Jim Williams: CBS revisits 75 years of NCAA tournament

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The D.C. area is home to some of the most passionate college basketball fans in the country. This weekend they may want to reserve some time for a new series dedicated to the sport.

CBS will debut "CBS Presents 75 Years of March Madness" on Saturday with its first two installments. The network will start with "75 Years: Behind the Mic" at 2 p.m., followed by "75 Years: A Coach's Perspective" at 3 p.m. If you miss the episodes, they will be run again multiple times on CBS Sports Network.

There are few personalities who embody college basketball more than Bill Raftery. He is in his 28th year as part of the NCAA tournament broadcast team on CBS, and his relationship with ESPN goes back to the start of the network in 1979. He spoke recently about what makes March Madness so special.

Was TV the key in making the NCAA tournament a success?

Raftery » "Absolutely. First, you had NBC's coverage of the 1979 final with Michigan State and Magic Johnson taking on Indiana State with Larry Bird. Then in 1982, CBS took over, and they knew that it was the early-round games where the upsets were happening that developed the storylines."

What are some of your favorite memories of March Madness?

Raftery » "The best part of March Madness is the little guy taking out the favorite. I loved covering the 2006 run of George Mason as they knocked off Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn en route to the Final Four. Watching Jimmy Valvano running around looking for someone to hug after his North Carolina State team upset Houston in the 1983 final, those are just a few examples of the great stories that make March Madness special."

What do you think of the seven Catholic schools leaving the Big East?

Raftery » "The Big East had a great run. Syracuse, Connecticut, Georgetown and Villanova all winning national championships and year after year always putting teams in the Final Four. It is sad to see things change, but such is the case of college sports these days. I don't know what the Catholic Seven will do once they leave the Big East, but I expect they will stay together and do fine. I also wish the best to commissioner Mike Aresco as he works to keep things going."

Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.

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