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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

March 7, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Fox TV off to a mixed start

My favorite shot during the opening session of the Pac-12 basketball tournament was during the first half of the UCLA-USC game, with Michael Eaves and Ernie Kent on their set at the Staples Center. With a background of perhaps 1,500 seats in one particular look, maybe about 95 had people in them.

But that’s your Pac-12 basketball tournament, folks.

Fox TV had some swings and misses, as usual.

Kevin Calabro was, as always, terrific on play-by-play, and I thought Don MacLean, the league’s all-time leading scorer while at UCLA, was generally insightful.

Fox had live mikes on the pre-game instructions from the referees in the two games, and it was worthwhile. Randy McCall, talking to captains from UCLA and USC, told them, “We’re going to miss a couple; play through ’em.”

But there’s a limit to the gimmicks. Or there ought to be. Fox unveiled a dreadful innovation called the “Social Media Center” (shouldn’t every game have one of those?) run outside the Staples Center by Laura McKeeman. Her job was to encourage Twitter activity and report it. It consisted of people tweeting in provocative things like “Go Cougs,” and, from a fan who must not have been watching Oregon State’s defense this year, “Beavs need to keep playing hard-nosed D and team basketball.” She reported that one just as the Cougars were finishing a 36-16 run.

There was brief mention of UCLA’s recent run-in with the Sports Illustrated article detailing dysfunction in the program. But between games, there was a three-or-four-minute informercial, essentially, with UCLA coach Ben Howland telling us all the wondrous things about UCLA in a continuous stream of happy little thoughts. Is some actual journalism too much to ask?

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