Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March Madness Couch Potato: Planning out your Thursday

FINALLY, the most glorious postseason play in all of sports is upon us.  Personally it's not even close how great the NCAA Basketball postseason is compared to any other postseason, and I'm not totally convinced even a NCAA Football Tournament would surpass it.  The simple reason is because even with an NCAA Football tourney you'll never have George Mason advance to the Final Four (Like they did in 2006) because a small school like that would never even be allowed into the top 25, never mind into any kind of "plus 1" tourney that football would set up.  Such is the animal that is college basketball, and is also what makes it great: it only takes one player to be a tourney team in basketball and that creates the drama that is March Madness.

With all of the matchups, seeds, and tip-times fully announced it’s time to get your viewing schedule all setup.  If you don’t have DVR (and really if you don’t what the hell are you waiting on?) or HD then I have no words for you.  These two elements are essential for watching sports, and they will heavily influence my viewing schedule and method (TV or CPU). 

The final element and quite possibly most important one to determine my viewership will be announcing schedules.  It goes without saying that certain pairs of announcers or just colormen will make a game more entertaining (such as Coach’s favorite Bill Raftery and my favorite, Gus Johnson) than other games, because of this I will also give you the announcing schedules of these games so you know when to tune into where and at what time.

Make sure there are fresh batteries in the remote and that your CPU is plugged in and fully accessible because you’re going to be busy flipping back and forth taking in all the action. Remember, you might want to carbo-load on some pasta at Noon to help sustain you through the day and don’t be too proud to piss in a bottle if you don’t want to miss any of the action, lord knows Lloyd Christmas isn’t above it.

First off here are the hosting cities for Thursday and Friday:

The host cities for the Thursday games are: Providence, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and San Jose

The host cities for the Friday games are: Jacksonville, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Spokane.

As you can see the hosts are spread out from east to west and north to south so there will be basketball to take in at all times and in all kinds of venues. 

Now, the Announcers are all going to be covering different cities, here are those duo’s with the games they’ll be covering:

THURSDAY – MARCH 18th, 2009

Providence: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
12:30 pm: #2 Villanova vs. #15 Robert Morris
2:50 pm: #7 Richmond vs. #10 St. Mary’s
7:25 pm: #3 Georgetown vs. #14 Ohio
9:45 pm: #6 Tennessee vs. #11 San Diego State

New Orleans: Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas
12:25 pm: #6 Notre Dame vs. #11 Old Dominion
2:45 pm: #3 Baylor vs. #14 Sam Houston State
7:15 pm: #1 Kentucky vs. #16 ETSU
9:35 pm: #8 Texas vs. #9 Wake Forest

Oklahoma City: Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner
12:20 pm: #7 BYU vs. #10 Florida
2:40 pm: #2 Kansas State vs. #15 North Texas
7:10 pm: #8 Northern Iowa vs. #9 UNLV
9:30 pm: #1 Kansas vs. #16 Lehigh

San Jose: Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel
2:30 pm: #4 Vanderbilt vs. #13 Murray State
4:45 pm: #5 Butler vs. #12 UTEP
7:20 pm: #6 Marquette vs. #11 Washington
9:40 pm: #3 New Mexico vs. #14 Montana
I would rank these announcing combos as such:

1 – Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery

No one fosters college atmosphere like Bill Raftery.  From random shouts of “Onions!” or phrases such as “lingerie on the deck” Raftery always has a colorful and entertaining yet an oddly accurate descriptive way to do the color on these games.  Combine him with one of the best table-setters in all the business in Lundquist and this combo is like fine wine as they get better with age.

2 – Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner
A bit of an upset with this pairing getting the 2nd ranking over Enberg and Bilas but it all boils down to Kevin Harlan and the energy he brings at the most appropriate times.  I’ve heard Harlan do NBA games for years now and a well timed, guttural “DAGGER RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES!!!” after a big shot always puts a little extra hop in my step.

3 – Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas

For smart and informative analytical basketball knowledge dropped during games Bilas’s only real challenger is Doug Gottlieb, who doesn’t do a ton of games. 

Bilas’s strengths are never more evident than on ESPN’s College Basketball highlight games on Big Monday.  During this coverage Bilas gets put with Raftery and Lundquist (which is a classic case of the “more is better” theory which is ruining announcing these days.  Please ESPN, leave Raft and Lundy all by themselves, they’re just fine with no help) to cover most of those games and it’s a tad embarrassing as Bilas runs circles around the two old guys with his basketball knowledge.  However all that knowledge doesn’t mean he’s all that entertaining to listen to.

Enberg is definitely a pro but his style is much more suited to announce the Olympics and Golf and Water Polo, not really something as exciting as March Madness.  So while this crew brings the good in terms of knowledge and professionalism they just don’t foster the excitement like the first two duos on this list.

4 – Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel

For anyone addicted to NBA Hardwood Classics and SportsCentury on ESPN Classic like me then you’re familiar with Spero Dedes.  Wenzel, conversely, must live on the left coast because he’s always stuck doing MWC games on a Tuesday at 10PM on ESPNU.  I’m just not that familiar with this duos ability to do games and bring that palpable excitement to the games or to give you those inside tidbits that really help you see the game in a different way.  So what does CBS do? They go and give this combo the most consistently intriguing matchups throughout the entire day on Thursday.

Now that we’ve covered the TV schedule on Thursday as well as the announcing duos let’s plan out your day to get you the most entertaining day possible of College Basketball.

