CBS this weekend will feature a three-man booth for the first time in its coverage of the Final Four, which "helps stamp a new brand for the new partnership" between CBS and Turner Sports for the tournament, according to Bob Wolfley of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr will call the Final Four and Monday's championship game, and Saturday's VCU-Butler Final Four opener will mark "only the fifth time the three announcers have worked a game together." Nantz had "not worked a three-man booth" before this season. But after working with Kellogg and Kerr during the Big 10 Tournament and two First Four games, he said, "I felt really good about how it worked from the get-go. It's going to get better this weekend because the games we were doing we had more of a big picture slant to our coverage." Kerr said that he "felt welcomed in his three-man role." Kellogg added, "It adds another perspective. It certainly causes me to look at things, talk about things differently because something Steve might say" (JSONLINE.com, 3/31). Kellogg has worked the last two Final Fours with Nantz, and when asked if he took the decision to add Kerr "as a criticism" on the job he has done, he said, "Not at all. Our thing is about serving the viewers. We have a partnership with Turner and that was something both parties agreed would benefit the broadcast, and I am 100 percent for it if you can add another quality person who sees the game a little bit differently. It was fun, I've enjoyed the few games we've done already" (N.Y. POST, 4/1).
CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM: CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said that "having two low-seeded teams in the Final Four" in Butler and VCU "won't necessarily mean a poor rating." McManus: "I think it's all going to come down to how close the games are. I'm not going to say we're going to do a bad rating because we have two teams from a mid-major" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 4/1). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes "based on viewer response to the tight David vs. Goliath/Duke vs. Butler final a year ago, CBS should expect continued ratings increases in both Saturday's Final Four and Monday's championship game" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/1).
PREGAME ENTERTAINMENT: In Houston, David Barron notes the pregame and between-game features that will run during Saturday's coverage will include profiles of Butler F Matt Howard, Connecticut G Kemba Walker, Kentucky's "rebuilding mode after five players were selected in the first round of the NBA draft, the recent on- and off-court ventures of Virginia Commonwealth and coach Shaka Smart, a tribute to John Wooden and David Letterman discussing the Tournament with Bill Raftery" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/1). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Saturday's Kentucky-UConn game will feature "two elephants in the room" in Kentucky coach John Calipari and UConn coach Jim Calhoun, "two whose programs' misdeeds likely will be quickly and obligatorily mentioned, then just as quickly dropped." CBS will not be "inclined to make a big issue of it." Mushnick: "You know TV. We're likely to be told that the issues have, by now, been 'well-documented'" (N.Y. POST, 4/1).
ANALYST REVIEW: THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre wrote Kerr has been "very good as an analyst" thus far during the tournament, as he "sounded like someone who had done his work on college basketball." Fellow TNT NBA analyst Reggie Miller "did a terrific job calling out referees," but otherwise "left something to be desired." Miller "struggled at times getting along with his counterparts in the three man booth." Meanwhile, CBS analyst Greg Anthony "provided the most insight" out of the studio team of himself and TNT NBA analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley. McIntyre: "I enjoyed the time he called out Kenny Smith for flip-flopping." Smith's observations were "mundane and obvious and he never got the back-and-forth magic going with Barkley that they have" on TNT's "Inside The NBA." Barkley also "wasn't nearly as effectively as effective as he is on TNT." Barkley either was "sternly told by the CBS suits to clean up his act, or he felt bad going after players/coaches," because he was "pretty light on the criticism" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 3/29).