Well, it's that time of year again, and this always seems to be one of the most common times to do a review of the announcers, so I figured why not put my own thoughts and insights into how each announcer pairing did this weekend. Some people like to separate the analyst from the PbP man when they do this, but I sometimes feel like it's a group performance and the performance of one often has an affect on the other so it can be very difficult and sometimes unfair to judge the performance of one without looking at the other. The grades are listed in descending order from best to worst. So without further ado, here is your 1st and 2nd Round March Madness Announcing Report Cards!
1. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery - A: It certainly helped them tremendously that they got the games of the tournament, but even then, you can get the best games of a tourney and fall flat on your face (see Tim Brando last year). However, that did not happen with this group. They were more than up to the task of calling the big games and brought a great enthusiasm to the game. I often read that Verne Lundquist is past his prime and he is developing a Dick Enberg-esque senility, however, I disagree with that assessment. Uncle Verne still has it in him and let's face it, his partner his the best in the business. ONIONS!
2. Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel - B: There is definitley a drop off this year between the best and the rest. Lundquist and Raft were the best, and after that, there is, in my view at least, a clusterfuck of announcers in this whole B/C range and the next 4 or 5 could easily be switched up in any order. That being said, I am a big fan of Ian Eagle and his interview On The DL only made me like him more. Eagle and Spanarkel work really well together and I always enjoy listening to their broadcasts. That being said, however, nothing really stuck out, positive or negative about them, and I got a lot of their games, which is a rarity for me. Having seeing more of them this year than in years past, I had high expectations of an A, and I feel somewhat let down.
3. Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner - B: Personally, I am not a huge fan of Kevin Harlan. There are some people that love him to death, and I respect your opinion, but often times I just cannot get past that raspy voice of his. Seriously, if I listen to him for a longtime I end of with a headache. That being said, though, announcers should be judged by how well they perform, not the size of the headache the voice gives me. And Harland and Bonner performed well. For me Dan Bonner is just there, he's solid but he does not wow me as an analyst, and Kevin Harland was great on the WKU-Gonzaga game. If not for that, the voice, combined with the lack of time I saw him, may have been too much to overcome and this grade would have dropped to a C.
4. Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg - B-: As I said before, this is the most I have ever enjoyed Jim Nantz in my life, and yet, I still do not love the guy as an announcer. Having an excitable analysis like Clark Kellogg is clearly helping him a lot, and personally, even though he was far from perfect, he was one million times better than Billy Packer. Yes, he did have mistakes and had odd sayings at times (i.e. spurtability), but they have finally found someone that in my opinion, that can work with Nantz. I'm not sure how Clark Kellogg would fare with other partners and we saw what happened with Nantz and Packer, but together, these two can make a decent lead team for CBS' coverage of March Madness.
4. Gus Johnson and Len Elmore - C+: I did not get a whole lot of GuJo this year and he definitley did not get a lot of exciting games. Supposedly, there were moments during the USC-Sparty game where Gus Johnson was back to the old GuJo going crazy, but of course, my affiliate was not on that game at the time. But maybe it was the frustration with the lack of dramatic games or some fall out over his altercation in Memphis. This grade is based on the fact I would like to say that his peformance at the end of the USC-Michigan State game overcame the demons of his altercation in Memphis, a poor performance in the first round, and the error of reading the wrong score, something that could drop him into D category, although I would like to believe that he was reading from something and they fed him the crew sent him the wrong information. And while seemingly addicted to valium, Len Elmore is a good analyst and I think he works really well with GuJo.
6. Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas (with Carter Blackburn) - C: This one is hard because I feel obiligated that I should judge Carter Blackburn and I did not hear Carter Blackburn for more than 5 minutes, but judging from what I did hear of him this year and last, this kid may have a future in calling college basketball games. I'm seriously considering going to MMOD and going back and listening to one of the games he called because I want to hear more of him. This kid has a future. Why bring it up? Because the 5-minutes that I heard of him improved this team from a C- to a C. I have frequently read that Enberg improved this year over last. While I can't recall his exact performance last year, his performance this year was not good. The man is a legend there is no doubt about it, but he can no longer keep up with the pace of basketball and it seems like he struggles to keep up with his analysis. Maybe it is just me, but the old legend should not be paired with a stuck-up, know-it-all like Jay Bilas. My biggest gripe with Bilas is that he comes across as such and it brings down the team and his partner, which with Enberg does not help him at all. Enberg is completely lost and he can't keep up with the game anymore. He's a legend, he used to be one of my favorites, but he needs to retire before he becomes a punchline like Dick Stockton has.
7. Craig Bolerjack and Bob Wenzel - C-: This one was tough for me. I was definitley torn between a C and a D for these two so, in the end, I settled with the middle of the road. I like Craig Bolerjack as a PbP guy, probably more so than both. I think he brings great enthusiasm to the game. However, he is paired with arguably the worst analyst covering a major sports event for a TV network. Wenzel is AWFUL! The man speaks in fragments, is sometimes oblivious to the rules of basketball, and no Bob, the shot clock is not 36 seconds. So the question I was faced with, does Bolerjack overcome the atrocities of his partner? And the answer, I think, is yes. I come to that answer by thinking of the end of dramatic games. Can I look forward to the end of a game that he is doing expecting a good, dramatic call that I can remember? And Bolerjack gives me that. If you were to pair Craig Bolerjack with an analyst who is stuck with a horrible PbP man (see below), I think he would be much better and he would be received as such. And I think I may have just the man who you can pair Bolerjack with.....(see below).
8. Tim Brando and Mike Gminski - F: I was going to give this team a D, but then I remembered Gminski's tie on Saturday and that alone dropped them a letter grade (I never actually saw Elmore's tie yesterday so I can't comment on it). Tim Brnado does not belong anywhere near a broadcast booth. He does not bring excitement, he makes mistakes, and his puns are downright the worst in the world. And that brings me to his partner, Mike Gminski, who dare I say, is probably one of the better analysts CBS has. But yet, it's almost hard to tell because Brando is so bad. I think that if you were to switch things up, and pair Craig Bolerjack with Mike Gminski, I think that could end up being a solid B team. Seriously. And no, Brando is so bad that Gminski's performance is not enough to elevate the team to a good grade. Sorry, I can't give any team with Tim Brando in it a passing grade. It just does not work.
Agree with me? Disagree with me? Think I'm a douche bag who knows nothing about what good announcer is? Let me know in the comments section! I am curious as to what other people feel about this, and especially my idea of Bolerjack and Gminski.