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McGUIRE: Field Is Far Too Small ; It'll Be an All-ACC Final; Poor Marquette

SETTING THE PICKS: Handicapping the NCAA This is the first in a four-part series offering basketball facts, humor and predictions for the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament from television analysts Al McGuire and Billy Packer. McGuire, the former Marquette coach, and Packer, a long-time basketball commentator, became verbal sparring partners when both worked for NBC. Packer has since gone to CBS, but the sparring continues. The second part will appear March 19, with additional stories on March 26 and March 31, the day of the NCAA championship.

March 12, 1986|AL McGUIRE | Distributed by the Dallas Morning News

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The NCAA should open its basketball tournament to all 238 Division I teams--at least, that's my dream.

The way things are now, all these postseason conference tournaments are being played for the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place teams.

Take a superpower conference like the ACC, where you have teams like Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina State and Maryland. I'd have bet my grandchildren that all those teams would get in the NCAA tournament. And they did. So who were they playing the ACC tournament for?

One situation the NCAA has to address is teams getting into the NCAA tournament and then playing games on its home floor. My good friend, Billy Packer, probably thinks this is all right, but he's wrong, as usual.

In fact, it should be just the opposite. Teams that make the tournament should not be allowed to play in any regional or subregional where they could end up playing what amounts to a home game.

I can't disagree too much with the 64 teams the NCAA selected for the tournament, although you have to look at two situations: the DePaul-Marquette thing, and the fact that the Southwest Conference only got one team in.

Where DePaul and Marquette are concerned, one team got in with a 16-12 record and the other didn't with an 18-9 record.

One of Marquette's losses was to Kansas State, a team that had to forfeit several games because of an ineligible player, Norris Coleman. All of Kansas State's Big Eight victories were changed into losses, but unless I'm wrong, its nonconference results stayed the same. If that's true, it's wrong.

If you were to give Marquette one more victory and one less loss, I have to wonder if that would have swayed the selection committee, because you're talking about a hairline situation of one team getting in and the other not.

As far as the Southwest Conference, after the success Arkansas, Houston and SMU had in the past few years, the selection committee, had a hard time picturing the so-called also-ran teams. It can't consider a team like TCU unless it can hear grunts, like in football.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but take it from me: Expect to see Georgia Tech and Duke playing for the national championship on March 31 at Reunion Arena in Dallas.

If I had to pick a dark horse to go all the way, I'd look at Illinois. Billy likes Michigan, but I really believe that team's too super-cool. I don't think the Wolverines have the intensity to hold up through a six-game run.

Here are the teams I rate as the superpowers and sleepers at each of the eight subregional sites:

Charlotte, N.C.--The power here is definitely the Big Blue, Kentucky, with one of the best coaches in the country in Eddie Sutton. A sleeper here is Xavier.

Baton Rouge, La.--Georgia Tech, no problem. My sleeper is LSU because basketball should be played at home.

Long Beach--I like the Redmen of St. John's because I graduated from there, and it took me six years. The sleeper is Maryland, because I think its playing better with its new, slower style.

Odgen, Utah--North Carolina is the powerhouse. Bradley is the sleeper because I like Dick Versace's perm.

Greensboro, N.C.--Duke has too many seniors to lose. The sleeper is DePaul, which has been the China Syndrome team, where everything is upside down. This year, nothing is expected of the Blue Demons.

Syracuse, N.Y.--The Orangemen all the way. For a sleeper, I'll go with St. Joseph's.

Dayton, Ohio--Georgetown is my superpower in this subregional. John Thompson has a tournament-tough team. The sleeper is Temple, because it comes from a tough Philadelphia neighborhood.

Minneapolis--Michigan has the power. North Carolina State is my sleeper, but beware: For want of a point guard, the war was lost.

One more thing. I understand Billy Packer is picking Scott Skiles, the Michigan State guard, as his player most likely to emerge as a force in the early rounds. If that's the case, I guarantee Billy has some business interests in Michigan he's trying to push.

My man is the super student-athlete of the galaxy, David Robinson of Navy. He's the man every woman would love to have as a son.

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