Sunday’s March Madness, CBS and Turner schedules; ranking of today’s play-by-play voices and analysts

Did Andrew Catalon take a shot on-air at Ian Eagle or was he kidding?


Announcer rankings for today’s NCAA Tournament broadcasts (Sunday, March 24, 2019)

First this from yesterday: Catalon and Eagle

I’m told that Andrew Catalon and Ian Eagle are friends. Could be. It did make me wonder though after I heard what I did on last night’s broadcast. At the end of the Gonzaga win, Catalon humorously told the story again of how the kids of Coach Mark Few were in the hotel room next to his and were noisy and unruly. He said, “They screamed almost as much as Ian Eagle.” Eagle has a tendency to be a bit Gus Johnsonesque and has been told so by other broadcasters. Yesterday, for instance, he didn’t come up for air, also providing a radio like call.

All that said, many like Ian a lot. Laker fans also loved Chick Hearn’s simulcasts for decades. It’s a matter of taste, I suppose.

Today’s play-by-play:

Unlike yesterday, today we split hairs. All four play-by-play voices are superb and there’s little if anything to criticize. Neither of them screams or over-talks. They’re all pleasant listens. Go to a fine restaurant, study the menu and now choose from a number of tasty items. You won’t go wrong. This said, these are my rankings.

Jim Nantz – Always the consummate pro, he’ll make anything sound good. He develops nice chemistry with his partners, is prepared and can be a little shmaltzy. Because he covers so many huge events, Nantz gives viewers the feeling that the game they’re watching is big.

Brian Anderson – Likely the next lead voice of Turner’s NBA broadcasts, Brian brings a comforting, friendly and mellifluous sound to his microphone. He’s the perfect network voice; not alienating and doesn’t sound provincial.

Spero Dedes – Spero can do anything well. He provides necessary but not overabundant information, builds drama, weaves in a story, gives his analysts runway and doesn’t shout; a throwback in style to Curt Gowdy, Jim Simpson and Tom Hammond. A pleasure.

Brad Nessler – He shouldn’t be fourth anywhere but this quartet is the best of the best. What makes him so good and this is the ultimate compliment, viewers don’t realize he’s there. It’s a skill and an art to be an economical play-by-player and give two commentators sufficient space, all without losing a beat. It’s why Ness has been so successful.


Bill Raftery – Has gotten every accolade imaginable and deservedly so. He’s expanded the game’s lexicon, is funny, can be self-effacing and most importantly, as an ex-coach, knows the game cold.

Chris Webber – He’s developed into one of the finest analysts. His basketball instincts are redolent of an excellent college and pro career. Comments like “He’s tough to defend because he can shoot off any shoulder” are easy to understand for even the fan with a passing interest in March.

Jim Jackson – Former Ohio State star and NBAer is getting recognition for his good work  and for sharing anecdotes. On Friday night, he told the audience with somewhat of a funny tone that former NBA great Bob McAdoo still owes him money for beating him in a convoluted game of HORSE.

Len Elmore – A comfortable voice, Len’s bright and intelligent. Doesn’t get too complicated or talk for the sake of talking. In other words, when Len speaks people listen. His choice of words are good.

Steve Lavin – This fellow coached on both coasts and has a great depth of understanding for the game. I just find him slick and a bit monotone. He rarely says anything that’s galvanizing or makes me say wow, ‘he has a point.’ Still, he underscores plays and clarifies them pretty well.

Steve Smith – Smitty keeps getting better and is a bit more assertive. Brings an understanding of a point guard, which he occasionally played in the NBA. But working with a partner, as he will today with Elmore, it’s harder to isolate his role and evaluate it. From what I’ve seen of his work in the NBA studio, I’ve always liked.

Grant Hill – Maybe because he works in the shadow of a bigger than life personality in Bill Raftery, he pales. Hill makes some decent contributions but whether he’s worthy of being assigned to the top of the depth chart on the Raf team is something I debate. The bigger question is what’s wrong with a two man crew alone of Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery.


Second Round Games – Sunday, March 24 (Noon-Midnight ET)


Tip (ET)-Network-Site-Game-Play-by-Play/Analyst//Reporter

12:10p on CBS in Columbus:

 (10) Iowa vs. (2) Tennessee

Brian Anderson and Chris Webber


Followed in Columbus on CBS by:

(9) Washington vs. (1) North Carolina

Anderson and Webber


5:15p on CBS in Columbia:

(9) UCF vs. (1) Duke

Jim Nantz, Grant Hill and Bill Raftery


Followed in Columbia on truTV by:

(9) Oklahoma vs. (1) Virginia

Nantz, Hill and Raftery


6:10p on TNT in Tulsa

(6) Buffalo vs. (3) Texas Tech

Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin and Jim Jackson


Followed in Tulsa on TNT by:

(11) Ohio St. vs. (3) Houston

Nessler, Lavin and Jackson


7:10p on TBS-San Jose:

(12) Liberty vs. (4) Virginia Tech

Spero Dedes, Len Elmore and Steve Smith


Followed in San Jose on TBS by:

(13) UC Irvine vs. (12) Oregon

Dedes, Elmore and Smith


David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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