After Texas Tech, what is the next program to go from off-the-map to powerhouse?

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Perhaps the most interesting part of the 2019 NCAA Tournament was the fact that the two teams that eventually played for the national title are not known as powerhouses in the sport, at least not traditionally.

Virginia has grown into arguably the healthiest and most sustainable program in the country given the way they identify recruits, develop players within their program and win at a high level year after year. Texas Tech, on the other hand, has grown into being a juggernaut in the Big 12 on the strength of their ability to get players to buy-in from the moment they set foot on campus.

The result is that today, as we enter the dog days of the 2019 summer, both the Cavaliers and the Red Raiders are sitting pretty as two of the top 10-15 programs in the sport.

So who’s next?

Which programs are on the verge of making a similar leap?

To put together a list, we eliminated every team that has either made a Final Four or won a regular season title in one of the top nine conferences in the last five years. Here is what we came up with.

Chris Mack (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

THE FLUKES

There are four teams that meet the criteria for eligibility on this list that really should not be in this discussion.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals are one of the top ten programs in the sport. They won the 2013 national title, their third national title in the last 40 years, and, I’d argue, the biggest reason they don’t currently have a regular season title of Final Four to their name in the last five years has as much to do with strippers, Adidas and a conference that includes Duke, UNC and Virginia as anything. Put another way, it only took Chris Mack one year to get the Cardinals to the point where they are entering the season as a top ten team.

FLORIDA: In 2014, Florida was the best team in college basketball, winning the SEC outright, the SEC tournament and getting to the Final Four. They won back-to-back titles less than 15 years ago and Mike White has them heading into this season as a preseason top ten team. Arbitrary cut-off dates are the only reason they qualify.

MEMPHIS: Near the end of John Calipari’s tenure with the Tigers, they were one of the most powerful programs in the sport. Remember, if he doesn’t leave for Kentucky before the 2009-10 season, then John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry and maybe even Eric Bledsoe would have suited up for the Tigers that year. That would have been arguably the greatest recruiting class of all-time to this day. We’re now ten years removed from that, however, and while Memphis hasn’t reached those heights since, they have put a man in charge that may be capable of getting them there. Penny Hardaway is already making waves on the recruiting trail and it shouldn’t be long before they are hanging banners again.

OHIO STATE: I’m not sure if people realize this, but during Thad Matta’s heydey, from 2005-06 through 2012-13, the Buckeyes were probably the best program in the Big Ten. In those eight years, they won five Big Ten regular season titles, four Big Ten tournament titles, reach seven NCAA tournament, got to the Sweet 16 five times, made it to a pair of Final Fours and came one Joakim Noah away from winning a national title with Greg Oden and Mike Conley on their roster. And it’s not like that success came out of nowhere. The Buckeyes won four Big Ten titles between 1991 and 2002 and reached the Final Four in 1999. The fact that they are eligible for this list has more to do with Thad Matta’s health than anything else. Chris Holtmann will get them to the promised land sooner rather than later.

Dan Hurley (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

CHASING PAST GREATNESS

UCONN: UConn has won four of the last 20 national titles. When Jim Calhoun retired, they were a top ten program in the sport. But then Kevin Ollie took over as the Big East split up and the Huskies were relegated to the American. Ollie drove the program into the ground as the fanbase got frustrated with a lack of relevant rivals, and as a result, new head coach Dan Hurley led UConn to their third straight season below .500 in his first season at the helm. He’s still a year or two away from really getting the program back on track, but with a return to the Big East coming in 2020-21, things are trending in the right direction.

MARYLAND: The Terps have yet to really get back to where they were during the height of the Gary Williams era, when they were going blow-for-blow with Duke in the ACC. Remember, won a national title in 2002. Since Mark Turgeon has taken over, he’s done a lot of the right things. He’s recruiting well, he’s winning games and he’s building rosters that look good on paper. The problem is that we haven’t quite seen the results on the floor. For example, in 2015-16, the Terps entered the season ranked No. 1 by a handful of projections only to finish the years 27-9 overall with a 12-6 mark in the Big Ten and a No. 5 seed. This year, Maryland once again looks to be a preseason top ten team with the likes of Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith and a loaded sophomore class. All Turgeon is missing at this point is the actual on-court production.

