March Madness gets TV makeover
Twenty-three years after graduating from the University of Arizona, Steve Kerr is heading back to college.
The TNT NBA analyst will join CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg for both the call of the Final Four on April 2 from Houston and the national championship on April 4. Kerr's addition to the CBS telecast was part of a joint announcement from CBS and Turner Sports Tuesday afternoon that offered a comprehensive look at the talent roster for the upcoming NCAA men's college basketball tournament. (Editor's note: Turner Sports is in partnership with SI.com and runs the site's business operations.)
CBS and TNT announcers will make appearances across CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV, and prior to the Final Four, Kerr will be partnered with Marv Albert on regional action. It will mark Albert's first NCAA tournament since he worked five tournaments on NBC from 1977 to 1982.
As for studio programming during the NCAA Tournament, the coverage will originate from both New York and Atlanta, with the main anchor chair shared daily by CBS veteran Greg Gumbel and longtime TNT host Ernie Johnson. TNT's Inside the NBA analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith will provide analysis throughout the tournament from the CBS Broadcast studios in New York alongside Gumbel or Johnson. CBS analyst Greg Anthony will also be part of the New York-based studio show. "Anytime you can take someone like a Charles Barkley who is as opinionated and has many thoughts and is incredibly enthusiastic, you do it," said CBS Sports president Sean McManus. "Charles is excited about it. Our goal was to take the best of CBS and blend in the best of Turner and I think we have done that. If you were having a draft and you had all the Turner talent and CBS talent, who would you draft to put on your team?"
The broadcast pairings come nine months after CBS and Turner cut a $10.8 billion deal with the NCAA to carry the men's basketball tournament from 2011 to 2024, a transaction that prompted the expansion of the field to 68 teams from 65 and ended CBS's regional coverage of early round games. All games will now be televised nationally on CBS, TNT, TBS or TruTV. McManus predicted last November that the joint agreement "will let us win nights on three networks."
In what both networks are branding as "The First Four" games, the opening round of the NCAA tournament will tip off on March 15 on truTV, which is currently in 90 million homes. Those games will be called by Nantz, Kellogg and Kerr. Gumbel, Johnson, Barkley, Anthony and Smith will be in the studio before and after those opening games. The following night's games, also on truTV, will be called by announcers Gus Johnson and Len Elmore.
Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis and TNT analyst Reggie Miller will join the New York studio rotation for the second week of the tournament. Davis will be in Turner's Atlanta studio the first week with host Matt Winer and Steve Smith.
One of the major questions of the joint broadcast will be how adept and prepared TNT's announcers are with the actors and nomenclature of college basketball. The learning curve will be tricky given most of these announcers are dedicated to NBA coverage and have little experience calling NCAA action.
Along with the Final Four team of Nantz, Kellogg and Kerr and the team of Albert and Kerr, CBS and Turner also announced the other teams that will work the tournament. They include Johnson and Elmore, Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner, Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel, Tim Brando and Mike Gminski and Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel
David Aldridge, Sam Ryan, Craig Sager, Marty Snider, Lesley Visser and Tracy Wolfson will serve as reporters throughout the tournament. Wolfson will work with Nantz, Kellogg and Kerr at the Final Four.
One of the wildcards of the coverage is Barkley, who has consistently said that college athletes should be compensated and that the current athletic system is unfair to student-athletes. Recently, he reiterated such thoughts when asked about Auburn's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton.
"I want to tell Cam Newton's dad: If he only asked for $180,000, he's a bad businessman," said Barkley, "because Cam Newton is underpaid."