Doris Burke has covered basketball for ESPN since March 1991, as well as the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship. She works a variety of ESPN assignments, including regular-season (since 1994) and NCAA Tournament (since 1995) women’s basketball, regular-season (since 1999) and Championship Week (since 2001) men’s basketball, ESPN Regional Television men’s BIG EAST basketball contests (since 1996), WNBA games (since 1998; sideline reporter as of 2003), plus the WNBA Draft.
Burke, along with Fran Fraschilla and Dave Pasch have been calling the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden this week on ESPN, including Syracuse’s 79-73 win over St. John’s on Thursday. She spoke with The Juice Online’s Robbie Gillies and Wesley Cheng following the Orange’s win.
The Juice Online: What are your thoughts, generally, so far in this Big East tournament?
Doris Burke: Well, we’ve been really lucky in the afternoon games. We’ve had unbelievable matchups. Games coming down to the last second shots, people having to execute, make big free throws, big shots. It’s been the best league in the country all season, and it’s certainly played out like that over the first few days.
JO: One of those afternoon games that you’re talking about right now is the St. John’s/Rutgers game. Can you talk more about the conclusion of that game?
DB: It’s a difficult circumstance. This is an imperfect world, an imperfect game. You had three officials who are long-tenured and quality officials who have given great service to the game. But there’s no way around the fact that endgame, there were mistakes made by all three guys. The Big East of course coming out today and basically saying, ‘Hey listen, we support these guys long term.” You like the class move by Tim Higgins, Jim Burr and Earl [Walton] that they voluntarily withdraw because the focus went back to basketball today because those three gentlemen were classy and took themselves off. So today, the spotlight was on two great games, as it should be, so kudos to those gentlemen for handling it.
JO: So we’re about halfway through the Big East Tournament now, who ya got?
DB: Boy, that’s a great question. Oh man. I would like to take a look at Louisville who will play for the first time. It’s dangerous to get a double-bye. Jim Boeheim just talked about that post game. It’s very scary to have a double-bye because you’ve seen so many teams go down. Other guys are in their rhythm. They’ve had their sweat. They understand what it’s like on this floor in front of this crowd. Jury’s still out. Let me get a look at these guys tonight.
JO: All the coaches are in favor of eliminating the double-bye and playing in a normal tournament format…
DB: It’s on record as basically the coaches and the athletics directors voted to have the first day with the four teams that finished at the top to play the four teams that finished at the bottom, get a day off, and then resume play. I don’t think long term, it makes a difference. You’re still going to have to win four games over a stretch. What it does give you the advantage of playing the first day and still getting your legs off the next day. College presidents voted no. I’m not sure what the rationale was.
JO: So you’re obviously in favor of it, it sounds like.
DB: I think as a player, and certainly you can understand the coaches’ perspective, I’d probably want to get one under my belt. At the same time, everyone else is getting one under their belt.
JO: With the NCAA tournament starting, how far do you have Syracuse going this year?
DB: A lot of it depends on matchups. The two things I say about Syracuse is, you have to be concerned about that zone in two ways. One, you’ve got to be able to execute against that zone, find the weak areas, make sure you’re not settling for jump shots, which they bait you into. The other thing that people forget about, the other side of this? They transition out of that zone so well, so that zone challenges your ability to change ends quickly, and get back in transition defense. I definitely see them advancing to the second weekend. Whether they can win a regional final game? That’s my question.
JO: Your final thoughts on today’s game?
DB: It’s a blast. I feel lucky to have been sitting court side. I’ve got two great partners in Dave Pasch and Franny Fraschilla. You just say to yourself, ‘What are you doing here?’ It’s an amazing experience.