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1. Again, handling the "real" call =/= handling an international call. At the very least, if he can't handle more than one out of four games in the second round, it's almost not even worth it even for him.

2. They would have retained Doug Gottlieb instead of ever losing him to begin with. Remember, a big reason he left for CBS was to work the tournament.

3. Pasch and Walton are their #1 Pac-12 team... which mostly means a bunch of late nights on ESPN2. ESPN doesn't show very many Pac-12 games and don't treat them very well when they do, which is why Pasch and Walton come off as more of a gimmick known for Walton's... experiences than anything else. (I suspect if the Pac-12 were higher in ESPN's pecking order, they would probably tell him to knock it off at least a little.) You named six conferences and I made them my #6 team, #5 among non-speculative teams, so I'm not even sure what the problem is (though I'm not sure the American is strong enough to be on that list).

1 week, 2 days ago on


When has Mike Tirico done studio work? I would expect John Saunders to be the other studio guy. Despite what you say about Bill's past, putting Pasch and Walton on a Sweet 16/Elite 8 team feels like wishful thinking; that feels like a rather gimmicky team that has back-of-the-pack written all over it. I think ESPN has made clear in recent years that, if Nessler and Dykes isn't necessarily their #2 team, they're certainly their top "respectable" team.

One thing to keep in mind about what ESPN would have done with the tournament is that it would have very much shaken up the personnel moves of the last few years. In particular, there would have been rioting in the streets if they hadn't picked up Gus Johnson when his contract expired. That this seems hard to believe now and one needs to be reminded of this is a testament to how much Fox has screwed up Gus's career, but this is something that would have been hard to avoid without the tournament. I think Gus would have had more room to rise at ESPN than anywhere else, in part because they don't really have one #1 guy; Mike Tirico, Dan Shulman, and until recently Brent Musberger all have claims to the spot. It would be logical for him to call college football, but I wouldn't put it past ESPN to install him on Monday Night Football, in a more positive version of Dennis Miller/Tony Kornheiser syndrome. (Does that mean Tirico ends up replacing Musberger on Saturday Night Football? Maybe, maybe not.) I also think Doug Gottlieb doesn't leave ESPN for CBS if it's ESPN that has the tournament, and I'm not entirely sure Bill Raftery leaves ESPN either, but I'm not convinced he doesn't because even without Gus FS1 would still exist and would still need winter programming. (Not having Gus might in fact make them want to pursue Raft even more.)

Studio teams:

Main: John Saunders, Jay Williams, Whoever Replaces Digger Phelps (Jalen Rose on Selection Sunday and the second weekend; possibly Bill Simmons for Elite 8 Sunday only)

Secondary, first weekend: Rece Davis, Seth Greenberg, Jalen Rose (or Joe Lunardi if Rose wants to do his own thing with his buddy Simmons)

Secondary, second weekend: Rece Davis, Len Elmore, Fran Fraschilla

Why Bill Simmons on the Sunday of the second weekend? Because I'm a little surprised to see you say ESPN would leave ABC behind entirely after the first weekend in favor of ESPN2 - I think so long as ESPN has to put some games on ABC, they continue to do so at least through the second weekend (especially with the need to make room for the Women's Sweet 16 and other events over the weekend) - and as such (and without 60 Minutes limiting their options) I have them going with the following schedule for the second Sunday:

1 PM ET: NBA game

4 PM ET: Elite 8 game 3

6:30 PM ET: Elite 8 game 4

9 PM ET: Shortened ABC primetime

Sweet 16/Elite 8 teams:

Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Shannon Spake

Brad Nessler, Dan Dakich, Allison Williams

Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas, Jeannine Edwards

Gus Johnson, Doug Gottlieb, Andy Katz (first weekend), Holly Rowe (second weekend)

You make a good point about Dick Vitale only calling one game at a time during the ACC Tournament, but that's nothing compared to March Madness, and I prefer to keep regular season teams together whenever possible. I think Shulman, Vitale, and Bilas would call the Final Four (ESPN would be more willing to put in a three-man booth when they have the "real" broadcast), if the NCAA lets ESPN put it on the cable network (because I think ESPN might shy away from putting Vitale on ABC). Even if they do, I think ESPN would want to put Brent Musberger back on the event with which he was synonymous in the 80s at least to start. Back then, his partner was Bob Knight, who I think ESPN might have seen as a natural successor to Billy Packer; they would have worked a three-man booth for the Final Four with Bilas.

