The Challenges of Covering March Madness: Behind the Scenes with TNT Sports Crew

Get an exclusive look at the hustle and bustle of the TNT Sports crew as they cover the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Preparation Under Pressure

Imagine the pressure of having just 72 hours to become a subject matter expert on eight different basketball teams, each with its own roster of players and coaching staff. This was the reality for TNT Sports play-by-play man Brian Anderson, color analyst Jim Jackson, and sideline reporter Allie LaForce as they geared up for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in Charlotte. Spread across Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Ohio, respectively, the trio had to quickly pack their bags and head to North Carolina to cover the thrilling March Madness action.

The task was no walk in the park. With only a short window of time to prepare, Anderson dove headfirst into a day-long study session at his home office in Milwaukee. Memorizing key stats, player profiles, and team strategies required intense focus and dedication. Anderson recalled, "At that point, it’s literally like, ‘Everybody, don’t talk to me.’ I sat in my office at home with multiple screens watching video. I literally sat down at nine o’clock. I didn’t come out of there till 10 p.m., 10:30 p.m."

The Reader's Guide

A Game of Roulette

As the TNT crew navigated through the whirlwind of March Madness coverage, uncertainty loomed over which teams they would be covering and in which regional they would be stationed. Anderson humorously described the process as "like a big game of roulette," highlighting the unpredictable nature of the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

With years of experience under their belts, the crew found solace in their familiarity with powerhouse teams like Michigan State, UNC, Texas, and Tennessee. However, delving into the lesser-known programs required extra effort. Teams like Saint Peter’s and Wagner demanded meticulous research and preparation to ensure comprehensive coverage during the broadcasts.

"Some teams you’re not going to know," Jackson shared. "What I try to do is try to [watch] a late game, like their conference tournament game, and then a game during the season, just so you can get a sense and feel how they’ve grown from midseason to where they’re at."

Behind the Scenes

While fans marvel at the seamless commentary and analysis provided by the TNT Sports crew during March Madness games, the reality behind the scenes is one of hard work, dedication, and meticulous preparation. From long study sessions to color-coded notes, each member of the team brings their unique approach to covering the exhilarating tournament.

As Anderson, Jackson, and LaForce gear up for another action-packed day on-air, spare a thought for the hustle and bustle that goes on behind the cameras. The next time you tune into a March Madness broadcast, remember the countless hours of preparation and dedication that have gone into bringing you the best coverage possible.

Source: Sports Illustrated

Game Day: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

He quietly muttered names under his breath, glancing from the court to his notebook and to the court again, visualizing the broadcast during open practice and identifying uniform numbers as he went. "Nothing feels like Day 1," Anderson said later. "Because you don’t ever do games the way we do Day 1."

If Monday through Wednesday of NCAA Tournament week is a sprint, Thursday is a marathon.

The day included four games and roughly 10 hours on-air. Jackson jokes he has the easy job, popping into the broadcast as needed, picking his spots. Anderson, he says, has the stiffer task. "[Play-by-play announcers] set the table," Jackson said. "They set the tone. They navigate. They narrate. I’ve got it easy compared to play-by-play, no question. I’m trying to stay out of the way, man."

Well Traveled Broadcasters

By the time the crew sat down with a reporter on Friday, they'd all had a chance to exhale. Only four teams remained — UNC, Michigan State, Tennessee and Texas — and the crash courses of early in the week shifted to digging deeper into storylines surrounding the first-round winners.

The Longhorns ran through transition drills as Anderson and Jackson sat in the media seating opposite the benches, chatting with a Texas men’s basketball staffer. LaForce, meanwhile, scrolled through headlines from the Austin American-Statesman and Detroit News to keep up with any new information.

The rest of the afternoon included a revolving door of coaches and players filling in blanks and adding color to potential storylines. Texas’ Max Abmas slid over to the sideline, sat on the table and chatted with LaForce. A Longhorns assistant coach popped over to talk with Jackson. Eventually, UT head coach Rodney Terry joined all three broadcasters for seven minutes of discussion.

“It’s surviving and advancing for us,” Anderson said. “We can only go two or three layers deep [the first day], whereas now we can go 10 layers deep.”

Moments of Reflection

The quiet moments offer brief chances for reflection amid another March Madness that’s off and running.

Broadcasting has its quirks. Anderson said he’ll call somewhere around 125 games per year between his varying roles. Jackson is nearing 30 college basketball games just this winter. LaForce is around 50 games annually.

There’s a nomadic nature to this lifestyle. Hotels. Planes. All of it creates added logistics to studying and calling games, and living life somewhere in between it all.

LaForce pulled up her Amazon account to show the countless addresses she’s had items shipped to in recent years — a product of her own profession along with help from her husband, Joe Smith, a former big-league pitcher who spent parts of 16 years in MLB with nine teams.

“How many addresses is that, like 17?” she’s asked.

“Wayyyyy more,” LaForce said, grinning.

She then pulled up a video sent to her the day before of her 1-year-old, Jacob, bouncing around the living room in a diaper. “You’ll love this,” LaForce said. The flatscreen affixed to the wall was tuned to her interview with North Carolina center Armando Bacot. Jacob pointed to the television, recognizing his mom on the screen. He then turned toward the camera with a look of bewilderment when LaForce disappeared from view.

“He’s like, ‘Where the hell is mom?’” LaForce said through an endearing smile.

Mom, then, was in Charlotte. This past week she headed to Los Angeles for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Such is the annual tradition during the third month of the year. March Madness rolls on.

Hamza Ilyas

Hey, I'm Hamza Ilyas, Dubai's very own sports and entertainment guru. Started off at The Aquila School and kicked it at Ajman Academy too. Now, I'm all about bringing you the hottest takes and coolest news from the world of sports and entertainment. Buckle up, it's gonna be one heck of a ride. Connect With Me