Monday, March 24, 2014

A Weekend's Worth Of Hoops

The Wichita State-Kentucky game reached the two-minute mark, and as it did, TigerBlog thought to himself this: minimum 15 minutes and at least three trips to the monitor.

As it turned out, he was one minute and one monitor trip over.

When Iowa State-North Carolina got to the two-minute mark, TB had the same thought - 15 more minutes, three more stoppages for the monitor. This time, the last two minutes breezed along in a lightning-quick 11 minutes, and again only had to have two monitor moments.

Of course, the refs took the monitor spotlight to a whole new level in the Iowa State-UNC game, which actually ended during a replay review. No game should ever end like that, by the way. And Roy Williams, the UNC coach, did handle the situation with great class.

The NCAA tournament showed all of the things that made it great in its first weekend, with its upsets, a Cinderella or two, wall-to-wall coverage for four straight days and most importantly some simply amazing games.

And it also showed the two biggest problems with college basketball games: 1) the overuse of replay and 2) the nightmarish end-game situations that drag on and on, turning two minutes into 11 or 15.

Okay, TB gets that it's important to get the timing right and figure out who knocked the ball out and all of that, especially at the end of games. But stopping the Wichita State-Kentucky game dead in its tracks in the first half to spend nearly three minutes deciding if the shot clock should have 28 or 30 seconds on it during one possession? It's laughably ridiculous.

Most of these reviews simply destroy the tempo of the game, adding additional timeouts to a sport that needs way fewer, not more.

How about this for a rule: if the refs go to the monitor, the players must stay on the court and cannot speak to their coaches? And how about a replay ref who can check things quickly, rather than having the on-court officials huddle around the monitor and then put their arms around each other while they talk about it.

Again, TB doesn't think the refs are ego-maniacs, but he also firmly believes that ego does fuel how many trips the refs make to the monitor. It's human nature. It makes them the center of attention.

Oh, and is anyone a worse basketball prognosticator than TigerBlog? His pick of Kansas to win it all - fueled by his belief that Andrew Wiggins would carry his team - didn't come true. And he had Kansas over Creighton in the final. Yikes. That's awful. In the last two years now, his four championship game picks have won a combined three games.

The two best games of the tournament so far have been Mercer's win over Duke, largely because of the fact that it was Duke's losing to the Atlantic Sun champ, and Wichita State-Kentucky, which was one of the best games the tournament has had in recent years.

Mercer couldn't follow its first-round win up with a trip to the Sweet 16 like Florida-Gulf Coast, out of the same league, did a year ago. Still, this was a great story. Mercer started five seniors, all of whom had to stew for a whole year after the whole Dunk City thing exploded last year, even after Mercer had won the regular season championship.

And then it was Duke who lost, who was actually almost run off the court by Mercer over the final five minutes or so. The Bears had two great plays during the game-sealing run - the one-handed pass off the dribble for the basket and and-one and then the length of the court inbounds pass.

And so Duke was done. TigerBlog got a lot of texts when it ended; none of them expressed genuine sorrow at what happened.

Then there was Kentucky's 78-76 win over Wichita State. This was an epic, two teams with a lot to prove who were both on top of their games.

Wichita State came in at 35-0 and No. 1 seed, and all that meant was a Sunday meeting with a Kentucky team that was the preseason No. 1 and a team that some thought might roll undefeated.

Instead, the Wildcats were an eight seed after an inconsistent year, and yet they were still dripping with talent. And it was all on display yesterday.

When it ended, Wichita State was 35-1 and couldn't match last year's trip to the Final Four. Still, with more people watching the Shockers yesterday than did all year combined - TB's supposes this - it was hard not to be impressed. It was just one of those moments where the finality of it all is so clear - Kentucky advances; Wichita State gets no second chance.

Princeton's women's basketball team gets no second chance in the WNIT either, as the Tigers fell 75-74 at Seton Hall Sunday.

Michelle Miller had a great performance, putting up 34 points, the fourth-best total in school history. She also shot an amazing 8 for 9 from three-point range.

The game was a close, back-and-forth one, and Princeton went up 74-72 with 28 seconds left, only to have Seton Hall get a three-point play with 10 seconds left for the winning points.

The loss ends Princeton's season at 21-9, and it didn't come in the tournament that the Tigers would have preferred. Still, after four straight NCAA trips, a win in the WNIT in round one over VCU and a great game at Seton Hall wasn't a bad way for the year to end, especially with almost everyone back for next year.

The men are still playing, as they are in California to play at Fresno State in the second round of the CBI. For the men, it's been a postseason on the road, first to New Orleans to take on Tulane and now in Fresno.

This one could be a good one too. Princeton has won nine of its last 11; Fresno has won 10 of its last 13.

At this time of year, each game is potentially the end of the season, whoever you are, whatever your record. There are no second chances in college basketball.

What there are are too many timeouts,  and way too many replays.


George Clark said...

TB: I think the Harvard-MSU game merits some consideration as one of the better games. The Crimson should have been seeded higher; had they played someone other than the President's pick to win it all they might be still dancing. I am wondering if the fact that 5 Ivy teams reached the post-season, of which 3 remain alive, might undermine one of the arguments against an Ivy Tournament: lengthening the season is hostile to academics. If the Ivy League limited post-season play to its own tournament and the NCAA tourney (which leaves open the possibility of two bids) fans of Ivy teams might have a better chance to see their team play. To send our kids on the road to NO and California (where no video feed is available, evidently) essentially leaves the fans out of the equation. The same thing happened two years ago at Evansville and Pittsburgh. When we win tonight do our kids come home or go to State College/Albany?

George Clark said...

TB: Here's my idea for an Ivy Tourney to start on the Friday after the last League game. Divide the League into 2 divisions: North (Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale and Brown) and South (Cornell, Columbia, Penn and Princeton). Team with best record in each division hosts the other three on Friday and Saturday (1-4, 2-3, winners) Winners play at home of team with best League record the following Saturday. (Add appropriate tiebreakers) Worth some discussion?