Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Or Something Like That

TigerBlog was right. Even if he was rooting for that not to be the case.

Back when the Office of Athletic Communications first was putting together its ONLY-FOR-FUN-NO-MONEY-INVOLVED NCAA tournament pool, TB picked Duke to win the championship. He thought it would be the Blue Devils who knocked off undefeated Kentucky.

Then, last Thursday, he wrote that he was rooting for Wisconsin, though asking the Badgers to beat Kentucky and Duke back-to-back would be tough.

Yesterday's blog had his predicted final of 78-71 Duke, "or something like that." Does 68-63 count as "something like that?"

Close enough.

The NCAA championship game has become quite a spectacle, with packed domed football stadiums that bleed every dollar possible out of a paying public and corporate sponsorship, and shooting sightlines be damned.

To its credit, though, the NCAA has resisted having the obligatory musical act at halftime and making halftime grow to twice its standard length.

TigerBlog has heard enough visiting coaches and players talk about the tough sightlines in Jadwin Gym. He can't imagine how tough it is to shoot from the outside in a dome like that.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is odd, in that the excitement dwindles as it goes on. The best parts for most people are the selection show - so they can start to fill out their brackets - and then the first two days, when there are wall-to-wall games from morning to night, upsets here and there by smaller schools and incredible moments from players nobody's ever heard of before that game - you know, like Gabe Lewullis.

By the time the Sweet 16 rolls around, it's back to being the big names from the power conferences. By the end, it's the same teams that are always on TV, to the point where it seems like those first few rounds weren't part of the same event.

Anyway,  there were two real losers in this NCAA men's tournament.

The first was Kentucky, who along with Duke, has completely bought into the one-and-done movement. The Wildcats were 38-0 heading into the weekend and then came up short against Wisconsin. After that, there was the Andrew Harrison incident where he didn't realize that the mic was on when he made a reverse racial slur against Frank Kaminsky and a general backlash against the program's unlikeable coach.

The other loser was the officiating. These are the best of the best when it comes to refs?

Jahlil Okafor committed about 10 fouls against Wisconsin, including four or so in the first three minutes that weren't called. There was the missed shot-clock violation against Wisconsin in the Kentucky game.

There was the possession where Duke's Justise Winslow stepped on the end line right in front of one official; the no-call led to a basket by Okafor as Duke erased the Badgers' lead. 

Those are just a few examples. It was actually astonishing to see how poorly officiated the Final Four games were.

Oh, and who can forget the key call in the title game, when the ball appeared to go off of Winslow and change directions, only to have the officials watched the replay for a minute or two and then give the ball to the Blue Devils. That came when it was a five-point game in the final two minutes.

As for replay, just ref the game. The funniest part of that replay was that, in fairness to the Blue Devils, was that Wisconsin clearly fouled Duke before the ball went out of bounds, but of course that's not reviewable. Oh, and there was a clear slap in the face in the Kentucky-Wisconsin game that wasn't called after the video review. What were the refs looking at that the rest of the viewing world couldn't see?

Replay is destroying the game rather than doing what it's intent is, which is to change egregiously incorrect calls. Instead, the limits on what is reviewable and when make that goal impossible in some key moments, while the game slows to a crawl at other times to check on laughably unimportant things.

And why can't replay be used to reverse judgement calls, if it has to be used? Ahhhhhhh. TigerBlog hates replay.

The women's tournament ends tonight as UConn takes on Notre Dame.

It was amazing to watch UConn in the semifinal do to Maryland what Maryland did to Princeton. That's how good the Huskies are.

In some ways, it's a shame for the women's game, because there is such a gap between the top small handful of teams and everyone else and then another big gap between those teams and UConn.

TigerBlog still hears from a lot of people about the Princeton women, what a great season they had, how it would have been great for them to not have to play Maryland at Maryland in Round 2.

Of course, there's no guarantee that Princeton would have done what it did, which is win the opening round game, had it been a four or five seed. Still, it would have been nice to see a few things: 1) the NCAA tournament at Jadwin Gym (sightlines and all), 2) Princeton in the Sweet 16 and 3) a shot at Maryland on a neutral court.

On the other hand, no Ivy women's basketball team has ever been to the Sweet 16 (in fact, Princeton is only the second ever to win a game). TigerBlog doesn't even have to ask the Princeton coaching staff to know that the chance of being the first to do get two rounds in is the program's goal now.

And that's it for college basketball in 2014-15.

Oh, except for a prediction on the women's final. TigerBlog predicts UConn 83, Notre Dame 71.

Or something like that.

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