Shooting from the lip

Published March 19 2012
Updated March 19 2012

Worst schedule

There are 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament. The second round features 32 games over two days. The third round has 16 games over two days. That's 48 games in four days. And often, several teams from the same general area of the country are in the tournament.

For example, North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and UNC-Ashville made the tournament. There was Cincinnati, Xavier, Ohio State and Ohio. Then there was USF, Florida and Florida State. The point is, there are bound to be TV broadcasting conflicts.

But still, you would think CBS and its broadcast partners would do its best to avoid conflicts like we saw in the second and third rounds. Florida and Florida State played at almost the same time Friday. USF and Florida overlapped Sunday.

Maybe it's more complicated than I'm making it, but I looked at the schedule and in about 10 seconds noticed how a couple of starting times could have been altered to make sure the Florida teams were not playing at the same time. And unlike CBS and the NCAA, I have no incentive to make sure the ratings for the games are as high as possible.

Best NCAA studio crew

CBS and Turner Sports have offered a slew of intermission, pregame and postgame NCAA Tournament shows with a variety of studio crews, but you know which crew is stealing the March Madness show? ESPN's Trey Wingo, below, Kara Lawson and Carolyn Peck, who are hosting the women's tournament. ESPN's whip-around coverage is a smart way to cover that tournament as the network whirls around from one game to another, keeping casual sports fans interested in an event they might not normally follow.

But the only way the whip-around coverage works is if the studio crew is knowledgeable and personable, and that's what Wingo; Lawson, a WNBA and former Tennessee star; and Peck, a former Gators and Purdue coach, are.

Best point

During Sunday's Penguins-Flyers game on NBC, Pens star Sidney Crosby gave a gracious interview to Pierre McGuire, but studio analyst Mike Milbury made an excellent (and funny) point when he was asked if Crosby could do anything to improve his game.

"Yeah,'' Milbury said, half joking, "take the hat off when you're doing an interview. We want to see your face, Sid. You're the face of the National Hockey League. Let's see it."

Best homework

Want to know what makes a good television analyst in any sport? Homework and hustle. Case in point: Gary Koch, who was lead analyst during NBC's coverage of the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook.

Instead of sleeping in Saturday morning or lounging in the air-conditioned trailer, Koch was out on the driving range watching the pros. Later, on the air, he mentioned that he noticed first-day leader Padraig Harrington on the range looking "fidgety and not at all comfortable.'' This was before Harrington went out and shot 1-over 72 to drop four shots out of the lead. Outstanding instincts by Koch.

Best guest

St. John's coach Steve Lavin has been stellar as a guest analyst on CBS's NCAA Tournament coverage, and that should come as no surprise. Lavin worked as an analyst between his stint at UCLA, which ended in 2003, and his new gig at St. John's, which began in 2010.

His strongest point of the weekend was addressing some of the controversial lane-violation calls we've seen in the tournament. Lavin correctly pointed out that though the calls weren't popular, they were correct. Furthermore, Lavin said, the officials are under orders from their bosses to make such calls.

"Hey, these guys have babies to feed,'' Lavin said. "If they don't make these calls, they're not going to be working.''

Best analyst

Moments into Saturday night's Sergio Martinez-Matthew Macklin middleweight fight on HBO, longtime analyst Larry Merchant started ripping Martinez, saying the 37-year-old looked unsure of himself and nothing like one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. To the novice, it might have seemed as if Merchant had something personal against Martinez and was being unfairly critical because of it.

But son of a gun, Merchant was right on the money. The following rounds proved Merchant was on to something as Martinez struggled mightily until snapping back to life in the later rounds. Martinez ended up scoring a TKO at the end of the 11th round, but he was in trouble for much of the night. It was one of Merchant's best nights on HBO.

Best announcing team

Bay area basketball fans caught a nice break over the weekend when CBS's Ian Eagle, below, and Jim Spanarkel were assigned to call the NCAA Tournament games from Nashville, which featured USF and FSU. For my money, Eagle and Spanarkel, in their 15th year together calling NCAA Tournament games, are the best duo calling tournament games. They're the Thinking Man's announcers.

Eagle might be the most underrated broadcaster in sports, and Spanarkel doesn't have an overwhelming personality but an intelligent one. I'll take intellect over outrageous any day.

Biggest difference

Fabrice Muamba, a soccer player for Bolton in the English Premier League, had a heart attack Saturday against Tottenham in an English FA Cup match televised by English television and picked up by the Fox Soccer Channel. It was interesting to see how it was covered. Cameras momentarily focused on Muamba but quickly pulled back so vieweo viewers could not see him clearly. There were a few long-distance shots of medical personal surrounding Muamba, but most of the shots were of the crowd. No replays of him collapsing were shown.

It would not have been unusual for an American network to cover Muamba's collapse in more detail.

There's a very fine line between covering the event and being disrespectful. American television rarely hesitates to show grotesque injuries. Think of Joe Theismann's leg being snapped in that 1985 game with the Redskins. When it comes to life-and-death situations such as crashes in auto races or boxers left unconscious, U.S. networks have to walk that fine line. Remember when NBC showed replays of a luger who was killed in the 2010 Winter Olympics?

Ultimately, the network is there to cover an event. That means reporting on all aspects, even unpleasant situations. However, if a network is going to err, wouldn't we rather have it err on the side of showing too little than showing too much?

Three things that popped into my head

1. The NCAA is so quick to show commercials celebrating the "student'' part of student-athletes, and that's great. But let's go a step farther. How about it runs the grade point averages of the teams in the NCAA Tournament bracket. That would motivate everyone, don't you think?

2. Rays radio announcer Dave Wills made a good point during Sunday's broadcast of the Rays-Red Sox game on 620-AM. He said, "If you think (Rays rookie pitcher) Matt Moore is a finished product, you're mistaken.'' Wills is right. Let's not forget this kid is 23 and has pitched fewer than 20 innings in the bigs.

3. Dwight Howard has done nothing but jerk around Magic fans for the past year with all his flip-flopping, and it appears as if he is going to continue to toy with their emotions for another year.

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.