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Masters of the Mic: College Basketball

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Masters of the Mic
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I watch a lot of college basketball. And, like you, I have a good idea of what I want -- and don't want -- in a college basketball broadcaster.

What I want is pretty simple: someone who can tell me things I don't already know about the game I'm watching; someone who can tell me what to look for before it happens; someone who's got a sense of humor (but not necessarily a sense of slapstick).

What I don't want is also pretty clear. I don't want Screamers, Homers, Simpletons, Apologists or Bumbling Ex-Jocks. (They're capitalized because they represent a distinct type of broadcaster whom we all know -- and hate.)

So without further ado, here are the broadcasters I do like:


In my experience, you're better off not noticing this guy. Here are the ones I like:

1. Dan Shulman: Solid, rarely ever has an off night. Gets "combat" bonus for working with Dick Vitale.

2. Mike Patrick: Quite simply the voice I associate most with the ACC.

3. Jim Nantz: Puts in the time on off days at the NCAA tournament by interviewing players -- just like any other working-stiff journalist. The preparation shows.


Rick Majerus instantly joins this list next fall:

1. Jay Bilas: Nobody tells you more about the game that you didn't know beforehand.

2. Billy Packer: He may be aggravating, sexist and an ACC homer, but his eye for hoops nuance is the real thing.

3. Bill Raftery: The catchphrase master never lets his shtick become bigger than the game.

4. Len Elmore: Well respected and downright elegant in his delivery, Elmore puts sports in perspective and refuses to feed the hype machine.

5. Doug Gottlieb: While other analysts say what a "great job" every coach is doing, Gottlieb brings a player's perspective and gives it to you straight.

HONORABLE MENTION: Steve Lavin, Fran Fraschilla, Larry Conley, Jon Sundvold.


Is there any contest here? It's Raftery in a rout. This is the man, after all, who has given us:

1. "ONIONS!" Loosely translated as "showing some gumption by hitting a big shot."

2. "Pittsburgh in a ... MANTOMAN!" I'm always depressed when Syracuse fails to win the tip in a Raft-broadcast game.

3. "The KISS!" Do you think Raft ever called his daughter's high school prom dates?

4. "SEND IT IN, Jerome!" Brief, effective, yet still all about the player.


1. Majerus: Can't wait to hear him on ESPN next season -- and hopefully not just in the studio.

2. Tom Brennan: Hilarious Vermont coach already has hugely popular radio show.

3. John Chaney: Just to see if he could do it without emitting a single !@#$%.

4: Johnny Miller: Just to hear somebody (anybody) not spend half his time kissing the posteriors of coaches.

5. Phil Martelli: A very funny guy who already does the TV thing well.

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Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl covers college basketball for the magazine and SI.com.