Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Guest TigerBlog: Thoughts On College Basketball From Baltimore

TigerBlog will have to admit that he actually watched all of Villanova's wild 77-74 win over North Carolina last night. It was an outstanding championship game, and the last 10 seconds or so were as good as the end of any NCAA championship game ever. 

Villanova has now won two championships, and they are two of the 10 most thrilling NCAA finals that have been played. For the record, the 1985 win over Georgetown is way closer to the top than last night's, but last night's game will be remembered as a classic. 

With the end of men's basketball season, TB has turned over the reins today to David Rosenfeld, a former Office of Athletic Communications standout who has since moved home to Baltimore. He remains a huge college hoops fan, much bigger than TB, and he wanted to give some of his thoughts. TigerBlog had no idea that his last one was true: 

TigerBlog has mentioned quite often that he rarely watches college basketball anymore. Plus, it’s lacrosse season. So, as a matter of principle, here are a few college basketball thoughts, Princeton connection included.
* College basketball in Division I is played at many different kinds of venues. The domed stadium in its current configuration is by the far the worst, which is ironic because the Final Four ought to be the best venue, not the worst. It’s disconcerting to watch on television, and who cares if 75,505 people attend the games if (maybe) 10,000 of them can actually see it?

The proper way to utilize a domed stadium for basketball is the configuration of the old RCA Dome, where Princeton beat UCLA in 1996, or Syracuse’s Carrier Dome. The court stretches across the width of the football field close to one end; the permanent stands sit behind the benches, while the ends of the court and the sideline opposite the benches have portable stands that offer a legitimate view of the game. But why offer a good experience when you can get more money the other way?

Kudos to the NCAA for at least not taking any of the regional round sites to domed stadiums in 2016, 2017 or 2018.

* According to reports, the NCAA mistakenly informed the South Carolina men’s basketball team that it had made the tournament via a congratulatory text message. Apparently, an automated “app” was to blame for the embarrassing blunder.

There are only 36 at-large bids to the tournament. Is there really a need for an automated notification? Maybe the NCAA wouldn’t feel the need to do such a thing if CBS didn’t decide on a bloated two-hour selection show this year. But then there’s the money thing again…

It’s worth noting that South Carolina ranked No. 61 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, just five spots ahead of Princeton. The Tigers ranked ahead of Oregon State, which earned an at-large bid and a No. 7(!) seed, and well ahead of Temple, which also earned an at-large bid. Side note: if you’re into college basketball, it’s worth spending $20 a year to get full access to Pomeroy’s data.

* Speaking of Pomeroy’s rankings, Princeton finished the year at No. 146 in Division I (out of 351 teams) in a metric known as “adjusted tempo,” a team’s average number of offensive possessions per 40-minute game. The quicker pace at which Mitch Henderson’s team played this year is somewhat surprising, considering that three other teams with Princeton connections (Denver, American, Holy Cross) all finished in the bottom 15 in the country on that list. But wait: Fairfield, which won 19 games this year under former Princeton coach Sydney Johnson, played even faster than Princeton, ranking in the Top 50.

* (Too?) Much has been written and said in the last week about the UConn women, mostly in response to a throwaway tweet from Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy. Personally, I think the response has been overly defensive and out of proportion; Shaughnessy was simply bemoaning the lack of competition, not criticizing Geno Auriemma’s team or suggesting they apologize for being good.

Here’s what I see when I watch the Huskies team play. UConn players are rarely off-balance when dribbling, passing or shooting; the unforced turnovers and missed layups that afflict a lot of college women’s basketball don’t exist. UConn players all shoot the ball with excellent form: shooting hand high and in front, body square to the basket, arc that’s high enough to allow for a soft touch but not so high as to be inconsistent. They pass the ball hard and with purpose; seems simple, but it’s surprising what kind of passes players seem to think will actually get through a defense.

I credit great coaching, and I mean coaching of the highest level possible, and I of course I credit the players, who are not only talented but obviously great in practice. Taking away whomever is wearing the other team’s jerseys on game nights, you don’t play like UConn does without doing it in practice first.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what the Princeton women’s basketball team has been doing for the last seven years or so. And for entertainment purposes only, I’d bet the Tigers would have done a whole lot better than Mississippi State did in this year’s Sweet 16.

* But let’s get the conversation back to lacrosse. You probably know that both Villanova and North Carolina have Division I men’s lacrosse programs. When was the last time that the championship game featured two schools that also sponsored men’s lacrosse at the time? You have to go back to 1985, the last time Villanova made the title game, when the Wildcats famously beat Georgetown in a historic upset. That game took place on Monday, April 1, 1985. Lost to history? Just two days earlier, Villanova also played Georgetown--in lacrosse. The Wildcats won that game too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Should be turn over the "reins"