The NCAA Tournament is only a few weeks away. Can you believe it?
With that fact in mind, it isn't surprising that we're already learning some news regarding this year's extravaganza. But it's not about the teams, it's not about the venues, no. The news that passed along the wire on Tuesday is regarding the media for the event, specifically one particular voice who will be absent this year and beyond.
On Tuesday, Marv Albert, a Hall of Fame broadcaster and one of the best out there period, past and present, signed a long-term contract extension with Turner Sports. With that extension in mind, Albert said on a conference call that he'd no longer be working NCAA Tournament games. That fact was brought to the attention of the world by Neil Best of the New York Daily News:
Marv Albert no longer will call NCAA Tournament games. All NBA, all the time.— Neil Best (@sportswatch) February 9, 2016
Marv Albert said six games in three days in first round of NCAAs too hard on his voice, so opted to stick to NBA exclusively.— Neil Best (@sportswatch) February 9, 2016
It's understandable why Marv, 74, would want to shy away from games if it is too hard on his voice. Calling NCAA Tourney games is pretty rigorous as he noted, and last season he had stepped away from the Elite Eight due to illness.
So with that in mind, I'd like to ponder aloud who could possibly be taking his place as a regional play-by-play man, and perhaps question whether or not CBS Sports/Turner Sports will bump someone up who has yet to call NCAA Tournament games with one play-by-play man out of the equation.
Let's first examine what the crews were last year:
- Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson
- Marv Albert, Chris Webber, Len Elmore, Craig Sager
- Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce
- Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Rachel Nichols
- Ian Eagle, Doug Gottlieb, Evan Washburn
- Brian Anderson, Steve Smith, Lewis Johnson
- Spero Dedes, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio
- Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl
CBS Sports shook up a LOT last year, as we noted on this very website. Three 3-man crews, a few new reporters, some new crews with old friends no longer working together (Eagle/Spanarkel, Dedes/Gottlieb, just to name a few) and, of course, Bill Raftery joining the fold and getting his first shot at the Final Four due to the absence of Greg Anthony.
The absence of Marv Albert plays into a very interesting scenario. Jim Nantz, Verne Lundquist, and Kevin Harlan are virtual locks to call regional site games (Sweet 16, Elite Eight). They are, without a doubt, CBS' signature voices for the NCAA Tournament and whatever your opinion of Nantz may be, he's definitely not losing his spot at the top any time soon. Nor is the great Uncle Verne, and neither is the excellent Harlan.
In my opinion, there are two possibilities here and only two to replace Marv Albert:
Ian Eagle and Brian Anderson.
Eagle already has reaped some rewards recently, having gotten bumped up to the No. 2 crew for CBS' NFL coverage which includes calling a Divisional Round playoff game. Eagle's a pro and a damn good one, perhaps one of the most underrated commentators out there from a national standpoint (Or maybe people rate him highly now across the board). He's a vet and has certainly excelled in all areas and would definitely be deserving of the promotion up from just doing first and second round games (Sidebar: Doesn't it feel good to be able to say that again? No more of the 'second and third round' game stuff).
Anderson, meanwhile, presents an interesting case. BA is one of the most underrated out there as well, what with his abilities showcased on Big Ten Network, the networks of FOX Sports, CBS as well as being the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers on FOX Sports Wisconsin. What makes his case even more interesting and intriguing is what he did last year. Anderson was the one who subbed in for Marv Albert after he went under the weather and was the man to call the instant classic between Notre Dame and Kentucky. And BA did a damn good job doing so, if you ask me.
I'm torn between Anderson and Eagle getting the nod here as I'm a big fan of both of their work. If I had to guess, and I have no inside leads on this at all, but I suspect that it might wind up being 'The Bird' Ian Eagle who gets the nod to sub in for Marv Albert to do play-by-play for one of the four regional sites (Philadelphia, Chicago, Louisville, Anaheim).
As far as who will be bumped up?
I'm going to say you might want to look out for Carter Blackburn. He's done some very good work as CBS' No. 2 voice for college football and when he's been featured on CBS and CBS Sports Network, Blackburn has done a bang up job calling hoops too.
As far as who will replace ESPN-bound Rachel Nichols and what my guesswork will be for all the commentator crews? Well, we'll wait a few weeks on that.