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30 years of March Madness for Jim Nantz

The CBS-TV sports anchors team of Mike Francesa,

The CBS-TV sports anchors team of Mike Francesa, left, Jim Nantz, center, and Billy Packer join the rest of the sports-viewing nation on March 18, 1991 as they watch action during the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tournament from their New York studios. Credit: AP

Jim Nantz worked the room last week at CBS/Turner's pre-NCAA Tournament breakfast like the elder statesman he is. But as he enters his 30th NCAA Tournament at CBS and 25th as its lead play-by-play man, he marveled at the passage of time.

"The numbers are a bit staggering for me," he said. "I can't believe that the orbit's been spinning that fast. I walked into this room 29 winters ago and in that room were men like Billy Packer and Brent Musburger and Al McGuire and Dick Stockton. It was a legendary roll call of announcers, and I was being asked to be one of them.

"And believe me, I didn't feel like I belonged, much less had any idea one day I would be still here and in my heart representing them in many ways. They were part of building this brand. They were part of the foundation."

Nantz, 55, first called a Final Four in 1991 in Indianapolis, site of this year's event. That tournament, like this one with Kentucky, featured a seemingly unstoppable undefeated team in UNLV. Then Duke ousted the Runnin' Rebels in a national semi.

"The whole 30-year celebration is hard to get my mind around,'' he said. "You know you are not going to do 30 more, so you are on the back side of it. It's not that I've ever taken any of it for granted, but you get to this point you start to think how many more can you realistically do?

"Can I get to 50 Masters? How many more years will we have the NCAA Tournament? But it's been a blessing."

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