No slippers

ON MEDIA

Cinderella is staying home this year, and Final 4 is better for it, analysts say

On hoops, golf and more

April 04, 2008|By RAY FRAGER

Presenting this week's sports media notes while wondering why I haven't been getting any bids from people who want to buy the rights to the domain name watchingsportsandeatingcheezits.com:

CBS' Clark Kellogg wins this college basketball season's Carnac the Magnificent Award (kids, ask Mom and Dad about Johnny Carson) for his prescient prediction of the four No. 1 seeds making it to the Final Four. But is staging the NCAA semifinals without a team in glass sneakers a good thing for the network?

"I don't think it hurts us at all," CBS Sports president Sean McManus said in a conference call this week. " ... As much as we like Cinderella ... from a pure ratings standpoint, you're better off having four storied programs."

And analyst Billy Packer - who will be working his 100th Final Four game tomorrow - said the teams who arrive via pumpkin coach aren't really whom you want to watch.

"You want to see the best teams with the best players fight for the heavyweight championship. ... In my estimation, that's what you always want to see," Packer said.

A year after Joey Dorsey called out Greg Oden and then was thoroughly outplayed by the Ohio State big man in Memphis' regional final loss to the Buckeyes, Packer expects better things from the Douglass High alumnus tomorrow against UCLA's Kevin Love.

Dorsey "really has his head on straight. ... [He] will not be pushed around [by Love]," Packer said.

In the other semifinal between North Carolina and Kansas, Packer - citing the Tar Heels' Danny Green in particular - said the teams are distinguished by "the potential of having guys who can come off the bench and star."

So what will be the deciding factor? It could come down to coaching. Though Packer praised all four as being at the top of their profession, he said: "The guy that wins the championship will probably do something in the course of these two games that will be pivotal. A very slight adjustment might be the difference."

CBS' two-hour Final Four pre-game show tomorrow at 4 p.m. includes features on Hoops for Hope, a program to raise aid for Africa that was started by a then-9-year-old boy in Phoenix and has gone on to collect enough money to help build a school in Zambia; a look back at the UCLA-Houston game played 40 years ago in the Astrodome; and a profile of UCLA's Love, who happens to be the nephew of the Beach Boys' Mike Love. So why profile the Bruins' Love? God only knows.

After calling the Final Four, Jim Nantz heads to Augusta National for his favorite assignment, calling the Masters next weekend. And he said the great sense of history permeates the place.

"I think reverence is a word that applies to everyone who is at the Masters. ... It's not something you have to remind yourself, `Oh, I'm at the Augusta. I have to lower my voice,'" Nantz said in a conference call.

By the way, if Nantz's voice has sounded softer during CBS telecasts, there is good reason - he has been sitting just 30 feet from the green.

"The voice is dropped because players are in earshot of you."

During its Masters coverage, CBS said it plans to use new animation technology - new to the golf telecast, anyway - that will show the contours of fairways and greens. On television, even in high-definition, everything on the course tends to look flattened out (temporarily making me feel somewhat better about the well-known lack of HDTV in the Frager household).

ESPN reports a healthy jump in ratings for its coverage of the NCAA women's basketball tournament on the two channels that carried games. Heading into the Final Four, the ESPN telecasts were up 43 percent over last year, averaging 971,000 households, and ESPN2 games increased 31 percent to 546,000 households.

Mike Patrick will be calling play-by-play for his 13th consecutive women's Final Four Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. He is joined by analyst Doris Burke. Holly Rowe and Rebecca Lobo will double-team as sideline reporters. The on-site studio will be manned (and womanned) by Trey Wingo, Kara Lawson and Stacey Dales. Bob Holtzman serves as SportsCenter reporter. Two more people and they'd have enough to play full-court five-on-five.

His many fans in Baltimore will be happy to hear Phil Wood will make weekly appearances on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network's Nats Xtra in a segment called "Diamond Dust." In addition, MASN said Wood will sub for Ray Knight on Nats Xtra when Knight has the day off or is sitting in for game analyst Don Sutton.

Tonight at 10, WMPT presents The Morgan Lacrosse Story, a documentary on Morgan State's team that in the 1970s became the nation's first lacrosse team at a historically black college.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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