NEW YORK - Every year, CBS Sports holds a press conference on the Tuesday of Championship Week at which reporters can interview the network's executives and NCAA Tournament broadcasters.
This year was my third straight time covering the event. The previous two were held in an anonymous and relatively small conference room in CBS' corporate headquraters. This year's event took place in a plush meeting space at the upscale Parker Meridien hotel.
As much as anything, that was a sign of just how big this year's production is going to be. With CBS and Turner working together to broadcast this year's edition of March Madness, there are more games, broadcasters, analysts, sideline reporters and production workers than ever before. There's even a second studio operation in Atlanta to go with the usual one in New York.
We've all known for a while that Turner's involvement with the event meant the addition of such big names as Marv Albert, Charles Barkley and Craig Sager to go along with CBS' veterans. But it was still something to actually see Albert and Barkley in the room.
As someone who wasn't born yet when CBS bought the NCAA Tournament rights away from NBC in 1982, I must admit I am really looking forward to seeing Albert call college games. I know that many of you are excited to hear Sir Charles' take on March Madness as well.
I got to talk to a lot of the announcers who you'll hear from this month, including Albert, Sager and Jim Nantz. You can listen to all of the interviews in the audio player below.
There's also a long track with the formal presentation part of the morning. It includes remarks from CBS Sports president Sean McManus and Turner president of sales, distribution and sports David Levy, as well as Nantz, Barkley, Ernie Johnson and others.
Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite.
Jim Nantz on adding the Tuesday First Four doubleheader to his workload:
I'm not worried, but getting ready for what was the old first round, that now becomes the second round, those four games in one day, it's a Herculean effort of research if you really want to do the games the right way... I've always had some all-nighters getting ready for just Friday, and that preparation began on Monday.
Now on Monday, I go into practices at noon after calling three games over the weekend, plus being involved in the production and presentation of the Selection Show. Now I've got to do four more teams on Tuesday before I learn eight new teams on Friday. It's an 11-game stretch from Saturday until the following Sunday. I don't know how many people have done that before, but I don't think there have been many.
Marv Albert's memories of broadcasting the NCAA Tournament for NBC:
I had some great moments with Bucky Waters and Al McGuire, doing some major games. But the difference is, at that time, the elite teams would very rarely lose. I did one of the games in 1979 in Raleigh [at N.C. State's Reynolds Coliseum], which was called 'Black Sunday.' Both Duke and North Carolina were knocked off, by St. John's and Penn [respcetively]. That rarely happened.
Now, from the announcing point of view, you kind of root for the Cinderella-type upset, because it makes it more interesting.
[Tthat 1979 Penn team went on to the Final Four, of course, along with DePaul, Magic Johnson's Michigan State and Larry Bird's Indiana State. That was the first year that the Final Four became the kind of really big deal it is now.]
Gus Johnson on Penn State's chances to make the NCAA Tournament:
They reached .500 in the conference [in the regular season]. Usually a team that finishes .500 in the Big Ten has a good chance. If they go into the Big Ten Tournament and win a couple games, I think they're going to get in.
I think the committee is aware of who's on their team. Talor Battle has been a terrific player for four years at Penn State, and they haven't gotten in the NCAA Tournament since 2001.
I think if they keep handling their business, if they get in there and win a game or two [in Indianapolis], that it will be a lock. But I still feel they have a chance, a really legitimate chance, 50-50 I would say, to get in even if they don't win a game.
[Of course, the conversation took place before the Nittany Lions' first-round win over Minnesota, and tonight's big game against Wisconsin. If Penn State wins that, then things could get very interesting.]
Kevin Harlan on the Philadelphia-born Morris twins at Kansas, and their disciplinary problems this season:
I think they have [settled down]. I think they've got a coach [in Bill Self] who is like a perfect parent. He's stern enough to make sure that everything is correct, [but] understanding enough that these are two kids who are, like any kid, going through growing pains.
They are a long way from home, idolized on campus. I think they've got the right coach for those kids. I think their mother saw that and I know the two kids saw that.
So that's just a taste of things. You can hear more from those four below, as well as Greg Gumbel, Craig Sager, Tim Brando, David Aldridge and Seth Davis. There's also a separate interview with Sean McManus that the sports business types among you will like.