Monday, March 13, 2006

Hoops, Pucks and More

-All right, I guess Jim Nantz of CBS was just trying to be a friend to his fellow broadcaster Billy Packer, because it seemed Nantz (normally pretty level-headed and reasonable) was a borderline lunatic on the NCAA selection show Sunday. Packer, most everyone knows, is a big ACC guy. Packer believes his beloved Atlantic Coast Conference is the be all, and end all, of the college game. Nantz and Packer went way overboard while trying to argue that the Missouri Valley and other, so-called, mid-major conferences didn't deserve as many teams in the NCAA field as the ACC, and other "power conferences", should have had. The MVC got four. So did the ACC. Power conference...The Big a record eight teams in.

Nantz, while not getting emotional about it, was obvious in his irritation that the committee had apparently given considerable weight to the RPI number of the Valley teams, while also arguing that they had considerably weaker schedules than the "power conference" teams who didn't get bids. "Who did they play?" he said....then rattled off a number of opponents. That only works if you perceive the schools he named to be weaklings. Some might...others wouldn't. Either way, it was unseemly of Nantz to belittle those schools by using them as an example of who he thought were "weak sisters". Packer made similar arguments when he spoke with the chairman of the selection committee.

They seem to forget that the perceived weaker schedule of the Valley teams, and other mid-majors, is a product of not being able to get games with the "power conference" teams. The Dukes, North Carolinas, U-Conns and Kentuckys of the basketball world have forever refused to play the Missouri States, Bradleys, and Wisconsin-Milwaukees on a home-and-home basis for fear of what it might do to their elite status. They believe they have nothing to gain from playing the "little guys". So they don't. They are content with the overblown reputation they enjoy, based on the East- coast bias of ESPN, CBS, Packer, Nantz, Dick Vitale, and others like them. They certainly wouldn't want to risk that on the basketball court....oh no. The RPI is a legitimate way of leveling the playing field when it comes to evaluating which schools can play basketball, until something or someone forces the power programs to play the up-and-comers.

Nantz and Packer seemed to be trying to make a case for a "two-class", status-quo arrangement for the tournament. (Power conferences should get more bids and higher seeds) Thankfully, the selection committee put more emphasis on giving the "have nots" a chance to compete. Now it's up to them to prove they belong on the same court with the so-called "big boys". That's tougher too when you are seeded lower in the tournament. So, tournament won-loss records by teams or conferences is a moot argument. (Of course Packer and Nantz tried to use that flawed logic too)

-The Blues had another strong weekend in their return to respectability. An overtime win Friday against Minnesota. And a shootout loss (where they still get a point) to Los Angeles Saturday night.

The new NHL shootout has accomplished something that I have never seen before. My wife is actually interested in the sport. At least that part of it. Barb finds the shootout interesting and exciting. She has never...even though I've been doing the Blues p.a. for 20 years...had much interest in the sport. Saturday night she asked if the game was going to be on TV so she could see the shootout, if there was one. If that's indicative of the attitude of other casual observers of the sport, I guess they're accomplishing something.

-While watching severe weather coverage on television Saturday night, I happened to be tuned to Channel 5. They, of course, frequently broke into the presentation of Saturday Night Live in order to update the weather situation. I wouldn't have minded it so much but the graphics they continued to put up on the screen were impossible for me to figure out. I don't know if they were having some kind of technical trouble...but I kept seeing a map of the bi-state region with a set of diagonal streaks going through it. The weather guy, Mike Roberts I think, kept referring to counties where there were tornado warnings. But, all I saw was those funny diagonal streaks. My colleagues are telling me that Channel 2...Dave Murray and gang...were awesome with wall-to-wall coverage both Saturday and Sunday night.

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