Debbie Antonelli has had a long career analyzing college basketball, both women’s and men’s, on a wide array of local and national outlets.
But nothing before quite matches the assignment she has next week: Working the first two rounds of the NCAA men’s tournament for CBS/Turner with play-by-play man Carter Blackburn and analyst Mike Gminski.
Antonelli will be the first woman to serve as a game analyst for the men’s NCAA Tournament in 22 years.
“They called and asked what I thought: Would I like to be an analyst on the first and second round of the men’s tournament?” she said Tuesday at an event to promote the coverage. “I was like, of course I want to be an analyst on the men’s tournament. It’s like working the Super Bowl. There would be nothing bigger for me to have a chance to be a part of.”
Antonelli usually works for ESPN on the women’s tournament, but that network freed her to take the CBS/Turner offer and become the first woman in that role since Ann Meyers in 1995.
“I’ve known Ann for a long time,” Antonelli said. “To have my name in the sentence as somebody like her is very flattering and I would feel a personal responsibility to uphold the iconic name of Ann Meyers if my name is going to be in the same sentence as hers.
“But I also look at, honestly, someone like Jessica Mendoza, what she’s done in baseball, and Doris Burke in the NBA, even Beth Mowins in the NFL on the Raiders’ preseason package. There are a lot of really good analysts and really good people in their jobs.
“I think sometimes when you cross over – or what they might call crossing over – to me, it’s basketball. There are a lot of similarities to the way they play. Women, they just don’t dunk as much. But I’ve been in and out of the men’s game, working, since the mid-’90s.”
Antonelli, who played at North Carolina State in the mid-1980s, added, “I work really hard. I study our game. I can’t wait to see who our eight teams are. I’m ready to dive in. I want to get after it.”
Antonelli is rare at her level of broadcasting in not having an agent.
“I have a husband and three boys, and I’ve always said, those are my agents,” she said. “I don’t know how I could possibly do much more than I’m already doing.
“I don’t know what went on in the inner workings between CBS and Turner, but I got a call and CBS said, ‘We really would like for you to be on the tournament,’ and I said, ‘Well, I would really like to be on it.’ So we were able to work it out, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”