Picks get panned in big hurry


About a half-dozen people, in their infinite goodness and wisdom, didn't bother to vote for Joe DiMaggio when the Yankee Clipper first became eligible for baseball's Hall of Fame. The deserving, it seems, have been waiting around forever to be named to this hall or that one. And Penn State is beginning to question why it bothers to go undefeated in football so often only to miss out on the brass ring.

We always hear about how much study, soul-searching, agonizing and toil go into the NCAA selection committee's weekend of deliberations leading to the naming of the 64 teams in the basketball tourney field. Slowly but surely, at least in the eyes of students and hoop fans, the "Selection Show" on CBS has taken on the aura of the Academy Awards.

Or at least until the picks and the bracketing begin flowing out of Kansas City. Then it becomes, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday."

Over the years, the network's lead analyst, Billy Packer, has become known as "Vanilla" with his serious approach to the game as opposed to "Tutti-Fruity" himself, Dick Vitale, on ESPN. As if on cue yesterday, however, Packer bared his incisors and left no doubt where he stood on some of the selections.

In rapid-fire order, Packer:

* Smashed the selection of Manhattan.

* Was amazed the sixth-rated conference, the Big Ten, got the most teams in (6) while none was impressive enough to rise above a No. 3 seed.

* Nearly passed out when the loaded ACC, with four teams No. 11 or higher in the national rankings, couldn't sneak a fifth pick in.

* And wondered out loud as Bob Frederick of Kansas, explaining the selection committee's thinking, appeared to contradict himself at every turn.

Manhattan, out of the Metro Atlantic, only 19th in the conference power ratings, got the call because, as Frederick said, "it did so well against teams rated 51st to 150th. They were 9-3."

Packer wasn't the only one who gasped at the logic: "Hey, they [the Griffins] had their chance in their tournament and didn't come through."

His microphone buddy, Jim Nantz, said: "Manhattan [25-4] never bTC played a top 50 team. Georgia Tech [18-12] probably didn't play anybody outside the top 50. Strange that a team out of a fabled conference like the ACC didn't get a little more consideration."

Why the Big Ten, in what has been dubbed a down year, got so many teams had the selection committee chairman groping. Nantz provided a statistic that might have covered the situation: "Since the tournament went to a 64-team field, the Big Ten is 57-for-57 getting teams that won 10 games in the league into the tourney."

It is pretty well agreed that Iowa (19-11) would have been a seventh Big Ten entry if the Hawkeyes hadn't been so completely destroyed by Indiana yesterday, 110-79.

The team on the outside looking in everyone wanted to commiserate about was George Washington, a team that was only 18-13 but . . .

"It's not unprecedented for a team with 13 losses getting in. The Colonials had 18 wins, which is one more than last year when they got in," said Nantz.

Then there were some of the victories GW posted, twice beating Massachusetts, No. 2 seed in the East, plus a win over Syracuse on the road and another over Temple.

"Two years ago, GW went to the Sweet Sixteen," Packer said. "Last year, they did well, winning a game and playing Connecticut tough. This is a team with a fine tournament background already."

Particularly embarrassing for GW coach Mike Jarvis, who handled his disappointment magnificently, and CBS was the fact it had a camera in Mike's living room with all his players crowded around staring at the TV.

Packer grabbed the last word, saying, "The selection committee always says it goes by the RPI power ratings. The latest index has North Carolina rated at the top with Kentucky third, yet they took two of the top three teams in the country and bracketed them in the Southeast. How much sense does that make?"

Not a whole lot but, as we all know, there's absolutely no way everyone can be satisfied unless they expand the field to all 302 Division I schools.

And then the team at the bottom, Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo (0-26), would probably be upset if it didn't play close to home.

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