EAST MANATEE -- He's been a recognizable face and voice with the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament for a couple decades, so the Herald caught up with CBS Sports announcer Clark Kellogg to pick his brain about the upcoming March Madness that is about to engulf the national spotlight.
Kellogg was a star player at Ohio State University in the early 1980s and went on to play five season with the Indiana Pacers in the NBA. He was in Manatee County recently for the annual Archie Griffin Celebrity Golf Classic at The Concession Golf Club.
Here's what Kellogg had to say about the looming Big Dance, which will unveil its bracket on Selection Sunday in one week:
Q: What's it like for you to be at the center of the sports world during this time of year?
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CK: "I'm extremely grateful and this will be my 20th year with CBS covering the Final Four, whether I've been calling the championship game or a primary analyst in the studio. It's one of the great rides that anybody could have, so I'm pumped and excited. It never gets old and I'm looking very much forward to it."
Q: So who are some of the teams you're keeping your eye on leading into the tournament this year?
CK: "I always enjoy this
time of year, because I get to watch some of the teams that are from the lesser profile conferences. Just took a look at U-T-C, Tennessee-Chattanooga. Very impressed with that team. (Head coach) Matt McCall, former assistant here in Florida, doing a nice job. That team has 24 or 25 wins, I think, and athletic. That's a team to keep an eye on. I think North Florida, they had everybody back from a year ago and if they get there, they, obviously, probably, have to win their conference tournament. But that's a team, to me, that looks like it could surprise some people. On the higher end of the pyramid, I have most conviction about Kansas and Michigan State right now just based on how they're playing and they're balanced. They're teams that hurt you inside, they've got good perimeter players and they defend/rebound."
Q: On that note, what are the keys to a national championship caliber team?
CK: "One of the things that I think is fairly universal is you've got to have a team that has a fairly wide margin of error. Meaning you can win different ways. So you don't necessarily just have to be a 3-point shooting team or an inside-playing team. You've got to be able to do a little bit of both. And then I think the other thing is you've got to be pretty good defensively and you've got to be able to rebound competitively. And if you do those things, then you give yourself a chance even if your shots aren't falling and your offense is a little bit out of kilter."
Q: Who are your dark horses?
CK: "Vanderbilt was expected to do well and has struggled, but is now finding its rhythm it looks like. Cal, high expectations coming into the season with the freshman class they had and the seniors they had, upperclassmen they had returning, kind of stumbled and now seems to be moving in this direction. (And) is a team of this ilk. Providence, out of the Big East, two really good players in (Ben) Bentil and Kris Dunn that haven't played really well of late. They haven't had a consistent third scorer, although they have a couple guys capable. I think that's a team that with the right matchup could be really dangerous. Wisconsin, left for dead a month and a half ago, now on a roll and a tournament team. ... Iowa State, not very deep. Expected to challenge Kansas and Oklahoma for the Big 12. It did not happen. And yet, still have enough material to put together a run. Baylor, another team middle of the pack in the Big 12."
Q: Indiana is a team that's in the middle of the top 25 rankings, a bit behind where Michigan State is ranked, yet leads the Big Ten standings. What makes the Hoosiers tough to beat this season?
CK: "Their style is really ridiculous to be able to defend when they are making threes and spacing you out. And the big kid has played well for them, Thomas Bryant. ... They're hard to guard and they shoot and make threes. They play at a high tempo and that could be very beneficial in the tournament format."
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.