Big 12 Beat: Good Oklahoma-Nebraska Game Marred By Bad ESPN Broadcast

Oliver VanDervoortCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2009

The Big 12 needs to get on the horn and make sure ESPN never does what it did to the Nebraska-Oklahoma basketball game again.  They probably won't, but they should.

The fact that most thought the game would be a blowout might have been the contributing factor, but whatever the reason, ESPNU took a game between two rivals embroiled in a major conference battle and made it look like a high school A/V club broadcast.

First of all, I understand what ESPN was trying to do.  They allowed budding broadcast journalism students to get a sample of what the big leagues was like.  They allowed OU students to participate in every aspect of the broadcast, from camera work to scorekeeping, even allowing students to do the sideline and play by play reporting at times. 

On its face it was heartwarming; it was a classy move by a network devoted to college sports, and college students and athletes.

Here's the problem.  Way back in the day, I studied broadcast journalism.  I worked on our campus television station as a crew member for our student news program.  We were very good for our class, that being student journalists.  We even won some awards.

However, NBC never came calling, asking if we wanted to help cover the nightly news.  I'm glad they didn't.  We weren't ready to play in the big leagues, and neither were the kids at OU.

The fact that the kids simply weren't ready was overshadowed by the fact that the way ESPNU covered the kids, which took away from the coverage of the game.  At several times, the camera actually cut away from action on the floor so we could see a student staring into a screen we could not see, doing virtually nothing.  What great drama!

ESPNU apparently found it more important to keep track of the girl manning the camera than cover the fact that Blake Griffin singlehandedly carried OU to that victory.  When Griffin was struggling on offense (at one time 3-8 from the field), Nebraska was able to build a good lead and held onto a six-point lead at the half.

When Griffin finds his rhythm, like he did in the second half (finishing with 27 points and 18 rebounds), he is nearly unstoppable, especially by a team with no real big man or inside presence.

Ryan Anderson tried his best to be Nebraska's Blake Griffin, coming out red hot in the first half, including hitting four of his first six three-point shots, and tallied 14 points by halftime.  Unfortunately for the Huskers, Anderson is no Blake Griffin, and he tailed off badly in the second half, missing his final six three-point attempts and scoring just five points down the stretch.

For most of the night, the game was much closer than the final 11-point margin would indicate. Most of that lead was augmented over the final two minutes of the game, when Oklahoma had assured themselves a win, but not a comfortable one, and Nebraska began fouling.

It was a very good game, a basketball game worth watching during a night with several that were equally gripping; but ESPNU did themselves, the teams playing, and their fans a disservice by going out of their way to cover the wrong story altogether.