NBA Analysts Covering The NCAA Tournament is as Baffling as it is Counterproductive

CBS and Turner have the rights to the NCAA Tournament. From an overall perspective they have handled broadcasting March Madness with mixed results. The good: They can showcase every single game among their TNT, TBS, TruTV and CBS channels. The bad: They are heavily relying upon NBA analysts to give fans college basketball feedback.

This has been going on for a few years now. The normally endearing Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller, and others, invading our picture-boxes to tell us how great “name” player is from whatever school. Unfortunately for viewers, however, their analysis is usually nothing more than pointing out the one player they know, who usually leads that team in scoring, to say how awesome he is and how the “other guys” on the team need to help.

The basic idea of this concept, from the perspective of the people who own the broadcasting rights to the Dance, is that Charles and the rest of the NBA guys are names. So, via transitive property I suppose, they help keep the more casual fan engaged — which may very well be true.

Even so, this exists to the detriment of college basketball.

Just having the idea that college basketball needs people outside it to help carry it to success is rather counterproductive. It also keeps casual fans — those who have not followed the sport until March — from becoming educated on coaches, players, and even the general histories of certain programs.

It is not just the studio guys either. We have had play-by-play and color guys refuse to acknowledge obvious things. One of the more glaring and obvious examples of this was the Sunday crew’s refusal to acknowledge that Wichita State beat Kansas because it was better. Instead of that, viewers were forced to hear about the Shockers’ heart, desire, and ability to overcome — despite Kansas trotting out one of its less formidable rosters and Wichita State having holdovers from its 2013 Final Four squad.

Without knowing CBS and Turner’s true basis for going with the NBA analyst concept, it leaves us speculating. Do they think there are not enough college basketball personalities to help broadcast the tournament? Is it as simple as having names in studio and calling games? Could it be the fact that they don’t cover college basketball year-round the way ESPN or Fox Sports 1 do?

It could be a combination of all of those things plus a dash of other factors. Whatever the reason is, though, doesn’t make it all gravy.

The biggest problem is the clear slap in the face it is to viewers’ intelligence levels.

Small doses of NBA analysts covering the Big Dance would be fine, but when the consumer is subjected to them being their primary source for information, insight, and entertainment, a bitter taste is left in the mouths of those who would like to know more than a guy’s height and birthplace.

Don’t believe me? Here is an example:

I mean, I guess Cliff Alexander could have played better in that game? You know, if he were even dressed to play in it.

That’s a legitimate abomination to the senses. Like many others, I enjoy my fair share of Charles Barkley, but there’s no way a person who doesn’t even know who is playing the game — that he is also supposedly watching in real-time — should be allowed to talk about it on a platform as big as the NCAA tournament.

There’s also that time Reggie Miller called a player the reincarnation of LeBron James. Outside of the fact that James is not dead (so how exactly is he being reincarnated?), Miller’s comments referred to a player that might be a fringe NBA guy — might. That’s not even mentioning that people generally dislike Miller, even in strictly NBA roles.

Comments like that have made Doug Gottlieb a tournament darling from a broadcast perspective. Yes, Doug Gottlieb. While many people think Gottlieb is great in the role of calling games to begin with, many hate him because of his attitude. Yet, because of the NBA guys’ coverage, Gottlieb has become more than just tolerable; he’s become the voice of actual knowledge in this event — spooky, I know.

I could go on and on with examples of atrocities the NBA analysts have spewed from their food-holes on college basketball broadcasts. It would be redundant to keep spitting them out. We have all heard them at this point.

It really is a shame too. Given the vast amount of talent the realm of college basketball has between writers, on-air personalities, and former players, it probably would not be that hard to fill up the void of knowledge that comes from NBA guys taking over the NCAA tournament’s airwaves.

Even with some contractual issues that would come about with better known college basketball personalities not being under the CBS/Turner umbrella, they have nearly an entire year between each tournament to figure it out. Plus, even if they are so dead-set on hurling a certain type of TNT-ish personality out there, they could do something as simple as ask an underutilized, smart, and usually insightful Chris Webber to focus solely on college basketball all year.

Basically, it is unrealistic to ask TNT’s primary NBA guys (Barkley, Smith, Miller, etc.) to be up-to-date on all things college basketball when their actual job is to cover the NBA. That last part is important too. It is why they are so good at being NBA studio guys. They live the NBA game each night. The complete opposite holds true as to why their tournament coverage has been so thoroughly awful.

Do casual fans care? Probably not. I doubt they take to the mean streets of Twitter like myself to complain about such horrific coverage. College basketball’s hardcore fans — the ones that watch from the first game of the year until One Shining Moment is blaring from the PA speakers — happen to care, though. The funny thing here is that the casual fan would unlikely care if it were guys who actually knew what they were talking about instead of the NBA guys, anyway. Which begs the question: Why in the hell is this even a thing?

Laziness is probably the answer. CBS and Turner can just trot out some bodies they already have on contract instead of either developing some of the talent they have in their networks of channels, or — heaven forbid — signing away some talent that is underutilized at other places to help carry their coverage.

I’m looking in the mirror of my soul to only see a reflection of a battered, confused, and somewhat scared man. I’m screaming into the dark abyss with no one to hear me. Why confess this? “No one to hear me” is precisely the kind of platform I want for these NBA analysts who have once again have been given too much broadcast airtime by CBS and Turner during yet another NCAA Tournament.

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.