John Clay: New NCAA TV deal means more games, less expertise

New TV Venture off to Lame start

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 16, 2011 

John Clay

In the past, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament was on the network of 60 Minutes, CSI and David Letterman.

Now it's on the network of something called Lizard Lick Towing.

When it comes to the Big Dance, it's a whole new world out there in television land, as became evident Sunday night when there was Charles Barkley, TNT's irreverent NBA studio analyst himself, on the set of CBS's NCAA Selection Show with basically nothing of interest to say.

That's right, Charles Barkley with nothing interesting to say. Talk about a high seed falling in the first round.

This was because Sir Charles didn't know anything about the subject matter at hand. He's a pro basketball guy, not a college basketball guy. He's certainly not a college guy. (More on that later.)

Then there was Kenny Smith, also on loan from TNT, also on the selection show, extolling the virtues of Xavier guard "Tu Holliday." It's Tu Holloway, by the way.

And Smith pronounced Holloway's school as "Egg-savier," a linguistic lapse that led Muskies Coach Chris Mack to tweet, "Hey ... Xavier is pronounced like you say the word xylophone."

You say xylophone, Kenny says Egg-ophone. You say you wish ESPN, easily the best network on college basketball, could broadcast the NCAA Tournament, the NCAA says it pocketed $10.8 billion over the next 14 years to let CBS share the rights with TBS, TNT and something called truTV, the network that lets Jesse Ventura have a show.

We've gone from "One Shining Moment" to many confusing DVR moments. TBS normally does baseball. TNT normally does the NBA. The obscure truTV used to be Court TV. Not a basketball court, either.

Additional networks mean additional talking heads. Marv Albert and Reggie Miller are on loan from TNT for a few games. Steve Kerr, who joined TNT just this year, will be the third wheel courtside with Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg for both the Final Four and the national championship game.

Ernie Johnson will try to get Smith and Barkley to improve off their tepid Sunday night performances. Neither knew the college game well enough to realize the Selection Committee had botched the process. It took Seth Davis to get the rock-throwing started.

Plus, CBS paled in comparison to ESPN's Bracketology show, where the splendid Jay Bilas questioned if some members of the committee knew the ball was round.

Ouch.

Meanwhile, as an Internet companion piece, CBSsports.com posted video of a Barkley interview in which, among other things, the Round Mound of Rebound was asked to discuss which mid-majors might make some bracket noise.

"Utah really got screwed when that kid got put off the team," Barkley said.

It was actually BYU that lost leading rebounder Brandon Davies to a violation of the school's honor code. But Charles never said he wanted to be the governor of Utah.

To top things off, Monday night on Letterman's Late Show, Barkley ripped the NCAA for making all kinds of money while not meeting its "moral obligation" to help players get college degrees.

Dave then asked the former Auburn star when he got his degree.

"You know," said Barkley after a long pause. "The truth of the matter is, Dave, I'm just loaded."

OK, so the NCAA Tournament is always loaded, and it's difficult to mess up. It's nice that every game will be on television, from opening tip to final buzzer. You might have to send a search party to find where some are shown, but they are out there in the cable wilderness, waiting to be discovered.

Even upstart truTV knows how to make a college basketball entrance. Doing the play-by-play on its two Wednesday games from Dayton is none other than the one and only Augustus Cornelius Johnson.

That's Gus Johnson to you and me. That promises to be some truly good television.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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