Familiarity is good. CBS seems to know that, which may be why its announcing teams for the NCAA tournament are almost identical to last year.
We don't need surprises when we flip on the first round of the tournament next Thursday at noon EDT. I like the routine. There will be a brief, uninformative pre-game show in New York featuring Greg Gumbel; a slightly modified intro featuring at least one clip of Christian Laettner's shot playing over the familiar CBS NCAA basketball theme and then a cut to a far-flung locale for the first game of the day, probably with Ian Eagle announcing that he'll take us to our game as soon as it begins.
It's as routine as going to fireworks on July 4th or watching the Detroit Lions lose on Thanksgiving. It's the greatest. Why mess with it?
Thankfully, CBS didn't. Here's the network's list of announcer pairings for the first two rounds of the tournament. It looks quite similar to last year's:
• Studio: Greg Gumbel, Greg Anthony, Seth Davis
• Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg
• Dick Enberg/Jay Bilas
• Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery
• Gus Johnson/Len Elmore
• Kevin Harlan/Dan Bonner
• Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel
• Tim Brando/Mike Gminski
• Spero Dedes/Bob Wenzel
Other than our usual complaints about the bland Clark Kellogg, it's a fine list. (Although we do wish Greg Anthony was given something more to do rather than try to get a word in over Seth Davis in the studio.) Len Elmore is normally a pretty reserved dude, so it's nice that he's with the powder keg of excitement that is Gus Johnson. As much fun as it would be to have a Gus/Bill Raftery pairing, there's a reasonable fear that the two would spontaneously combust if they had to announce a buzzer beater together.
Jay Bilas is given the job of keeping viewers from ignoring all the errors made by the 75-year old Dick Enberg, who is experiencing the inevitable decline that all legendary announcers go through. Enberg hasn't yet hit Pat Summerall territory, but he's definitely slipped a lot in recent years. Bilas can't really get into a groove with Enberg, which is a shame because he's as good as they come. It's great that ESPN allows Bilas to moonlight for CBS during the tournament, we just wish they'd send Dan Shulman along too.
If we can assume that the teams are listed in ranked order, that would mean the Gus/Len pairing will get to call a regional. (Keeps fingers crossed.) The "H" team of Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel is the only new one from last season (Dedes replaces Craig Bolerjack).
Thanks, Awful Announcing