|(Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)|
All in all, I'm not that surprised that Albert is deciding to step away from the Tournament. After all while he hasn't regularly covered the college game in many years, and has lost a little bit off his fastball, he's still the greatest basketball announcer ever and has done good work every single year. Why it doesn't surprise me is that he is 74 years old and the tournament is a toll on almost any announcer with doing six games over three days.
In fact, he confirmed as much:
My voice the past couple of years, it actually took me out of doing NBA games for several weeks. I felt it was the wiser move to go primarily NBA at this stage.This announcement gives us an opportunity to note how the CBS/Turner partnership works when it comes to their announcing assignments. CBS produces six of the opening week assignments while Turner produces two of them, meaning that six of the announcing teams are from CBS and the other two are from Turner. CBS then has three of the regionals while Turner has the remaining one. For what it's worth, the Albert-Len Elmore-Chris Webber team and the Brian Anderson-Steve Smith team were the two Turner crews, working the games in Omaha and Pittsburgh respectively.
So as Albert is stepping away from March Madness, that means that there will be a chance with Turner's lead crew and the one that will work a regional. Barring something really shocking, Kevin Harlan should be the one that replaces Albert. Considering that Harlan already works a regional and is widely thought of as Harlan's heir apparent on the NBA on TNT, it makes sense.
That means there will be a chain reaction as an announcer will be bumped up to a regional. The only real candidates to be bumped up would be Ian Eagle and the aforementioned Anderson but since that said announcer will be on a CBS produced slot, I would presume that Eagle would get that spot.
And then this means that a new announcer will be joining the mix to a CBS crew but in the end, I would be highly surprised if that new voice will not be Carter Blackburn. Blackburn has worked some CBS regular season games the last two seasons and I'm willing to bet that to help lure him back to CBS and CBSSN from ESPN, they were going to get him on the tournament sooner rather than later.
So make sure you write this down (in the off chance that I get this completely wrong) but I think that the eight play-by-play guys on this year's NCAA Tournament will be: Jim Nantz, Harlan, Verne Lundquist, Eagle, Anderson, Spero Dedes, Andrew Catalon and Blackburn.
As for which analysts these guys will be working with, that's a bit of a wild card. If we were to make a presumption that the same analysts will return from last year, here is how I think the broadcast teams will shake out as (with some notable changes):
1. Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson
2. Harlan, Reggie Miller, Webber, Craig Sager
3. Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce
4. Eagle, Dan Bonner, Len Elmore, Lewis Johnson
5. Anderson, Steve Smith, Dana Jacobson
6. Blackburn, Doug Gottlieb, Evan Washburn
7. Dedes, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio
8. Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl
As you can see, the biggest change I have is Turner putting their two top analysts, Miller and Webber, on the same crew with Harlan while Bonner and Elmore will team up with Eagle for an all-CBS team. Of course, I'd love to see Miller dumped altogether but I just don't see that happening. Also, I have Blackburn filling the Eagle void with Gottlieb.