Game #1: 

12:20 pm: #7 BYU vs. #10 Florida – I expect BYU to win by double digits as Jimmer Ferdette shows the young Gator guards what a top notch shooter looks like.  I like Kentucky and Tennessee as much as the next guy but they just don’t shoot it like all those white guys at BYU.  You’re only going to be on this game for about 10 minutes to appreciate Jimmer Fredette and then you’re turning to

Game #2:

12:25 pm: #6 Notre Dame vs. #11 Old Dominion – This will be your primary game for the early afternoon as it will be the most competitive and intriguing game coupled with the 2nd best announcing duo on the docket.  I like ODU to take down the Irish in Round 1.  As much has been made about ND changing their style to accommodate their personnel once Harangody went down, ODU can match them style for style.  ODU looks like a Big East team with all those athletes, it seems every player on the team is 6’7” and every one of them can rebound the ball.  No need to check on Verne and Bill as Nova should handle Morgan St. easily.  However once these games are over you should sit back and relax as Verne and bill paint you a picture in:

Game #3

2:50 pm: #7 Richmond vs. #10 St. Mary’s – I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I hate that the committee matched these two teams up in the first round.  Along with Butler, UTEP, Cornell, Temple and Baylor these were 2 of the less-heralded teams I would have picked to make some upsets prior to the brackets being released.  At least we get the #1 announcing duo for an EXTREMELY entertaining game (PS – Richmond is going to make some serious NOISE in this tournament).  During the commercials of this game you flip back-and-forth to

Game #4

2:30 pm: #4 Vanderbilt vs. #13 Murray State - the announcing crew of Dedes and Wenzel indicates that CBS knows this game won’t get a ton of viewership.  However with Vandy only have one PG in Jermaine “Dolla” Beal and Murray St. being one of the teams in the nation that forces a ton of turnovers it’s at least worth checking in on.  And the reason you check in on it is because you are going to DVR

Game #5

2:45 pm: #3 Baylor vs. #14 Sam Houston State – I fully expect Baylor to win this game, however Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn are known to keep both teams in the game with their shot selection.  If Baylor doesn’t take the BearKats seriously enough SHS will shoot the Bears outta that 2-3 zone they like to run and right outta the tournament because SHS can REALLY fill it up.  The reason you DVR this game is because there is a tournament lull from about 5PM to 7PM when the 2:30 games are ending and the 7:00 games are starting.  It will be fun to listen to Bilas educate us on one of the popular sleepers in this tourney in Baylor. The only other game you’ll watch at this time is

Game #6

4:45 pm: #5 Butler vs. #12 UTEP – A popular upset pick here and I do.  Butler isn’t as strong as they’ve been in the past when they’ve played the roll of Bracket Buster.  UTEP’s Randy Culpepper is a dynamic guard and Derreck Caracter, a Louisville transfer for UTEP, can get all of Butler’s shallow front line in foul trouble.  After you got used to Dedes and Wenzel in game #4 this will be a good game to keep you tied over until

Game #7

7:20 pm: #6 Marquette vs. #11 Washington – That’s right, another Dedes and Wenzel game.  I told you this duo had the most consistently entertaining games all day.  I LOVE Marquette’s style of play and Lazar Hayward, their 6’5” 3PT-shooting big man is so much fun to watch.  However I’ve heard just enough smart and educated people talking about Washington that this will be a good one to monitor.  During this game feel free to swap back and forth with

Game #8

7:15 pm: #1 Kentucky vs. #16 ETSU – One of the most exciting players and teams in the bracket, John Wall and Kentucky will be on display.  You won’t be here long as this should turn into a route.  It will be fun to listen to Bilas break down all of Kentucky’s potential draft picks as he does a lot of work on the NBA Draft coverage on TNT.  Stretch your legs, get something to eat and drink and use the bathroom during this relative lull because the 9PM time slot is going to be huge and it all kicks off with

Game #9

9:45 pm: #6 Tennessee vs. #11 San Diego State – Now this is March Madness at it’s finest.  One of the most popular upset pick games gets paired with Raft and Lundy.  They will really help set the atmosphere for an upset pick that I really like.  Tennessee is a team I never felt bullish on, even after they beat Kentucky/Kansas during the season.  I just really don’t like their guard play and they don’t have enough skilled size inside to offset it.  Enjoy Wayne Chism because I don’t see him getting a 2nd game in his senior year tourney.  What Chism and Tennessee lack in wingmen, however, New Mexico more than makes up for them, and they’ll be on display in

Game #10

9:40 pm: #3 New Mexico vs. #14 Montana – Darrington Hobson is a SPECIAL player and this is a great opportunity to showcase his wares.  The Montana Grizzlies have a Shooting Guard in Anthony Johnson that just put up 42 to help Montana win their conference tourney a week ago.  Dedes and Wenzel get the 2nd best game at the 9PM slot which finishes off their immensely entertaining day.  Watching Tennessee get upset and these two teams go shot-for-shot will leave you

Game #11

            9:35 pm: #8 Texas vs. #9 Wake Forest – Another great game for Bilas and Enberg to get as Texas has some of the more sought after NBA talents in the nation.  Avery Bradley, Damion James, Dexter Pittman and others will be great to have Bilas break down their games and NBA prospects.  Finally, you’ll just want to check the score on

Game #12

            9:30 pm: #1 Kansas vs. #16 Lehigh - Please move on, nothing to see here.

And that’s it.  You’ve been watching March Madness for about 12 hours and caught some great games and great announcing duos to help guide you through the gauntlet.  Make sure you get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow.  I'll be back this evening or tomorrow morning with your Friday schedule.

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