LOS ANGELES -- Billy Packer finds it puzzling that a Nevada-Las Vegas team on the verge of historical greatness is as misunderstood as a teenager.
There are charges that the undefeated Rebels are vindictive, that their coach is a half-step from a trap door, that CBS greased UNLV's path back into the NCAA Tournament by pressuring college basketball's governing body into postponing a probation penalty slapped on last year's champion.
But Packer, who gets paid by CBS, buys into none of it, claiming the Rebels will go down as one of the game's all-time teams if they waltz through the Final Four as expected.
-- 'These guys are not on some vendetta run. They're neat kids and pretty mature. People forget that they're the oldest team in terms of age and physical maturity, so they are men as opposed to little kids saying, 'Na, na, na, na, na, we did it to them.''
On Coach Jerry Tarkanian's supposed exit from the Rebels next season when the school begins its probation period:
-- 'The Tark thing really annoys me. Coaching is the only thing the man has ever done in his adult life. Some people don't like his style. At no time has Tarkanian ever said to anyone that he plans to quit. Who has the right to say this man has the right to quit and should quit? Why would he quit?'
On the role of CBS in getting the Rebels back in the tourney:
-- 'We, of course, weren't even asked for input. I think anybody would vote the same way -- hey, let's keep them out of here. It would be a neater weekend if Seton Hall was in (along with North Carolina, Duke and Kansas). Holy cripes, anyone could win this thing. If somebody asked me, the better storyline is not knowing who will win rather than could anyone beat this juggernaut.'
Other Packer musings:
-- 'UNLV has done everything asked of them. Whether that's a test of greatness or not, they've fulfilled it. The final test is this weekend. If they win, they go down as one of the best four or five teams that college basketball has ever seen. I expect them to do that, but you have to do that to be great. When they asked Larry Bird to be great, he was great.'
-- 'The one thing you have got to have against UNLV is enough rebounding power so they can't release. What Tark does to people is create bad numbers. He says (George) Ackles and (Larry) Johnson can outrebound four of your guys. You have to do it with no more than three guys.'
-- 'In the last couple of weeks, the Vegas guys were coasting. It'll be interesting to see if they'll think like that this week. They're a better team than last year, but I don't think they've showed they're as committed.'
-- 'I'm not into picking games. I leave that up to (studio analyst) Mike Francesa.'
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An agreement between SportsChannel America and two regional networks will add 2.6 million households to the reach of SportsChannel America's NHL playoff coverage. The deals with KBL Sports Network (in Pittsburgh, Western Virginia, Eastern Ohio and Buffalo) and Prime Sports Northwest (in Washington, Oregon, Northern Idaho, Western Montana and Alaska) push the potential audience to 15 million subscribers and all NHL American cities.NEWLN: adv. for fri, march 29