Final Four teams will get hometown announcers for semifinal games
If you are a diehard fan of the men's basketball teams of Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky or Wisconsin, CBS Sports and Turner Sports will conduct a television experiment this Saturday that might appeal to you.
For the first time in the tournament's 76-year history, both national semifinal games will be televised on cable. The TBS broadcast will feature play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz, analysts Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr, and reporter Tracy Wolfson. That telecast, as is the case with most national broadcasts for sports, will aim for broadcaster neutrality.
Now here's where it gets interesting. While each semifinal game is airing on TBS, the networks of TNT and truTV will simultaneously air team-specific presentations (with separate production crews) tailored to each of the schools competing in the semifinals. These "Teamcasts" will feature custom music, custom graphics, team-specific replays, additional cameras geared toward one team, and a custom halftime show. Most importantly, they will feature broadcasters who have been hired specifically to appeal to that fan base. The broadcasters will be encouraged by Turner and CBS to be over-the-top homers for those schools.
Below, SI.com lists what channel each of the schools will appear on as well as the announcers who have been hired for the Teamcasts.
Florida against Connecticut (6:09 p.m. tip)
The Florida Teamcast will air on TNT. David Steele, the television voice of the Orlando Magic, will serve as the gamecaller. Steele has previously called the University of Florida football games on television. Mark Wise, who has served for more than a decade as commentator for the Gator Basketball Network, will be the game analyst. The courtside reporter will be James Bates, who played football at Florida and previous worked on college basketball and football on CBS Sports Network.
The Connecticut Teamcast will air on truTV. Eric Frede, a studio host for CSN New England who covered UConn this year, will call the game. Former UConn basketball player and YES NBA analyst Donny Marshall will serve as the analyst. The courtside reporter is Swin Cash, a three-time WNBA champion who won two titles at UConn as a college player.
Kentucky-Wisconsin (tip 40 minutes following the conclusion of the first game)
The Kentucky Teamcast will air on TNT. Longtime Kentucky sportscaster Rob Bromley -- he works for WKYT-TV in Lexington -- will serve as the play-by- play announcer. He'll team with former Kentucky basketball star and 12-year NBA veteran Rex Chapman, who will serve as the analyst. WKYT-TV staffer Dave Baker will be the courtside reporter.
The Wisconsin Teamcast will air on truTV. Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Packers and a Big Ten Network college basketball and football announcer, will provide play-by-play commentary. He'll be joined by former Wisconsin basketball player Mike Kelley, who played on the school's 2000 Final Four team and was the 1999 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Prior to the semifinal games, TBS will air a three-hour onsite pregame show from North Texas beginning at 3 p.m. ET. Ernie Johnson will host the coverage, with analysts Charles Barkley, Clark Kellogg and Kenny Smith. The pregame will also include Greg Gumbel and analysts Seth Davis, Doug Gottlieb, Grant Hill and Reggie Miller.
Turner Sports senior vice president Craig Barry said prior to the tournament his goal was to hire broadcasters for the Teamcasts with a level of professional experience who had called games in some form for those schools. "If we can create an extended experience that really generates a lot of excitement and differentiates itself from our national telecast, then we have done our job," Barry said.
One person who was curious -- and a bit skeptical -- was Barkley. "I want to see how it works," Barkley said. "It's going to be very interesting. Some of those local guys are such homers. You have to be careful. Some of these guys are ridiculous, it makes you laugh sometimes."