It’s the conference tournament weekend across the landscape. On Thursday, I had a chance to check in and watch some quarterfinal hoops, two games in particular:
Big East Tournament
Creighton vs. Butler
The game turned into a blowout win For Creighton 87-56
Fox Sports: Announcers, Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery
Of interest was the performance of the Bluejays after Coach Greg McDermott’s insensitive racial comments to his team. The coach was suspended and the game against Butler was his first back. Fans were curious how the team would respond.
- Raftery, a former coach brings knowledge, humor and storytelling to the mic. His instructional comments were good. (Raftery and Johnson ,r, in photo)
- He set the scene early, saying that Creighton’s defense is stout and its offense is well-coached. Raf added that the Bluejays are solid in the half court and won’t make mistakes. These comments are sufficiently generic and uncomplicated so that all viewers can put them to good use.
- Ball-screens were a point of emphasis Raftery noted, saying he expects to see Creighton use screens all day. As the game progressed, Creighton used screens for ball movement and to find the open man. Bill underscored how Creighton beat Butler all night, running screens and positioning a shooter in the corner. Doing so forced the defender covering the shooter to do one of two things, help off the screen by leaving his assigned shooter or stay with the shooter and let the ball handler drive right to the rim. Either way Creighton had a golden opportunity, an open shot or a plain open for the ball-handler to score.
- Raftery anticipated that Creighton’s defense will be a problem for opponents in the NCAA tournament. This game was an indication of just that, Creighton held Butler to 35% shooting from the field and 27% from deep. The Bluejays trapped the ball handler early in a possession whenever he crossed half court. Raftery pointed out how this caused turnovers and got the Bulldogs out of their usual offense by having the point guard give up the ball early.
- Blowouts are challenges for both the play-by-player and analyst. A well prepared play-by-play voice should be well stocked with human interest angles, team and league developments, historical nuggets and other colorful comments. As such, when the need arises, he or she can engage their partner in discussions of pertinence. A thirty point game is hardly compelling. Without something additional to keep viewers focused, the audience leaves. Johnson who’s been criticized by others in the past for not being fully prepared, didn’t lead the usually glib Raftery into a substantive exchange. Gus just continued to call the game as though it was tight. That won’t cut it. Gus needs to do more homework.
- Earlier in the tournament, Raftery had worked with Fox’ Tim Brando who seamlessly led his partner into basketball related subjects of all sorts. Simply put, the Brando-Raftery team excelled. Johnson brings down the duo’s grade. Johnson-Raftery B+
Big 12 Tournament
Kansas vs. Oklahoma
Kansas beat Oklahoma 69-62 in a close game
ESPN: Announcers, Bob Wischusen and Fran Fraschilla
While both games were clearly one-sided early, Kansas took a 20 point lead into the locker room at halftime, Oklahoma made a furious comeback, even cutting the deficit down to three. But each time Oklahoma inched closer, Kansas hit a critical shot to extend the lead and eek out with the win.
- Fraschilla and Wischusen set the scene early, naming the players unable to play and what impact it would have on the game. Kansas was without its big man, David McCormack. Fraschilla projected that with McCormack out the Jayhawks will go small and would mostly have all five players stretch the floor. They would not use a post. This was indeed the case throughout the game. With eight guards, one small forward, and a center on the court, Fraschilla said the matchup reminds him of playing in the park, with the lack of big men. Fraschilla used the park as an analogy instead of the “YMCA” because “those guys play soft”, prompting Wischusen to comeback with, “Welcome to my world!”
- The former New Mexico and St. John’s coach, Fraschilla, did a terrific job explaining why some plays work and others don’t. He loved the play Oklahoma ran a couple times in the second half, where it ran a pick-n-roll on one side of the court. The Sooners didn’t have a shooter in the corner as Creighton did in the other game. Instead it ran a two-on-two play. Fraschilla loved it because doing so isn’t complex. There is no one to cover the screener from picking and popping or rolling to the rim.
- Fraschilla also provided insight nicely into how Kansas can better double team Oklahoma’s center Brady Manek. He said Manek is a great passer and will find the open man even if doubled. So if the Jayhawks decide to double Manek, they better do it early and go body to body with their teammates.
- Wischusen did a good job in his role, adding nuggets about players and the two teams. He reviewed how Kansas won eleven Big 12 conference titles, the most in league history and Oklahoma has won three, their last in 2003. He also mentioned how no Texas team has won a conference championship in the Big 12. When the first half was turning into a blowout, Wischusen brought up some points about the Big 12 to keep the viewers engaged. He mentioned how the national consensus is that there will be seven teams from the Big 12 to make the tournament and all will have good seeds, with the worst being a seven seed.
- Wischusen and Fraschilla get an A for their effort.