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It’s Final Four weekend, and while most of you will be tuning in to CBS on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET for college basketball's marquee evening, I will be tuning in to CBS on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET for Bill Raftery's marquee evening.
The 75-year-old Raftery is the most beloved color commentator in the game, with an infectious enthusiasm and a deep well of catchphrases that are as inseparable from March Madness as Luther Vandross's "One Shining Moment" or Gus Johnson's incredulous screaming. Since he was moved to CBS's marquee announcing team with Jim Nantz and Grant Hill five tournaments ago, his legend has only grown.
Below, the definitive ranking of the top 10 Bill Raftery sayings.
10. "MANTOMAN!": We have to start off the countdown the way Raftery starts off every broadcast: by teeing up the defensive alignment. Even the teams who choose not to open in man-to-man come out "in a 2–3 zone with MANTOMAN principles."
9. "A big ticker": The second-highest compliment Raftery can bestow on a player or team's character is the size of their ticker (heart), especially relative to their physical size.
8. [Unintelligible, squealing "OOOH!"] This is more of a punctuation mark than an actual phrase of Raftery's, but his ability to vary pitch and inflection to match the moment (as he did during the aftermath of Kris Jenkins's title-winning shot in 2016) is a gift that transcends language.
7. "Big fella!" A term of endearment assigned to any frontcourt player 6'9" or taller—or 240 pounds or heavier.
6. "A nickel-and-dimer!" Used to refer to a touch foul Raftery disagrees with. Simple. Subtle.
5. "A little kiss!" The production truck takes great care to come back to every bank shot so that Raftery can break down any creative usage of the glass if he misses it the first time around.
4. "Send it in!" The root of Raf's most famous individual call, Jerome Lane's backboard-shattering dunk in 1988, shows up so early on this list only because the energy of that call hasn't found a fitting challenger in the last 30 years.
3b. "Onions! Double Order!"
Raftery's go-to late-game catchphrase (and its more advanced state, reserved for back-and-forth battles in crunch time) has become the line most closely associated with his style. If you don't know what onions refer to, well, you can read about it.
2. "Get those puppies organized!" It takes an especially pure three-pointer from a "big fella" to draw this one out of Raftery, but the literal translation of this line produces such a beautiful image that it's nearly impossible to top.
1. "Lingerie on the deck!" Raf has several sayings more famous than this one, but it's clear this is the line he most relishes having an excuse to use when a defender has his ankles broken.
Need more Raf? Jimmy Traina caught up with him to talk about his career, his catchphrases and more on the SI Media Podcast.
• Making the case for each Final Four team to win the whole thing.
• Patrick Mahomes grew into a Texas Tech hoops superfan while in school, and he’s ready to take in the program's first Final Four. (By Greg Bishop)
• Virginia vs. Auburn will pit Ralph Sampson against Charles Barkley in the battle of Famous Alumni, and the two could not be more different in so many ways. (By Jack McCallum)
• Kyle Guy and Virginia are writing a much happier chapter of their story a year after the UMBC loss. (By Andy Staples)
• Confirmed: Zion is good at basketball.
• Friday's newsletter: Texas Tech is out to prove defense can win a championship. (By Michael Shapiro)
De'Andre Hunter will score more points than anyone on Saturday in Minneapolis. Hunter would have been the perfect assignment for versatile forward Chuma Okeke, but Okeke tore his ACL in Auburn's Sweet 16 win over North Carolina. After an off night against Purdue in which Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome saved him from becoming a tournament goat, Hunter will snap out of it and set the tone against the Tigers.
At the Buzzer
Stressed out about your bracket, or your alma mater's national championship hopes? Make friends with these happy little trees.