The NBA lockout rolls on, and it appears that ESPN is preparing for an ice cold winter on the pro hoops circuit. Today the media machine released its announcing lineup for the upcoming college basketball season, and lo and behold, a trio of NBA vocal men just happened to make the cut: Mike Breen, Mike Tirico and Jeff Van Gundy.
By all accounts, TBS's attempt at interspersing NBA talking heads Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith into March Madness last year was a colossal failure. Come to think of it, that description might even be on the favorable side. But the idea failed because the two guys simply didn't have a clue who or what they were talking about in situations where they absolutely needed to come across as credible. Often times they weren't even in the ballpark. Television viewers, on the whole, are smart enough to see right through most of the fabricated "expert analysis" out there.
With that said, moving Breen, Tirico and Van Gundy over to the college level is a logical move for the network. While it might be a bit of a shame for the aspiring analysts out there that are now getting knocked back down a peg solely for guys who cover a different league, all three of the so-called newcomers are enjoyable listens.
Breen's signature phrases and sheer excitement level have always made him feel like a college announcer in spirit. Tirico, even though he draws the ire of some, is a consummate pro when the camera is rolling, and helps foster a nice flow to the broadcast. And Van Gundy is one of those love/hate types, but is about as honest and knowledgeable as color men come, and it's hard to accuse him of ever truly hampering a broadcast.
ESPN obviously wants to make use of its announcing talent at a time like this, and so this is a smart, albeit predictable, response to the NBA's inability to get things going. We'll be interested to hear Breen's 2011-12 debut on November 11th as the Duke Blue Devils open up their non-conference schedule against Belmont.