Jim Williams: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery set to call East regional at Verizon Center

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The 2013 NCAA tournament's East regional will take place Thursday night at Verizon Center. Marquette will face Miami in the first game, and the nightcap will feature Syracuse taking on Indiana.

The games will air nationally on CBS. To say the broadcast crew of Verne Lundquist and analyst Bill Raftery has NCAA tournament experience would be an understatement. Between the two, they have called 537 tournament games in a combined 60 years.

For Lundquist, this is his 29th NCAA tournament, while Raftery is logging his 31st year calling the action. CBS has been wise to pair these two together for 14 glorious years.

When the "Sunshine Boys" get together, you don't just get a broadcast. You get an entertaining history lesson along with some great stories that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. They spoke Wednesday as they were getting ready for Thursday night's action in the District.

What makes the NCAA tournament so entertaining?

Lundquist » "This is a three-week celebration of what is really great about college athletics. You have the underdogs like George Mason who many did not think should be in the tournament, and then they go to the Final Four. There was VCU going from the First Four to the Final Four, and now we have a very talented Florida Gulf Coast team that has everyone in the country talking. It's the element of surprise that draws the casual and the hard-core fan to fill out their bracket and follow this tournament."

What has changed most in the tournament over the years?

Raftery » "The quality of play between the so-called power six conferences and the rest of the basketball world has gotten much, much closer. Teams like Gonzaga, Butler and VCU are no longer Cinderella teams. They have become tournament regulars. This year you have the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West getting more teams into the tournament than the ACC and the SEC. We are seeing new up-and-coming programs that are focusing resources on college basketball starting to level the playing field. We know that the top programs like Duke, Syracuse, Indiana, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina and [other] usual suspects will be there, but now they will have new challengers, and that is good for everyone."

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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Jim Williams

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The Washington Examiner