What has been the biggest change you’ve seen unfold from when your first started calling games in the 90s to today? [Ed note: Nessler previously worked for CBS Sports from 1990-92 on college football, NFL, as well as men’s and women’s basketball, including the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship game.]
Probably not that much, other than my hair being a different color! I just remember the first day is so difficult for everybody—the crew, and everybody else—doing four games in a day is a lot. At the time CBS said to me, “You know what you should do? If your hotel is in close proximity, maybe after the first two games, go back, take a shower and change your shirt and tie and pretend it’s a different day.” I was telling Sean McManus that story yesterday and he goes, “How’d that work out for you?” I said, “Didn’t mean a damn thing, actually.” It’s still really taxing on day one no matter what you do!
I haven’t done the tournament in 26 years but I’ve probably done a thousand basketball games between then and now. But I think March Madness is almost like a three-week Super Bowl.
Do you have a favorite team? Do you think there’s one team in the country that’s a clear-cut favorite?
I think this is the craziest year I can remember! I’ve done just about every conference, from PAC 12, Big 10, ACC, SEC, AAC. I’m hoping I get one of those teams, so that first day might be a little bit easier study-wise.
Do you have a sleeper pick?
Wichita State. But I don’t think there’s a dominant team at all, I really don’t. I think a nine seed could win the championship. You look at the blue blood teams and can say “Okay, they’re still good,” but Michigan State went like 14 games in a row and then Michigan beat them. I did Kansas earlier this year—they got beat at home by Oklahoma State, and then they got beat by Oklahoma State again! They won their fourteenth straight Big 12 title but they got beat by Oklahoma State twice. I like Mike Boynton, I used to do his games when he was a player at South Carolina. So it’s just crazy. I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason at all.
Do you have a favorite player that you’re hoping to call?
I haven’t seen Tre Young in person, and I’d like to. I love shooters, man. When it’s going in, it makes the broadcast better.
Do you think the game is changing? Are there more players modeled after Steph Curry coming out of the college game?
Yes. And there you go—that’s something that’s changed over the years. Great shooters are hard to find! I did a game at Kentucky when Jodie Meeks scored 54 points [a Kentucky school record], and it was awesome! Every shot that went up, went in. And I was like, “This is so cool, I love it!” I also called the third biggest comeback. I did the Kentucky-LSU game on Fat Tuesday at LSU in 1994, it was Dale Brown and Rick Pitino. Kentucky was down 31 with ten and half minutes to go, and they came back and won. It was nuts! That was so much fun because they started raining threes.
Social media has changed things as well. You can watch a game basically anywhere now! When you’re not working and you’re enjoying a game, what’s your MO? Are you set up in the living room in your comfy chair? Or are you soaking in some rays with your iPad by your side?
I shouldn’t say this, but I’m usually at my favorite dive bar hanging out with my buddies smoking a cigar!
Brad Nessler is a college football and college basketball play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports. In May 2016, Nessler was named the lead play-by-play announcer for the SEC ON CBS beginning with the 2017 season. He has also previously called men’s and women’s basketball for CBS Sports, including the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship game, and served as an announcer for ESPN and ABC’s coverage of the National Basketball Association.