NCAA comments reviewed

March 24, 2006|By RAY FRAGER

It's just a few minutes among the hours of NCAA tournament-related programming on CBS, but funny how much weight Selection Sunday comments can carry - even through the first weekend of play.

During a conference call this week featuring the network's lead announcing team of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer, much of the talk was about their reaction almost two weeks ago to the men's basketball field selected by the NCAA, in particular their questioning of four teams from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Craig Littlepage, chairman of the NCAA men's basketball committee, who had been grilled about the MVC bids on the air, told the Associated Press: "The two of them may have an opinion about that, and they are certainly free to have those opinions and express those opinions. But to look at this in terms of the partnership, you would hope there would be a little better understanding of what it is that we do and an accurate reflection of the facts as they know them to be. Facts, instead of opinions, would be helpful."

Nantz said it was just a matter of asking what needed to be asked.

"I think our role is to raise any question that viewers would want asked," he said.

Packer said: "When we're on that show, we have a job to do."

Nantz added: "If we had not raised that the Missouri Valley had four teams, we wouldn't have been doing our job."

With two Missouri Valley teams, Bradley and Wichita State, having made it to the Sweet 16, the selection committee "should feel very vindicated today," Nantz said.

"These were at-large teams getting in ... and the right call was obviously made. ... I hope because the way the tournament broke, they're able to be proud of what they did."

And Packer sounded almost conciliatory when he said: "The committee's job is today much more difficult than it used to be, because the power teams no longer exist. ... There are 100 teams capable of winning `tomorrow night.' "

Trying to help

So Packer has a suggestion for the NCAA: Create an "adjunct" to the selection committee to help pick the last 12 or so teams. The adjunct group would be composed, Packer said, of recently retired coaches who stay close to the game, such as Jud Heathcote, Charlie Spoonhour and Jerry Tarkanian.

(Maybe I'm just out of touch, but it seems unlikely the NCAA would want to use Tarkanian in any capacity except as an adviser to maintaining his own retirement.)

Rainy ratings

Fox was trumpeting its ratings triumph Sunday for coverage of what turned out to be a rained-out NASCAR Nextel Cup race. The NASCAR telecast, with interviews and shots of cars covered up but no real racing, drew 3.7 percent of the national audience, compared with NBC's 2.5 for the PGA's Bay Hill Invitational and ABC's 1.7 for a Los Angeles Lakers-Cleveland Cavaliers/Kobe Bryant-LeBron James matchup.

(The three telecasts overlapped, though their start and finish times were different.)

Locally, NASCAR and Bay Hill each drew a 1.9 on, respectively, WBFF/Channel 45 and WBAL/Channel 11. WMAR/Channel 2 carried the Towson-Virginia college lacrosse game instead of the NBA. The lacrosse rating, apparently measured via microscope, was a 0.1.

Ice chips

There's another NCAA tournament going on, in men's hockey. Those of you who get ESPNU - OK, let's see a show of hands - can watch regional semifinal coverage starting today at 4 p.m., with three consecutive live games and then a tape-delayed telecast.

(Oliver Barrett IV fans please note: Maine faces Harvard tomorrow at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.)

ESPN2 has the national semifinals April 6, starting at 3 p.m., and the final will be carried by ESPN on April 8 at 7 p.m.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Read Ray Frager's blog at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell

TV HIGHLIGHTS

Auto racing: The IndyCar Series opens on ABC (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., WMAR/Channel 2 and WJLA/Channel 7) with the Toyota Indy 300, featuring two debuts - driver Marco Andretti, son of Michael and grandson of Mario; and Rusty Wallace, the former NASCAR favorite making his first appearance as an ABC race commentator.

Bowling: Yes, bowling. Here's the deal: If Tommy Jones, the U.S. Open champ, can win the Denny's World Championship at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis (Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPN), he will be one major victory - the Tournament of Champions on April 9 - away from a $1 million bonus.

Golf: Too much Tiger Woods? Is there such a thing? Ed Bradley interviews the superstar on 60 Minutes (Sunday, 7 p.m., WJZ/Channel 13 and WUSA/Channel 9) about various topics, including family, past and future.

Compiled by Ray Frager

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