NEW YORK (AP) — Michigan State great Mateen Cleaves and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's son-in-law are among the commentators who will call the "homer" broadcasts during the Final Four.
Turner Sports and CBS are bringing back the team-centric alternative telecasts for the NCAA semifinals that debuted last season. Saturday's rematch between Kentucky and Wisconsin will feature some of the same announcers as 2014, including former Wildcats star Rex Chapman on the "Team Stream" for his alma mater on TNT, and ex-Badger Mike Kelley on truTV.
For the first game between the Blue Devils and Spartans, former Duke player Alaa Abdelnaby will serve as the analyst on TNT. The sideline reporter will be Chris Spatola, a one-time director of basketball operations for the Blue Devils who is married to Krzyzewski's youngest daughter. Both Abdelnaby, who played in three straight Final Fours from 1988-90, and Spatola currently work for CBS Sports Network.
Cleaves, who led Michigan State to coach Tom Izzo's only national championship in 2000, will be the color commentator for the Spartans broadcast on truTV. Cleaves has worked as a studio analyst for CBS and Turner during the tournament.
The main telecasts air on TBS with play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz and analysts Bill Raftery and Grant Hill, a former Duke star himself. CBS will show the national championship game Monday.
The so-called homer broadcasts debuted a year ago with not only the announcing crews but the graphics, camera angles and replays tailored to the specific school. They received a mostly positive response, with the biggest problem that some viewers didn't realize the team-specific coverage on TNT wasn't the main telecast. For last season's UConn-Florida game, nearly 32 percent of audience across the three channels watched the Gators broadcast on TNT.
Network executives have promised to make the distinctions clearer this time around.
Wayne Larrivee, who has called basketball games for the Big Ten Network, will again be the play-by-play announcer for the Wisconsin telecast. He and Kelley, who played in the 2000 Final Four, will be joined by reporter Phil Dawson, the host of the Badger Radio Network.
Longtime Lexington sportscaster Dave Baker, who was the Kentucky sideline reporter last year, moves into the play-by-play role. He and Chapman will team with Michael Eaves, an alum of the school and former Lexington sports anchor who now works for Al Jazeera America.
Cleaves will be alongside Turner Sports announcer Brian Anderson, who has previously called games for the Big Ten Network. Their reporter will be Michigan State grad Shireen Saski of CBS Sports Network, who has also worked for the Big Ten Network and Fox Sports Detroit.
Tom Werme, a veteran ACC broadcaster, will handle the play-by-play for the Duke "Team Stream."