CONWAY, S.C. — Deb Antonelli has been analyzing men's and women's basketball games for years. Now she'll get a chance to bring her knowledge to a bigger audience as the first woman to work a men's NCAA Tournament game as an analyst in over two decades.
"This is one of the greatest sporting events, it's like the Super Bowl, that's what's exciting about it," Antonelli said before broadcasting a women's ACC Tournament game over the weekend. "I think I'm looking at it as another game with more eyes on it."
Antonelli has been broadcasting games for both genders since the early 1990s, when she got her start with the Missouri Valley Conference. Besides doing hundreds of women's games each year, she has worked the men's ACC Tournament for the past six seasons as either a reporter or studio analyst.
"If you watch a men's game and you hear a women's voice, you listen a little closer to see if they know what they are doing," Antonelli said. "It always feels like there's a constant need to prove you know the game. I'm not going to try and do any of that."
Antonelli, who worked as a sideline reporter for the men's NCAA Tournament in 2000, follows Ann Meyers Drysdale, who broadcast tournament games in 1995.
"It's been a while since a woman has called the tournament, we're not breaking the ground and we weren't trying to do that," said Harold Bryant, CBS Sports' executive producer and senior vice-president for production. "It was because of her analytical work, we try to work in people that are the best ones out there. It was totally because of that."
Antonelli is honoured to follow Meyers Drysdale, albeit many years later.
"I have the utmost respect for Ann and to be mentioned in the same conversation with her is great," Antonelli said.
She will be partnered with Carter Blackburn and Mike Gminski, both of whom she has worked with many times.
"Kudos to CBS for giving her the opportunity," said longtime broadcast partner Beth Mowins, who in 2015 became just the second female play-by-play announcer ever for an NFL game. "There's nobody more prepared or (who) does more homework on teams. The biggest challenge she'll have is using the word 'dunk' more."
The veteran analyst still plans on working the women's tournament at a regional and Final Four.
"I want to thank ESPN for being so accommodating to let me work the men's tournament," she said. "When CBS first asked me I called ESPN and see if they would let me have the opportunity. They couldn't have been more helpful and friendly to give me the chance."
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Doug Feinberg, The Associated Press