Only schools change in hoop rite of spring, but that's fine with fans

March 14, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Tourney Tidbits:

It's the same every year, the NCAA tourney selection and pairings show, but it never fails to live up to expectations as one of the magical moments of sports television.

Heck, it's a million times better than that awful, over-hyped exercise in double-talk, the draft of college players by the NFL.

Fans of as many as a couple dozen collegiate teams take a deep breath and agonize: first, to make it into the 64-team field; second, to quickly bone up on the team their favorites are pitted against in the first round.

Meanwhile, fans of all 300 Division I teams are involved, many because their favorites treat the tourney as almost a part of their schedule, the rest thinking ahead to the day when their teams qualify.

"Tom Butters [chairman of the selection committee], how come so-and-so got into the tournament and Brigham Young, which won 21 ballgames, didn't?" a commentator from either CBS or ESPN will ask.

"Although Brigham Young is a terrific team with a fine coach," Butters (or whomever) will reply, "it came down to several fine ballclubs and blah-blah-blah."

Here such trivia as road wins and losses, power ratings, strength of schedule, late-season form and everything but politics come into the explanation. Fortunately, this sludge is cleared away quickly and discussion moves on.

It's always the same, but still exciting. Ask the folks out at Loyola, who not only received extensive local coverage late yesterday afternoon, but got a national shot earlier when the selections for the NCAA women's tourney were made known.

Betcha the Lady Greyhounds are as green as their sometimes uniforms, they being scheduled for a three-hour bus trip to Charlottesville, Va., and a game against Virginia while the men are headed cross country to mix it up with Arizona. But it's Sacramento, gang, which is just like Carroll County.

* Even more so than World Series or Super Bowl previewing, college hoops creates the most analysis. And probably the only reason it doesn't lead to paralysis is it's almost instantaneous.

We now get a reprieve for three days or until first-round action commences in four sites Thursday. Following four days of

sub-regional action, there's a rest stop and then four more days of regional fare, the serious stuff, the best teams and over-achievers coming to grips. Then it's the Final Four.

Whoever came up with this format is right up there with Thomas Edison in the invention department.

* It was easy to tell Linda Bruno was new at the job of heading the women's tourney selection committee, but she already has the standard replies down pat.

Despite adding 16 teams to this year's tourney, Bruno insisted, "We had to make some tough calls even with 64 [entries]; it probably came down to 15 teams for the last two spots."

* More than in any other "championship week" within memory, strong play in conference tournaments got teams into the

traveling show. In the Big East, for instance, it had three sure entries as of last Friday -- Connecticut, Boston College and Syracuse. But losses by these teams to Providence, Georgetown and Seton Hall elevated the victors to inclusion in the cast, giving the league the most entries among all the conferences. Only a total cynic would suggest . . .

* It just kills Billy Packer, CBS' lead analyst, that his network has a contract to cover the Big East tournament in New York.

A tried and true ACCer, probably since birth, Packer worked the first-round Maryland-Virginia game from Charlotte and made only passing mention of how horrible and sloppy play was in the first half. The Terps led, 23-21.

Yet the next day, after Seton Hall led Georgetown, 35-28, at intermission, Packer crowed how awful the action was and "only the purists will stick around for the second half of this one."

* As far out as Navy's winning the Patriot Conference tourney and heading for the guillotine against Missouri, is this: The Middies scored nine fewer field goals than Colgate did in the final and got no rebounds (zero, zilch, nada) from their two forwards, Brian Walker and T. J. Hall. It helped a tad to be treated to 48 free throws.

* It's quite obvious now that Maryland talked a good game to make it into the field. Dying fast in the late season and with a so-so 16-10 record heading for the ACC test, the Terps were bounced in the first round.

But, as guard Duane Simpkins reminded, "You can't go on one game. We played three months, and we won a lot of big games." Oh?

* The pity is that Coppin State, after winning 35 straight games in the MEAC, got bounced because it lost to Morgan State in the tourney here. Victorious coach Michael Holmes dubbed it "the biggest win ever at Morgan State," perhaps forgetting that Marvin Webster and the Bears went all the way to the NCAA collegiate division crown just 20 years ago.

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