College football offers winners

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The TV Repairman:

Army opposes Navy on the gridiron tomorrow at noon on ABC. Absolutely no excused absences allowed. Of regional interest later on is Florida vs. Alabama for the SEC championship at 3:30 p.m.

Figure Brent Musburger will be working the fracas in Philadelphia, ol' home folks Keith Jackson the possum roundup down South. But don't let it ruin your day, you hear?

* There are 11 basketball games on network and cable between 1 p.m. and midnight tomorrow at least worthy of the designation "first- and second-round action, NCAA tournament:" CBS has Duke-Illinois at 1, Arkansas-Missouri at 3. NBC has top-ranked Massachusetts-Kansas at 1, Kentucky-UCLA at 3:30. ESPN has Michigan vs. Tenn-Chattanooga at 2, Louisville-Michigan State at Florida-Wake Forest at 9:30 and Arizona-New Mexico at midnight. HTS has Georgetown-DePaul at 2, George Mason-LSU 10 p.m.

The NBC twin bill is the "John Wooden Classic" and the Home Team Sports gang of Jody Shapiro, Bill Brown, Chris Glass and Bill Bell (and technicians) is being utilized to produce the show. UCLA and Kentucky haven't met since the 1975 NCAA final between the pair, Wooden's swan song.

Given a say in the matter, ESPN college hoops analyst and ex-Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps "would like to see the three-point line moved back to 21 feet. This would open the inside up, not only for post play but for driving to the basket, which the game needs more of right now."

Amen.

Digger's top five: Arkansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA and Maryland with Texas as a sleeper. And he says the rash of early-season upsets (four Top 25 teams went down the first week) "isn't too surprising because there's so much balance these days." Dick Vitale's surprise thoughts on the same subject: "Amazing. Totally unbelievable."

Speaking of hoops on the telly, if the glut of look-alike games still doesn't satisfy you, consider RCA DirecTV. That's the 18-inch satellite dish that provides 150 stations and last night started a slate of 400 NBA games, the service going for $149. Next year, it's going to send along 700 games.

* Three cheers for ESPN2's coverage of the Grey Cup final. It was treated as a game by announcers Gus Johnson and Mike Mayock, not Judgment Day, and viewers were provided all the necessary information and replays, no more. This is a far cry from the way networks, ESPN and TNT do things, inundating audiences with all manner of vacant statistics and chatter.

WJFK, radio flagship of the Waverly Wonders, could probably make a bundle selling tapes of its call, Tom Matte reportedly having one of his finest days as a grid analyst. Although it would be difficult for the last-string quarterback to match some of the priceless work he did while working Maryland games.

* Fans of "Entertainment Magazine" will be ecstatic to learn Channel 11 is looking out for their best interests, ducking away from the Nikon Skating Championships on CBS' "Eye on Sports" tomorrow (5 p.m.) for their show. WBAL is dumping the 3-6 p.m. show Sunday, too, in deference to "Babar: The Movie," an animated job in which the king defends Elephantland from the marauding rhinos.

The Nikon has Oksana Baiul going against a different cast of opponents this time, Elizabeth Manley and Denise Biellmann jumping on the tour. Oksana is alleged to be making her pro debut. Yeah, she's been skating for medals and trophies to this point (snicker).

* Ticket sales must have been horrible during the week in Las Vegas when Riddick Bowe has to pop Larry Donald during a pre-fight conference the other day to drum up interest for their HBO bout tomorrow (9:30 p.m.). Bowe (34-1) hasn't fought in a year, save for belting Buster Mathis Jr. when he was down, and Donald (16-0) is a comer but green. Riddick went himself one better, smacking his opponent during a Q&A;, and he has to make hay while his "expert" adviser, Rock Newman, is serving as Washington mayor-elect Marion Barry's transition team chairman. Donald belted Bert Cooper last time out.

* A review of the movie "Cobb" states in part, "it is one long, relentless assault of foul language, fouler deeds and an ugly, swollen ego as portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones." Ah, a sequel to "Raging Bull," you're probably thinking. Al Stump wrote it, Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham") put it on film and Ty Cobb would probably sue if he were still around, although he seemed to revel in being hated.

* The insignia on the side of the helmet of the CFL runner-up Baltimore Whatchamacallits looks just like that of the New England Patriots. Which makes one wonder when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his bloodhounds will get around to flexing their trademark muscles again.

* There was a time when a guy dropping a 15-foot putt to pocket $160,000 as Tom Watson did in the "Skins Game" last Sunday was a big deal. No more, and it shows in the ratings (down 15

percent). These days, guys come out of the stands and heave a basketball through a hoop from three-quarter court and walk away with $1 million.

Add golf: the JCPenney Classic tomorrow (5 p.m.) on ESPN and Sunday (4 p.m.) on ABC is a better-ball event with teams comprised of PGA and LPGA Tour luminaries.

* The best pro football game Sunday looms as the Bills-Dolphins clash on ESPN at 8 p.m. . . . HTS has Arizona Fall League playoff games tomorrow (4 p.m.) and Sunday (11:30 p.m.), and it might be worth a look to see the quality of play that allowed Michael Jordan to hit a lusty .252 with 26 singles among his 31 hits.

* Even after watching pieces of Jan Appel and partner Jonas Bjorkman win the ATP Tour World Doubles Championship last weekend, I still don't know who they are.

* WMAR station manager Joe Lewin could have backed up his claim that Channel 2 "had an opportunity to do something really good [by showing the Grey Cup final last Sunday], and they [ESPN] stopped us," by offering the rights holder any profit the telecast might have realized here.

* No need for blow-by-blow announcers to get in a dither about how to pronounce Pfcfit Sithbangprachan's name. The IBF flyweight champ just gave up his title rather than fight Jose Luis Zepeda.

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