Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Billy Packer and March Fairness

It is March Madness time, and if you are not a college basketball fan (I do feel sorry for you) this post is not for you.

Billy Packer is a basketball commentator who recently criticized the NCAA Selection Committee for letting in 4 teams from a small conference the Missouri Valley Conference. His beloved ACC and Big 12, traditional power conferences only got 4 each as well. He even implied a conspiracy by the smaller conferences. Packer’s reasoning was that traditionally the ACC and other of the 6 major conferences dominate the tournament. His point is well taken when you consider no small conference team has won the NCAA tournament since UNLV (Mountain West) in the early 90’s. Of course Mr. Packer forgot to take into account all of the advantages the Big Conferences get, such as routinely getting 6 teams in the tournament (this year the Big East sent 8), always getting the better seeds, being put close to home, and having more TV exposure to get better recruits.

Now if Mr. Packer is honest and he really thinks that if the Missouri Valley or other smaller conferences deserve more invites if they perform well in the tournament, then next year he should be singing praises of several conferences for more bids. The Patriot League for instance. In the last two years the Patriot League is undefeated in the first round, each year upsetting a higher seed from a power conference, and even achieving the sweet 16. Will Mr. Packer argue for the Patriot League next year? I doubt it. The Missouri Valley this year was 2-2 in the first round, and has 2 teams through to the Sweet 16, which of course means they are out performing what was expected. Will Mr. Packer argue for the Missouri Valley next year? No. He had his chance to admit he was wrong about the Missouri Valley on TV last night when Jim Nance sent out congratulations to the Missouri Valley for having 2 teams advance. Mr. Nance had been hard on them as well. Mr. Nance allowed a few moments of dead air with the obvious purpose of Mr. Packer to add his thoughts. Mr. Packer chose not to say a word. The Colonial Conference had two teams in the tournament and one of them is in the Sweet 16. By contrast the Big 10 had 6 teams in the tournament and none of them made the Sweet 16. The Big East only had 50% of its teams make the Sweet 16: the same percentage as the Missouri Valley and the Colonial, and below the percentage of the West Coast Conference. Will Mr. Packer stay true to his argument and next year scream for less Big Ten participation and a higher participation of these successful small conferences?

Let us face the facts, Mr. Packer is a decent announcer who great basketball knowledge. He, however, is prejudice beyond belief toward the bigger schools. He does not like the small conferences and will never like them. Sadly, people will not remember Mr. Packer for his work behind the microphone, but will only remember his stupid blunders like his relentless attacks on Dick Vitale. This attack on the Missouri Valley is just another one of those examples of Mr. Packer sticking his foot in his mouth, and being unwilling to admit it.