BY JORDAN CRAVENS
The reason fans tune in to watch the No.1-ranked Baylor women’s basketball team is to see Brittney Griner, the Bears’ 6-foot 8-inch post player who has changed the face of the game. ESPNU commentators for the game, Bob Picozzi, play-by-play, and Brooke Weisbrod, color analyst, gave viewers what they wanted by talking in-depth about Griner’s ability to be a “game changer.”
The pair kept fans updated on Griner’s chase for a shot-blocking record, talked about how Baylor needed to be more involved in the offense, and improvements she has made from last season. At one point, while Griner was shooting a free throw, Weisbrod explained how it is a challenge for Griner to shoot a women’s basketball because of the size of her hands. “That looks like me trying to hold on to a Nerf ball and trying to shoot a free throw,” Weisbrod said.
While the commentators focused on Griner, they also highlighted the guard and forward play of Baylor and keyed in on St. John’s top players.One strength of the broadcast was the pair’s ability to be critical of both teams’ play. Sometimes, commentators shy away from criticizing a team, but, in my opinion, giving the student-athletes both praise and criticism is their job. “That wasn’t exactly the most successful 2-on-1 we’ve ever seen from Baylor, was it,” Picozzi asked. “No, it wasn’t,” Weisbrod replied.
Picozzi also was not afraid to say when players shot air balls, or made poor choices on the court. “Not very good shot clock awareness there for the Red Storm,” he commented.
During the first half, unranked St. John’s was the aggressor and Weisbrod was quick to point this out. “St. John’s is more focused than Baylor today. I see a look of daze on their faces (Baylor),” she said.
One critique I had of Picozzi was his lack of excitement. His voice remained monotone for much of the game. Given St. John’s was halfway to pulling off a major upset of the nation’s No.1 team, his voice and comments should have reflected this.
After St. John’s hit a three and then tallied an easy lay up, Picozzi said, in a flat voice, “That’s a momentum changer.”
To have an unranked team like St. John’s give Baylor all it could handle, Picozzi should have played his commentary to the potential upset. A St. John’s player suffered a serious injury in the second half, and I thought both commentators handled the situation appropriately. As much as they would have liked to speculate about the injury, the broadcast team refrained. Instead, they tried to establish where the injury happened in the preceding play. They also adjusted the tone of their voices out of respect for the injured player.