First Weekend Only teams:

Brent Musberger, Fran Fraschilla, Holly Rowe

Dave Pasch, Bill Walton, Doris Burke

Mike Tirico, Len Elmore, Heather Cox

Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Lisa Salters

Another thing to keep in mind if ESPN had the tournament: they would have had to air the tournament, the NIT, AND the Women's Tournament the first weekend. I wouldn't be surprised if ESPN was behind the push to dump the NIT and expand the NCAAs to 96 teams to clear up space on the schedule as well as free up announcing teams. (Just the Women's Tournament is enough to make ESPN want to schedule the first weekend's Nationwide Series race at the relatively ungodly time of 11 AM ET and either move the Wrestling Championships away from that weekend or relegate it to ESPNU at the expense of Women's Tournament bonus coverage and NIT action.) As is I think they dip into the NBA well to find broadcast teams for all of them, hence Breen and Van Gundy. I'm not worried about Burke being needed to work the Women's Tournament (doesn't she usually skip the first weekend?), but while I don't like relegating her to sideline duty, ESPN has only four sideline reporters working college hoops all season (or at least that's all I found in their press releases), and Katz and the NBA people only bring that number up to seven. I kind of need her working the sidelines.

Without needing to get out of the way of 60 Minutes, I think the selection show moves to 7 ET, giving the committee more time to react to the late championship games, though I don't know whether it'd be on ABC (where America's Funniest Home Videos seems pretty fungible) or ESPN (which I don't know what they'd be doing in the time slot if it were on ABC). For the "second" round, I think ESPN might have settled on a schedule similar to what CBS and Turner did, with ESPN having TruTV's schedule (with SportsCenter in-between sessions and College GameDay before each session), ESPN2 having TNT's schedule, and ESPNU having TBS's schedule - though that was when the First Take re-air started at noon, before they moved Numbers Never Lie there. I'd probably keep the schedule that way and move SportsNation to 1. The "third" round would go something like this:

11:30 AM ET, ESPN2: Women's Game 1

Noon ET, ABC: Men's Site 1 Game 1

2 PM ET, ESPN: Men's Site 3 Game 1

2 PM ET, ESPN2: Women's Game 2

2:30 PM ET, ABC: Men's Site 1 Game 2

4:30 PM ET, ESPN: Men's Site 3 Game 2

4:30 PM ET, ESPN2: Men's Site 4 Game 1

5 PM ET, ABC: Men's Site 2 Game 1

6:30 PM ET, ESPN: Men's Site 4 Game 2

7 PM ET, ESPN2: Women's Game 3

7:30 PM ET, ABC: Men's Site 2 Game 2

9:30 PM ET, ESPN: Women's Game 4

10 PM ET, ABC: Miscellaneous programming

1 week, 3 days ago on


The part ESPN should most take note of: even the South, the heart of NASCAR country and the place where NHL teams move from a top-ten market to a place that makes Green Bay look big but happens to be Canadian, thinks the NHL should be the fourth major sport.

1 month ago on ESPN asks fans if the NHL is still one of the four major pro sports


Ah cricket, the sport absolutely no one cares about outside the Commonwealth nations. There is a world outside the English-speaking world, you know. I'd have some combination of soccer, basketball, rugby, tennis, golf, and baseball or even lump baseball and cricket into a single sport.

1 month ago on ESPN asks fans if the NHL is still one of the four major pro sports


Right, because NBA ratings are so horrible. Oh wait...

1 month ago on ESPN asks fans if the NHL is still one of the four major pro sports