike called in during the summer as Joe and Evan filled in for him. Benigno would say that only Mike could come on his own show as a guest.

Carlin and the gang handled an incredibly tough situation with class. I wonder if they will work from different studios. They are likely going to be signing off when Mike gets ready to come on. Seeing each other would be extra awkward. Anyway, remember the important thing. My life will once again have meaning.

Colin Cowherd With The Hottest Of Takes About Giannis Antetokounmpo

When the take is too hot…

As a fellow hot take lover, this is an A+ hot take. When the DMR #sources showed me this screenshot, I actually fainted. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the best player on the Milwaukee Bucks and a Top 10 player in the NBA, may not have any real impact on his team.

Surely, there are stats to support this. As Giannis got better, there is no way the team got better too. No chance.

I’m also pretty positive that Giannis does make opposing coaches lose sleep at night. Why prepare for a player that doesn’t really impact his team?

I even listened to segment (which hopefully you can watch below).

The whole argument was made around how people told Cowherd that Giannis was “the new guy” and LeBron was the comparison to prove his point. LeBron is arguably the greatest player to ever live. Giannis is not. Who said Giannis is the next LeBron? Then, Ben Simmons was brought into the mix as “the new guy.” However, the basis of the argument was Giannis has not won a playoff series and yet Ben Simmons, who plays on a better team but has not won a playoff series, has now become “the new guy?” I like Ben Simmons, but Giannis is better than him right now. Giannis needs to win a playoff series to make him an all-time great. That is a fact. However, let’s not compare him to a player that has only played in one out of two seasons and is in his first playoff series ever. You know who lost in the first round of the playoffs during his second season? Giannis.

Once the segment started, the Rock explained my thoughts perfectly.

Knicks Fire Coach Jeff Hornacek After Two Seasons

Another disappointing Knicks season ends with the firing of Coach Jeff Hornacek. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming. Once Phil Jackson was fired and Scott Perry took over as GM, Hornacek’s days were numbered. I’m a proponent of new GM’s bringing in “their guys” to coach unless the coach in place has either had success or was a veteran. Hornacek was neither. 60-104 over two seasons is not good whatsoever especially when there were really no future plans for the team in place. It’s not like he was Brett Brown of the Sixers, who knew his team would lose games over a couple years, but it would eventually payoff once his young guns were developed and healthy. Also, losing Kristaps Porzingis in February was a backbreaker.

Hornacek is not free of criticism. I questioned his late game coaching strategies because the team would falter down the stretch at least once a week. The goal of this year was to develop young players, but it seemed as if that didn’t start happening until a few weeks ago. The team was out of it in January. Younger players like Frank Ntilikina should’ve been logging big minutes all year, not just the last month of the season.

However, Hornacek was destined to fail from the very beginning and for that, I do feel for the guy. Last season was a dumpster fire with Phil Jackson calling the shots. Phil set us back years with some of the contracts he handed out (looking at you, Joakim Noah). Phil forced Hornacek to run the “triangle” offense and created a media frenzy with the Carmelo Anthony drama. I’m honestly happy for Hornacek because he can now move on from this mess and put in his rear view mirror. I truly do wish him the best and hope he gets back on a sideline someday. More importantly, I hope he gets a fair shake.

Credit to Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry for dismissing Hornacek immediately. No need to drag this out. Rip the bandaid off and move on. Now, it’s time to find our coach of the future. Knicks fans, I’m saying this now so you can prepare yourself. This team is not going to be good next year. We don’t have a lot cap space this summer and Kristaps will have major training wheels on. It wouldn’t surprise me if they sit him until February. No need to risk him coming back early for a season that may not even matter. The move is to continue to develop young talent and clear up cap space for the summer of 2019.

Now, all we need is a coach. My first call is to Former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale. It looks like the Knicks and I are on the same page because there is mutual interest. Woj also said that Mark Jackson, David Blatt, and Jerry Stackhouse will be in the running. All I will say is this. This new coaching hire has to work. There is no room for error. It has to be a home run.

Your move, Knicks.