UCLA: The Mick Cronin era is going to be a fascinating one to follow. He’s spent the past 13 years running one of the most successful programs in Cincinnati, but he did so playing a style that was all about physicality, toughness and defense. If Cincinnati won the fight, so to speak, they were going to win the game. UCLA has not exactly been known as a program built on toughness, or defense, or physicality, or, in recent years, winning. There is talent on their roster right now. How will those players adjust to a new regime is yet to be seen, and it will be one of the most fascinating subplots for the next few years.

Scott Drew (John Weast/Getty Images)

SO WHO IS ACTUALLY PRIMED FOR A LEAP TO GREATNESS?

BAYLOR: The perception of Scott Drew has done a complete 180 in the last half-decade. For a while, the running joke was that he is a recruiter that cannot coach. In recent seasons, the exact opposite has been true. Drew has developed players within his program while at the same time managing to be one of the best in the business at identifying prospects that will fit into the way he wants to play. Last year was the perfect example. Baylor entered the season with exactly zero expectation, and despite dealing with a ton of injuries – including a season-ending injury to his best player, Tristan Clark – the Bears managed to win 20 games and get to the NCAA tournament. They will enter this season as a top 15 team.

USC: Andy Enfield has proven that he knows how to get it done on the recruiting trail. He has two five-stars enrolling at his program this season. He has the top player in the Class of 2020, Evan Mobley, enrolling next season. The issue with USC is that the Trojans have not been able to have the success on the floor match what their potential is on paper. We’ll see if that changes this season.

ALABAMA: Alabama’s decision to hire Nate Oats was a bit of a weird choice. Oats had a ton of success at Buffalo, but he is a guy that spent his entire basketball life in Wisconsin, Michigan and Upstate New York. Now he’s running a program in the deep south. He’s going to have to find a way to recruit the region to compete with the teams at the top of the league (Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn), but the early returns are promising. Oats managed to keep his most important pieces, Kira Lewis and John Petty, in town.

N.C. STATE: I’m a big Kevin Keatts fan and I fully believe that he is going to find a way to get that program somewhere near where N.C. State fans want it to be. The big question, however, is going to be what kind of hit is the program going to take as a result of the NCAA charging them based on violations that were committed by Mark Gottfriend and Orlando Early and that turned up as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption.

Patrick Ewing (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

GEORGETOWN: I’m bullish on the Hoyas. I know they were a laughing stock in recent seasons because of their non-conference scheduling, but there was a method to the madness. Patrick Ewing was trying to get some talent into the program and build a base level of confidence with what he actually had on his roster. It has seemed to work, as Georgetown entered the 2019 Big East tournament with a real chance to play their way into an at-large bid. It didn’t work out that way, but with a promising pair of sophomore guards and some success recruiting local talent, I think Georgetown has a chance to reclaim past glory.

SETON HALL: If the Pirates are going to have that major breakthrough, this might be the year for it to happen. They return everyone from a 20-win team, including an All-American in Myles Powell and a trio of terrific role players in Quincy McKnight, Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili. Villanova is more talented, but Seton Hall has more experience and a very real chance to do what Xavier did in 2018 and win the Big East regular season title. My one concern is that this may be what the ceiling is for the Pirates, but if they live up to my expectations – as a top ten team – that’s a pretty high ceiling.

PROVIDENCE: Eventually, Ed Cooley is going to breakthrough. He is a terrific, well-respected coach – there’s a reason that he almost got the Michigan job despite having only one year in his coaching career with single-digit losses – that had been to five straight NCAA tournaments at a middling job. He also has an influx of young talent in his program, namely David Duke and AJ Reeves, and sooner or later the Friars are going to have a season that is reminiscent of Seton Hall this year, Marquette last year or Xavier two years ago.

THIS IS THE LIST OF TEAMS THAT WERE ELIMINATED FROM THIS DISCUSSION

Arizona, Auburn, Cincinnati, Davidson, Duke, Gonzaga, Houston, Indiana, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Loyola IL, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Purdue, South Carolina, SMU, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Utah State, VCU, Villanova, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Xavier

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 K-State, 90-78

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jalen Wilson had 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Kansas avenged a loss to Kansas State just a couple of weeks ago with a 90-78 victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats on Tuesday night.

