Newcomers at CBS let action set tempo in NCAA tournament

Media Watch

March 18, 1996|By Milton Kent

Musings on the first week of the NCAA tournaments, men's and women's.

CBS has done a solid and steady, if not spectacular job through the first four days of men's play.

The pictures have been great, the movement from one game to the next has been on the mark, the descriptions have been true and the new opening montage, with highlights coming from a mock scoreboard is nifty, though we still miss the old theme song.

Frankly, we had fears that, with the absences of Verne Lundquist, Mike Emrick and Dick Stockton from the play-by-play ranks, the network's tournament coverage would slip precipitously, but the newcomers, Tim Brando, Bill Macatee and Gus Johnson, have done well.

Johnson, former weekend anchor at Washington's Channel 5 and the voice of the CFL on ESPN2, has been pretty close to spectacular, and ought to advance to next week's regionals.

Johnson drew the assignment in the Southeast in Indianapolis with excellent Quinn Buckner, and while the most compelling story of the first round Thursday's late game where Princeton knocked off defending champion UCLA dropped into his lap, the 28-year-old announcer was gifted enough to let the moment play itself out, while interjecting the right amount of wonder.

The only real head-scratchers from analysts came from George Raveling, who got a bit too engrossed in the ability of San Jose State to stay with Kentucky for the first eight minutes of Thursday's first-round game, but wisely toned it down, and from Al McGuire, who said Saturday that while he knew Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson to be an offensive-minded coach, he never knew that the Hogs' leader was a defensive coach.

Guess McGuire missed all that "40 minutes of hell" stuff the last few years, huh?

Without the specter of another return by Michael Jordan, and with all four No. 1 seeds playing on Thursday and Saturday, CBS' first weekend ratings should show a slight improvement from last year's.

The Nielsen overnights were largely up from 1995 for most games except for Friday night's, when the network didn't have anything as compelling as last year's Villanova-Old Dominion triple-overtime thriller, or the Michigan State-Weber State game that brought to a close the career of former Spartans coach Jud Heathcote.

Pat O'Brien and particularly Clark Kellogg have been really good in the studio. Kellogg has toned down some of his street analogies, while still keeping a hip sensibility, and O'Brien seems to be laying off that laid-back El Lay cool that was quite wearing in tournaments past.

It's probably too much to ask CBS and NBC to give scores for other basketball games, NCAA and NBA, but for the regionals, it might be nice if CBS would adopt a policy that it will superimpose in smaller type the score and clock continuously for the final five minutes of a game.

A note to ESPN: If you're going to take over women's coverage, please be kind enough to provide scores of other tournament games during telecasts. It was ludicrous not to see first-round game scores in those : 10/: 30/: 50 bottom-of-screen updates during Saturday night's Stanford-Grambling game.

A pleasant surprise

We've attacked NBC's "Happy Land" coverage of the NBA, which tends to gloss over the negatives of the league, but the network did most of what it should yesterday in addressing the Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf controversy.

Sure, it might have been nice to get a league official on the air explaining why a player's personal beliefs take a back seat to a forced display of mock patriotism, but you can't have everything, and NBC could have done the usual head-in-the-sand, everything's groovy approach. Thankfully, it didn't.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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