Thursday, March 10, 2011

1.7 Seconds To Go

The end of the Rutgers-St. John's game was already a disaster before the Johnnies Justin Brownlee traveled, stepped on the sideline and threw a dead ball with time still on the clock into the stands - and got away with all three.

TigerBlog was sort watching the game in his office, with the TV behind him, so he was only half paying attention when something got his attention. At one point, he heard the announcer remark that exactly two minutes remained in the second half, and TB decided to time how long it would actually take to play those two minutes.

As it turned out, only 1:58.3 was actually played - and it took just short of 18 minutes.

At various parts of the last two minutes, four different people wandered past TB's open door, ducked in, saw the time and score, stayed to watch and then left because it was taking forever.

And this wasn't even one of those games that featured an endless parade to the foul line as the team behind kept fouling. This was a game with one tie and three lead changes in the last two minutes.

But there were four called team timeouts in the last two minutes, er, 1:58.3 of the game. Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach, was one of the four people who stopped in, and after one of the timeouts, he simply couldn't take it anymore.

As for the end of the game - oh wait, it's still not over - TigerBlog would offer the following points:

* TB has no idea how the three officials missed the walk and the stepping on the end line, but he doesn't buy into the conspiracy theorists who say that the league wanted St. John's to kee playing
* TB can never remember a conference issuing a statement so quickly after an official debacle like the one the Big East sent out yesterday
* what in the world was Brownlee thinking and why hasn't anyone written or said that if he had simply dribbled inbounds or even passed to either of two wide-open teammates, none of what happened next would have ever come up
* it was immediately obvious by the replay that Rutgers was owed 1.7 seconds or so, with a chance to inbound ball the ball near midcourt ... that's plenty of time to pass, catch and shoot
* were TB commissioner of the Big East, he's not 100 percent sure what he would have done, but he has a hunch
* stop talking about the officials as if they're stars; they're supposed to be invisible

To elaborate on some of the above, let's start with the replay.

If it's true that the play became non-reviewable because none of the officials made a call, so there was no call to review, then that's ridiculous. Brownlee's tossing of the ball into the stands by itself made it clear that even if there had been no travel or stepping on the sideline that the ball was no longer in play.

Even without a call per se, that becomes reviewable. How many times has the clock at a game kept going when it should have stopped and reached 0.0, only to have time added back onto it? No call was made in those situations, and yet time was put back on the clock.

Besides, the point of replay is to correct game-changing, game-ending, egregious errors. It's not to stop games for two or three minutes to see if there should be 14 or 15 seconds on the shot clock with 10 minutes left in the first half of a 19-18 game and then have the refs huddle with their arms around each other at midcourt (there is no one who can convince TB that the refs are doing that for any reason other than because they're on TV).

And then there are the refs themselves. All TB heard yesterday from Mike Francesa (who actually did a great job in many ways during the one-hour rant TB listened to) was that these were "Hall of Fame" refs. Please, refs should be anonymous. They shouldn't be bigger than the game.

As for Francesa, he often doesn't know the rules or procedures of things he's railing against, like earlier in the day, when he said that the three play-in games that were added were strictly for the No. 16 seeds (not true). But when he talked about the Rutgers-St. John's ending, he was speaking for every fan who watched the game and felt cheated out of an ending that never happened and seemed so easy to correct.

Which brings TB to the notion of what he'd have done had he been in charge, and that's this: He would have made the teams come back on the court and play the final 1.7 seconds.

And hey, Rutgers had time to pull it out at that point.

TigerBlog hopes the Ivy League playoff game Saturday night in New Haven doesn't include any such controversy at the end.

Yesterday was a steady stream of people in and out of Jadwin until all the tickets here were sold, as were the ones that Harvard had to sell and the ones that Yale sold. Every seat in the John J. Lee Amphitheater has been sold.

As for the game itself, it features the Ivy League Player of the Year (Harvard's Keith Wright) and Defensive Player of the Year (Princeton's Kareem Maddox).

Both teams had one first-team All-Ivy League selection (Wright and Maddox) and two second-team selections (Harvard's Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry and Princeton's Dan Mavraides and Ian Hummer).

In other words, the teams have what the coaches believe are six of the top 10 players in the league.

Also, for whatever it's worth, which is not much, this will be Princeton's eighth time in an Ivy League playoff game.

In six of the previous seven, Princeton and its playoff opponent split their regular season games. The only exception was 1996, when Penn swept Princeton during the regular season and Princeton won the playoff.

Of the six times that Princeton and its opponent split during the regular season, in five of those years, the team that won the first game and lost the second won the playoff game.

The only exception that pattern came back in 1963, when Princeton beat Yale in the first meeting between the two, lost the second and the lost the playoff. In 1959, 1968, 1980, 1981 and 2002, the team that won the first and lost the second won the playoff.

Of course, Princeton won the first and lost the second against Harvard this year.

And, of course, none of that historical stuff will matter if it's a one-point game with two minutes to go Saturday.

If it is, be prepared. The last two minutes will take close to 20. It's how college basketball works these days.

Not playing the last 1.7 seconds? That's not how it's supposed to work.

1 comment:

John said...

First off, the St. John's player didn't travel ... The step that would have been a travel was his first step out of bounds, which is the call that should have been made had the official to the left of the TV view not been straight lined by having two players and possibly Steve Lavin in the way as he walked up the court.

Secondly, I was at the Princeton-Harvard game at Yale (on the end of the winning shot), so it wasn't until the highlights that I noticed the Princeton player inbounding the ball with 11.1 seconds left, stepped on the end line (it was even pointed out by a Harvard player) but no call was made.

Such a no call provided for a great finish for Princeton, but I'm sure Harvard would have liked possession in that spot.