Gus Johnson, who is perhaps the most well-known announcer for the under-30 set, is no longer on the microphone for March Madness. As much I as find his regular-season performance lacking, there’s no question that he will be missed.
All is not lost, however, as there are several battle-tested teams to guide us through the frenzy. Yes, some are better than others. But thankfully, incredible action can always overcome lackluster broadcasting.
Let’s see how the broadcasting partners stack up.
1. Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg: The marquee duo will call the Final Four and National Championship Game. And rightly so. Nantz has an innate ability to let the game breathe and rarely goes overboard. He is not a me-first guy often and is able to convincingly get caught up in the emotion. His call of Gordon Hayward’s near-miss was a terrific human reaction in the moment. Kellogg is far from the best analyst in the game, but he has a nice rapport with Nantz. More than that, though, there’s something to be said about the old guard. Since replacing the overly negative Billy Packer, he’s called the biggest games. In this time of critiquing resumes, Kellogg’s is strong.
2. Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel: Since Eagle is not the most recognizable play-by-play guy, this might seem a bit surprising. But Eagle is a tournament pro whose very voice lets you know it’s tournament time. He’s not flashy and doesn’t stand out, which believe it or not, is one of the highest compliments an announcer can receive. Spanarkel isn’t the greatest ex-Duke personality, but asking anyone to be as cool as Jay Bilas is totally unfair.
3. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery: Oh, Uncle Verne. There is nobody more fun that Lundquist. His Southern colloquialisms are like stepping into nice bourbon after a long day in the sun. The only problem is his penchant for getting critical facts, like names, wrong. Those things are pretty important when you’re not as familiar with the rosters. Mantoman, I love Raftery for many of the same reasons as Verne. He’s fun, an old-timer with a goofy sense of humor. It doesn’t get much better than hearing him yell, “Onions!”
4. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr: Albert is a legend. No one brings more credibility than him to play-by-play. But his forte has always been the pro game. I had a very hard time accepting that he was calling a tournament game last year. Perhaps I’m the only one, but it was a real problem. As for Kerr, he’s as affable as they come. But he’s not a premier color man and you’ve got to question his acumen at times.
5. Tim Brando and Mike Gminski: Brando is a big personality in SEC country and has made his name as a studio host throughout the years. He definitely has the chops, but there’s something about him that just doesn’t click enough to let him crack that top tier. Gminski is, guess what, another ex-Duke player from the Spanarkel School of commentary.
6. Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller: Harlan is very enthusiastic, at times bombastic. That has its place. Alone, he’s in the top half of the event’s play-by-play men, but Elmore really drags him down. Elmore makes good basketball-based observations, but his deliver is choppy and unpolished. Miller’s honesty is refreshing, but again, I can’t take the NBA out of his voice.
7. Brian Anderson and Dan Bonner: Anderson does a fantastic job with baseball. In fact, I think he’s one of the sport’s most unappreciated announcers. The problem is that few know who he is. He’s kind of a just-the-facts guy. It’s very hard to conjure up any emotion over him, and that’s telling. Bonner is Gus Johnson’s old partner, so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say when old Gus isn’t screaming bloody murder.
8. Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel: Dedes, the voice of the New York Knicks, was recently disciplined for using that famous “chink in the armor” cliché in reference to Jeremy Lin. He’s on the young side, a basketball guy and fairly vanilla. Wenzel, at times, can sound forced. He tries to play the Raftery role, but he’s just not as good at it.