Biegun: Putin may be on his last legs | Opinion

Final Four TV coverage includes team-specific broadcasts

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Tom Izzo answers questions during Thursday's press conference.

Fans can be a sensitive bunch, especially when their team is playing on national TV.

In any Duke-Michigan State matchup, like we'll see Saturday night, there'd be a bunch of Duke fans who believe the announcers are rooting for Michigan State, and MSU fans who feel the opposite.

If you're in that camp, then you'll be happy to know, you'll have other options for the NCAA Tournament's Final Four.

The NCAA is using "Team Stream" for its Final Four matchups, meaning if you're a Spartans fan and you want a Spartans slant during the telecast, all you have to do is flip the channel. The semifinals will air on TBS, while the "Team Stream" broadcasts will air on TNT and TruTV.

For Saturday night's Duke-Michigan State game, the "Team Stream" will start at 6 p.m. on TruTV and feature Big Ten veteran Brian Anderson on the call, Spartans legend Mateen Cleaves as the analyst, and Fox Sports Detroit and MSU alum Shireen Saski filing the reports from courtside.

There will be a separate crew calling the game for Duke's "Team Stream" on TNT, while Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill will call the Final Four games on TBS and the championship on CBS.

It's an innovative approach to broadcasting, sponsored by Bleacher Report.

It also can be confusing, should an MSU fan end up on the Duke stream or vice versa. That's why Turner Sports has plans in place to make sure fans know where they need to go to watch their desired broadcast of the game.

"There'll be a much larger promotional push on air and online to make sure there's no confusion with what you're watching," said Craig Barry, senior vice president of production and executive creative director for Turner Sports.

On air, in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, there will be a graphic telling the viewer what he or she is watching, and out of every break it will flip to tell the viewer where he or she should go to watch their desired broadcast.

The championship game Monday night will feature just the traditional broadcast on CBS.

"Team Stream" is only doable because of the firm partnership between Turner Sports and CBS Sports, which together won the rights to the NCAA Tournament starting in 2011. That deal allowed, most importantly, for every NCAA Tournament game to air on live TV for the first time in the NCAA Tournament's history, but also for periphery coverage like "Team Stream." That deal also calls for TBS and CBS to alternate broadcasting the regional finals, Final Four and championship game, starting next year, when all three rounds will be on TBS for the first time. The final has been on CBS every year since 1982.

"The partnership is so strong, it's been good from the start," said Nantz, who started calling the Final Four in 1991. "We are in this together.

"I can't imagine anything working more seamlessly than it has to this point."

Because of the partnership, it has allowed not just for more coverage of "March Madness," but also more production value. As Barry put it, "we're better together," and both Turner Sports and CBS understand each other's strengths and weaknesses.

One of the production upgrades during the Final Four and championship game will be the new "rail cam," a robotic camera that will be just above court level and can move along the sidelines at speeds up to 25 mph. It's designed to give viewers a real feel for the speed of the game.

The Big Network is getting in on the action for the Final Four, too, given the conference can claim half the field, MSU and Wisconsin.

On Friday, the MSU and Wisconsin press conferences will air live on BTN, starting at 11 a.m., with reports from each team's practice. At 10 p.m., the BTN studio team of Dave Revsine, Stephen Bardo and Jim Jackson will provide analysis. Saturday, live coverage from Indianapolis starts at 2:30 p.m. -- after Michigan's spring game -- and continues with a 5 p.m. tip-off show. If either Wisconsin or MSU make the championship game, additional coverage plans will be unveiled.

There will be a lot of coverage and a lot of analysis from the Final Four, but don't expect to hear much about one issue: the Indiana religious-freedom bill that has caused an uproar, and has drawn much criticism from throughout the sports world. Turner Sports and CBS earlier this week both issued statements.

CBS: "We believe the recent legislation passed by the state of Indiana has the serious potential to be discriminatory. As the final games of the Tournament are broadcast in the coming days, CBS stands for inclusion and against discrimination of any kind."

Turner Sports: "Turner Broadcasting supports inclusion, fair treatment and respect for everyone."

Nantz, Raftery and Hill did not address the issue, and aren't expected to address it on the broadcasts.

Final Four TV schedule

Duke vs. Michigan State, 6:09 p.m. Saturday

TBS: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill

TNT (Duke): Tom Werme, Alaa Abdelnaby, Chris Spatola

TruTV (MSU): Brian Anderson, Mateen Cleaves, Shireen Saski

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, 8:49 p.m. Saturday

TBS: Nantz, Raftery, Hill

TNT (Kentucky): Dave Baker, Rex Chapman, Michael Eaves

TruTV (Wisconsin): Wayne Larrivee, Mike Kelley, Phil Dawson

Championship game, 9 p.m. Monday

CBS: Nantz, Raftery, Hill