Shooting from the lip
Problem is, the Final Four was in San Antonio. Things must be tough at CBS. Did you notice the college basketball studio show actually stayed in the studio? Instead of reporting live from the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, host Greg Gumbel and analysts Seth Davis and Clark Kellogg reported from the network's home base in New York, along with Florida coach Billy Donovan.
Just as well. CBS's studio show offers little insight regardless of the location. A big problem is college basketball is as much about coaching as anything, and CBS does not have a former coach on its regular panel. It had to bring in Donovan on Saturday and he had, by far, the most in-depth thoughts.
Kellogg played, and Davis is a writer — a very good one, in fact, for Sports Illustrated — but still a writer. Both are nice guys and speak in complete sentences. It's just that neither has much of anything interesting to say. And don't you want those guys in the city where the Final Four is being played to gather information they can then pass along to the viewer?
Compare that to ESPN's studio coverage of the Final Four. The panel, which was in San Antonio, is made up of three former coaches (Dick Vitale, Bob Knight, Digger Phelps) and a former player (Jay Bilas). Now these guys often don't speak in complete sentences, but just about everything they say is interesting.
Best postgame show
Speaking of ESPN's Final Four coverage, the two hours following Saturday night's games were live-event coverage at its absolute best. Host Rece Davis and the analyst team of Dick Vitale, Bob Knight, Digger Phelps and Jay Bilas dissected the two games and set up tonight's championship game from every possible angle. Like a great point guard, Davis did a splendid job feeding the analysts, and while all four were solid, Knight and Bilas were the stars.
Knight's finest moment came when he pointed out Kansas might have used up too much energy against North Carolina to have anything left in the tank for tonight's game against Memphis. And he used his experience of 1987, when his Indiana team struggled to beat Syracuse after emptying the tank to beat UNLV in the semifinals. Something to keep an eye on tonight.
Best local analysis
Yet another example of why the Rays TV team of Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane is so good. In Saturday's Rays-Yankees game, Rays slugger Carlos Pena was hit by Yanks pitcher Andy Pettitte in the first inning. Now Pettitte isn't known as a guy who throws at batters, but Staats and Magrane at least brought up the possibility that the pitch wasn't all that unintentional.
"With two outs, I'm not saying Andy Pettitte did that on purpose,'' Magrane said, "but he did want to get Carlos Pena to move his feet.''
Staats quickly pointed out that Pena had hit two homers off Pettitte last season, and the hustling production crew showed both homers. Magrane then followed up with, "He was intending to come in and off the plate, and the fact that it did hit Pena I don't think bothered Pettitte one bit.''
Again, in just a span of a minute, Staats and Magrane passed along their knowledge to teach something even the diehards might not have known.
Hockey Night in Canada legendary commentator Don Cherry didn't hold back on what he thought about the Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier needing shoulder surgery after a hit by Washington's Matt Cooke on Thursday. "That's the cheap shot of all cheap shots,'' an angry Cherry yelled. "And some day (Cooke) will pay for it.''
The hit should not have surprised anyone. Simply put, Cooke is a dirty player and has been for years.
Most surprising comment
The Lightning's season ended in disappointing fashion, and yet color man Bobby "The Chief'' Taylor, who isn't afraid to be critical, ended the season on a positive note. "This team isn't that far away,'' Taylor said. "Maybe a couple of players away. … And I think they have their goaltending solved.''
Most overblown stat
Everyone wants to make a big deal over Memphis winning their 38th game to set an NCAA record. Not to take anything away from the Tigers, but the biggest reason they've won that many games? They played so many games. Consider this: John Wooden's UCLA Bruins went undefeated four times but only played 30 games in each of those seasons. The last undefeated team: Bob Knight's Indiana team in 1976 went 32-0.
Best local shout-out
ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, on Baseball Tonight, had high praise for the Rays over the weekend. "I'm not saying they're going to win the division or even finish .500,'' Kurkjian said. "But they are really going in the right direction.''
Shows with lists can be fun but often flawed with a tendency to recognize more recent players or games.
But a weekend show on Ch. 28 of the greatest college dunkers was both fun and on the money. Check it out:
1. Darrell Griffith, Louisville
2. Clyde Drexler, Houston
3. Vince Carter, North Carolina
4. Dominique Wilkins, Georgia
5. Steve Francis, Maryland
6. Shaquille O'Neal, LSU
7. Michael Jordan, North Carolina
8. Darvin Ham, Texas Tech
9. Harold Miner, Southern Cal
10. Jerome Lane, Pitt
During Saturday's Lightning postgame show, Bruins fans might have been elated to see the scoreboard graphic that showed Boston absolutely hammered Buffalo 10-3 and improved its playoff standing. The only problem: Boston actually lost 3-0.
Best near-Dewey-defeats-Truman moment
CBS basketball analyst Billy Packer almost got bit on the behind Saturday night. With 7:12 left in the first half and Kansas leading North Carolina 40-12, Packer said, "This game is over!''
Who could blame him for thinking that? But ESPN's Dick Vitale said this, and he was right: "When Carolina cut the lead to 54-50, I bet 80 percent of the country thought North Carolina was going to win that game.''
Best reason for optimism
Why might the Rays be better this season? They can catch the ball. Rays radio announcer Dave Wills pointed specifically to shortstop Jason Bartlett and second baseman Akinori Iwamura as big upgrades over seasons past during Saturdays broadcast. "There are plays being made by our second baseman and shortstop,'' Wills said, "that just weren't being made in the past.''
ESPN's Outside the Lines did a mildly interesting piece on the influence University of Oregon booster and co-Nike founder Phil Knight has on the Ducks athletic program. To be honest, I didn't find the fact that Knight gets to throw a little bit of weight around for his donations of millions quite as sinister as ESPN found it. The story was okay but a little more sizzle than actual steak. But give ESPN credit for tackling a story that could potentially anger Knight, who surely must spend millions a year in advertising his products on ESPN.