In final say, NCAA says it all


March 17, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

Before you started watching the NCAA tournament yesterday, maybe you needed to know the regional home of the Ian Eagle-Jim Spanarkel team (Salt Lake City). Or perhaps you were concerned about the placement of Verne Lundquist-Bill Raftery (Auburn Hills, Mich.). Did you worry about where CBS put Dick Enberg-Jay Bilas (San Diego)?

Probably not.

The fact is, some people -- and that would be some people such as I -- make a big deal out of who's announcing the games. But, at the same time, even I recognize that you're watching the NCAA tournament because of the important, exciting sporting event it is, not because of who's calling the games.

If I told you we're getting a heavy dose of Gus Johnson and Len Elmore today from the Dayton, Ohio, site, would that mean you'd refuse to watch? Or, on the other hand, would you be more drawn to your television?

There are some athletic events that are announcer-proof, and the NCAA tournament is one of them. Craig Bolerjack or Tim Brando, you're watching.

Doesn't mean I'll stop taking notes on what Billy Packer said, though.

No fave

Speaking of Packer, in his profile on the recent HBO Real Sports, perhaps the most revealing sequence came when fans at a North Carolina-Duke game were asked their opinions of the curmudgeonly analyst. Both sides couldn't stand him.

So he must be doing something right.

Packer also wouldn't say anything about Dick Vitale. You could read that a few ways, including this one: Vitale has become so much bigger than Packer that it may not even matter.

Still waiting

Yesterday, was that really a foul committed on Boston College's Craig Smith with a few seconds left in the first overtime against Pacific? Moments later, did Pacific get off that shot under the basket -- while perhaps being fouled -- before time expired? In both cases, CBS should have given us another look.

In the field

Maryland has made the NCAA field of 64 -- at least, the 2001-02 Terps did. Actually, so did the 1973-74 squad. They're both among the teams in ESPN Classic's All-Time Greatest College Basketball Tournament, which airs March 29 at 8 p.m. An expert panel has weighed in, fans will vote, basketball pundits ponder -- fun for the whole family. The show will be televised live, including live fan voting to decide the champion.

ESPN's panel that selected the 64 teams included NBA commentator Bill Walton and columnist Bill Simmons, yet somehow neither the Grateful Dead nor the cast of Boogie Nights made the field.

Using your minutes

Bonnie Bernstein is still covering the NCAA tournament but -- to paraphrase Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard -- it's the show that has gotten smaller. Much, much smaller.

The former CBS sports reporter and Maryland grad is studio host of Sprint Tournament Center, the on-demand tournament news show exclusively for Sprint wireless phone customers -- presumably those with much better eyes than this old man has.

Meet the `Nation'

ABC has revamped its NBA pre-game show, NBA Nation, installing ESPN's Dan Patrick as host, adding another former longtime player, Mark Jackson, to Scottie Pippen as studio analyst, and putting Washington Post columnist and Pardon The Interruption arguer Michael Wilbon into a contributor's role. If you get Washington's WJLA/Channel 7, you can watch them debut Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Baltimore's WMAR/Channel 2 has an infomercial preceding its Virginia-Towson lacrosse game.

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Horse racing: Jerry Bailey debuts as an ESPN commentator tomorrow on Racing to the Kentucky Derby (6 p.m.), which features four prep races -- the Gotham Stakes, Rebel Stakes, San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby.

College wrestling: ESPN has the NCAA finals tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Look for former Johns Hopkins lacrosse goalie Quint Kessenich, who suddenly seems to be everywhere, reporting.

Golf: The PGA Tour is at Bay Hill, with Tiger Woods seemingly ready to continue chewing up the scenery. NBC (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4) has coverage tomorrow and Sunday (2:30 p.m. each day). "When Tiger is right, it's game over, end of story," NBC's Roger Maltbie said.

[Compiled by Ray Frager]

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