Sometimes, it's hard to believe Billy Packer and Jim Valvano are working at the same job as commentators on the college hoops scene, so different are they in their approach. While the cautious Packer (CBS) was indicating to TV Guide that any one of 15 teams might end up as national champions next spring, Valvano (ESPN) says, "I think Duke will be the champ again."
The ex-N.C. State coach doesn't even put a qualifier in there, except to point out he said UNLV would repeat as No. 1 last March.
Valvano says he'll have the best of both worlds this winter, working the studio Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights each week, then heading out for an ESPN game Thursday night and a game for ABC on the weekend. He is, it says here, easily the best studio analyst in the game, coming through handsomely in his self-described three-fold mission of informing viewers, teaching them the game and accomplishing all this in an entertaining manner.
Just so we don't forget the other marquee colorman, Dick Vitale, he said, "Indiana's my No. 1," and the Hoosiers immediately charged out and got wiped out by UCLA. Uh, Dickie, babee, please stop quoting coach and players saying things like "Take that, Vitale," as though they're hanging on your every word.
* HBO has the George Foreman vs. some guy (Jimmy Ellis) scrap tomorrow (10 p.m.) and, assuming it will go just a few rounds, adds a good backup in Roger Mayweather vs. Rafael Pineda for the IBF junior welterweight title vacated by Julio Cesar Chavez. The announcing team of Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Gil Clancy worked well in their first go, the Evander Holyfield-Bert Cooper tiff.
* The powers that be can emote all they want about scheduling difficulties, the coaches not wanting to play tough games early in the season, teams being left out and the rest of it, but the plug was pulled on the ACC/Big East Challenge for one reason only. Or as Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese put it, "Economically, it wasn't what we thought it would be." Proof of same was provided by the less than half-filled Atlanta Omni for the Tuesday night twin bill of Georgia Tech-Villanova and Syracuse-Florida State.
* Channel 50 in Washington has a show Sunday (7:30 p.m.) extolling the virtues of high school football with a half-dozen coaches discussing the season, championship play and a final "Top 20." Go ye and do likewise, Baltimore.
* Note to hardline Colts fans: You can pick up a live radio broadcast of the latest trials and tribulations of Irsay Institute via a service called Teamline. An entire game goes for just $38.95. The Colt number is 1-800-225-5131. Maybe as a gift for someone?
* All the bowls that invited that perennial postseason disappointment Nebraska to their shindigs over the years must have been very happy listening to Cornhuskers AD Bob Devaney after the victory over Oklahoma last Friday. "We've been monkeying around with those other bowls, and it will be good to get back to the Orange Bowl," quoth Bob.
At press time today, game commentator Dick Vermeil (ABC) was still convinced the Sooners could tie the 19-14 game with a field goal.
* Hey, the Mirage in Las Vegas ain't fooling anyone introducing its ring announcer as Jimmy Lennon Jr. He sounds like Ken Levine wearing a thinning blond wig.
* Pay-per-view promoter Rick Kulis certainly knew how to spruce up his proposal for a national title football game following the bowls, offering each of the 106 schools in Division 1A $150,000 toward being able to balance their athletic department books. Rest assured a huge majority of the schools would OK the proposal in an instant, particularly since they know that if left to its own devices the NCAA couldn't come close to maneuvering such a package.
* The opportunity to check out Eric Lindros arises tomorrow when CBS sends along the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams colliding at 1 p.m. . . . Triathletes of the world unite, in front of the telly when NBC sends along a tape of the Hawaii Ironman event in October at 4:30 p.m. . . . Kentucky and Indiana play hoops at 3:45 p.m. on CBS.
* Good news and bad news. Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will once again return to the court. Unfortunately, it will be in a one-on-one contest, spread over two hours and going for $20 on pay-per-view. Sugar Ray Leonard's man Mike Trainer (Victory Promotions) tried something similar with the top collegians before the NBA draft two years ago and it was a disaster.