Don't relegate Bulldogs, Orange to also-ran status, Packer says

Media Watch

March 29, 1996|By Milton Kent

The natural inclination for this year's men's Final Four is to dismiss the two surprise teams, Syracuse and Mississippi State, who meet in one game (Channel 13, 5: 42 p.m.), and confer championship game status on the other contest, Kentucky-Massachusetts in the other.

Don't make that mistake, cautions CBS' Billy Packer.

"There are no walk-throughs, and the uncertainty of what will happen on Saturday has been what has made this tournament so great," said Packer, referring to the upsets by North Carolina State in 1983 and Villanova in 1985 to back up his points.

Packer says the Orangemen-Bulldogs game could be more intriguing to basketball purists, since the two teams feature such wildly contrasting styles.

"One team plays no man-to-man, the other plays no zone. You have one team that starts inside-out and the other goes outside-in. There's no comparison between these two teams at all. Whichever style of play dictates and whoever breaks out first should determine the winner," said Packer, who says Mississippi State is playing better than anyone.

And though Massachusetts won the early-season meeting with Kentucky, Packer gives the Wildcats a slight nod, because he believes they're playing better now than they did in November.

CBS starts the proceedings from the Meadowlands with a 90-minute pre-game show at 4 p.m., with Pat O'Brien as host, Quinn Buckner and George Raveling as analysts, visiting coaches Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Harrick and Rick Majerus and Michele Tafoya and Andrea Joyce roaming the sidelines.

The women's game

Meanwhile, the women's championship will be decided starting tonight at Charlotte (N.C.) Coliseum, with defending champion Connecticut taking on Tennessee in one semifinal (7 p.m.) and Georgia meeting Stanford in the second game.

This is the first year of ESPN's seven-year exclusive deal with the NCAA for the women's tournament, which is one of the few championship events that is carried exclusively on the cable network, which usually sets the table for one of the broadcast carriers.

"In all the time I've been with ESPN, the only thing we've had exclusive rights to was Australian Rules Football. It will be a thrill to call a national championship game," said Mike Patrick, who calls the NFL and college football and basketball for ESPN.

The network is sparing no expense for the Final Four, which concludes with Sunday's championship game at 6: 30 p.m. with its top college basketball production team on hand, armed with 14 cameras and an impressive announcing team that includes host Robin Roberts, game analyst Ann Meyers, studio analyst Mimi Griffin and sideline reporter Nancy Lieberman-Cline.

Batter up

Though Fox will be returning the weekly Saturday afternoon baseball game to its rightful place in June, the kids at ESPN like to think of themselves as the true holders of the Game of the Week mantle with their Sunday night telecasts.

There's an air of excitement surrounding this season's Opening Night show, with the Chicago White Sox at Seattle, which follows the women's title game at about 9 p.m., as the game attempts to sustain the comeback which started with Cal Ripken's assault on the record books and continued with an exciting postseason.

"Right off the bat, we have Frank Thomas against Randy Johnson, 'The Big Hurt' against 'The Big Unit,' " said Baltimore's own Jon Miller, back with Joe Morgan for a seventh season. "We'll pick up where we left off [in Seattle] with some of the most exciting moments of the season."

In the glow

Hockey returns to Fox this weekend, and so does the "FoxTrax" enhanced puck, which made its debut at the All-Star Game in January.

The network has pledged a slight modification on the computer-enhanced puck to make it easier to track both at high speeds and around the boards, as well as making the glow around it more stable.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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