Dajuan Harris Jr. scored 18 for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3 Big 12), who built a 12-point halftime lead before coasting to their 17th straight home win over the Wildcats in the 10th matchup of top-10 teams in series history.

Kansas has rebounded nicely from a rare three-game skid that included the overtime loss to Kansas State, and made sure to avoid taking back-to-back losses in its storied home for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

Markquis Nowell scored 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were trying for their first regular-season sweep of their biggest rival in four decades. Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points and David N’Guessan had 10.

In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime — only for Kansas State to win on Johnson’s alley-oop dunk.

It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.

They used a 16-7 run in the first half that included a technical foul on Kansas State coach Jerome Tang to build a 32-19 lead. And when Johnson answered with eight straight points for the Wildcats, and the lead was eventually trimmed to four, the reigning national champs pulled away again down the stretch.

It was 37-32 when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence added one of his own. And by the time Wilson made two foul shots with about 10 seconds left, Kansas had built a 49-37 lead that it took to the break.

The Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half before the Jayhawks stretched their lead to as many as 16.

OFFICIATING OOPS

Johnson had to sit with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had unnecessarily ridden the bench for several minutes.

SELLOUT … AND THEN SOME

For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space available inside Allen Fieldhouse. The overflow had to watch the game on screens in the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball games. Those students also got refunds and concessions vouchers.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State’s three losses in league play have been to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. And with a more forgiving second half to the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.

Kansas got its mojo back with its win over Kentucky last weekend. This victory over another bunch of Wildcats was crucial because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against teams ranked 13th or better.

UP NEXT

Kansas State returns home for another top-10 showdown Saturday against No. 10 Texas.

Kansas hits the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.

BC beats No. 20 Clemson 62-54; Tigers fall into ACC tie

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BOSTON — Makai Ashton-Langford had two key driving baskets in the closing two minutes and finished with 15 points to help Boston College beat No. 20 Clemson 62-54 on Tuesday night.

Jaeden Zackery added 13 points for the Eagles (11-12, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference). BC held Clemson to one field goal — and that came with 18 seconds left — in the final 13:16.

Hunter Tyson led Clemson (18-5, 10-2) with 22 points and Chase Hunter had 12. The Tigers fell into a first-place tie atop the ACC with No. 6 Virginia.

The Eagles used a 5-0 spurt — with T.J. Bickerstaff hitting a free throw and getting a driving layup — to pull ahead 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.

Clemson sliced it to 50-47 before Aston-Langford made his two big baskets. He followed that by making two free throws with 32 seconds left.

Trailing by 10 midway into the second half, the Tigers went on a 10-0 spree, tying it at 45 when RJ Godfrey hit both ends of a 1-and-1.

The Eagles had opened a double-digit lead twice in the opening six minutes of the second half, the later 45-35 on Prince Aligbe’s foul-line jumper with 14:12 to play.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: Off to a solid start in conference play, the Tigers were tested on the road for the second straight game after edging Florida State by a point on Saturday. It hasn’t been easy for them away from home with a 4-3 record and with three away matchups against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia to go, they’ll need to get it straightened out of they’re going to won the ACC regular-season title.

Boston College: The Eagles proved when they play defense that they’re a tough out in coach Earl Grant’s second season. A little more offense could make them very dangerous for top ACC teams to play.

ARRIVING LATE

In the first half, Clemson’s man-to-man defense smothered the Eagles’ offense for the opening 10 minutes, holding them in single digits in scoring until just about the same time the student section finished filling up late, bringing some energy to a very quiet building.

BC’s players then responded, closing the half with a 22-4 spree that turned an 11-point deficit to a 30-23 halftime edge.

SIDELINED

Both teams were missing key players. Guard Brevin Galloway, Clemson’s fourth leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, was sidelined with an abdominal injury. For BC, guard DeMarr Langford Jr., who logs big minutes at the point, was out with a knee injury.

UP NEXT

Clemson: Hosts No. 23 Miami on Saturday.

Boston College: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Vols up to No. 2

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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.