Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Some Madness

Well, this concludes the fun part of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Before he gets to that, TigerBlog will start out with the parts of the tournament that are just torturous.

First, there are the Charles Barkley/Samuel L. Jackson/Spike Lee commercials. They were cute a few years ago. Now they're just awkward and stale. And endless.

Then there are the CBS productions. Why does it have to be a competition to see which play-by-play guy can end the game with the more trite, forced, cliche-driven declaration?

And, TB knows this is blasphemy to some, but he doesn't get the love for the work Bill Raftery does. His act is also stale, too. How many times can he say "these kids are so well-schooled in the fundamentals" or "xxx coach does such a great job with his kids?" TB will add, in the interest of fairness, that Raftery is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Just dial back the gushing and analyze the game.

None of that, though, is even close to the worst part. Nope, the unquestioned worst part of the NCAA tournament is the pathetic overuse of the monitor.

Anytime the ball goes out of bounds in the final minute and a player from each team is close to it, the officials must now "go to the monitor." This, of course, is in the interest of "getting it right," which every announcer parrots by saying "I'm okay with this so they can get it right."

But then are they really getting it right? There are two kinds of "go to the monitor" trips. The first is where it is so obvious that you wonder why they went to the monitor in the first place. The second is when even the video is slowed down to microscopic levels, it's still not clear whether or not it went off of one hand without grazing the other one's thigh before it went out.

The trade-off is that the game grinds to a stop and, with apologies to loyal reader and basketball ref Matt Cicciarelli, the refs become the biggest part of the game, when they're supposed to be unnoticeable part of the game.

Also, if they are going to stop the game like that, the teams should be required to stay on the court on the side opposite the other team's bench, so these don't become free timeouts. 

For all that, though, it's really hard to beat the first four days, though the first two are the best. It's wall-to-wall basketball, with amazing comebacks and dramatic finishes everywhere. Even if there's one game that isn't any good, there's another one on the next channel that is.

TigerBlog didn't even consider that Nevada had a chance to come back in that game and was shocked to see the final score. The play Michigan ran at the end to beat Houston was tremendous, especially the presence of mind to make one more pass before the winning three-pointer.

Loyola, the one in Chicago, was exciting, even as TV did its best to overplay the story of the 98-year-old nun. Not having a top four seed reach the Sweet 16 in a regional is pretty interesting. And what happened to Auburn against Clemson? Those teams should only play in football.

And of course, the big story from weekend No. 1 was, of all things, the UMBC Retrievers, who became the first 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed, destroying No. 1 Virginia 74-54 in what was just a shocking performance from both teams.

The win by UMBC eclipsed after 29 years Princeton's 50-49 loss to Georgetown as the best 1 vs. 16 game the tournament has seen.

UMBC tried its best to keep it going in the second round Sunday but came up short against Kansas State, 60-53. If UMBC played Kansas State during the regular season, it would have been in November or December at Kansas State and would have been a 20-point game minimum. That's what home court means.

The person who got the most attention for UMBC might have been its Twitter man, Zach Seidel. If you missed this, Seidel tweeted in a way that might not quite have been what you'd expect from an official athletic department Twitter feed.

In doing so, he - and the way the game was going - also drove UMBC from 5,000 followers before the game started to 110,500 when the game against Kansas State ended. That's extraordinary.

The Princeton women's basketball team saw its season end with a 77-57 loss to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday. The loss ended a season in which Princeton went 24-6, won the Ivy League title again and played in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in nine years.

If you're keeping score on Courtney Banghart, her record is now 232-93 overall and 125-29 in the Ivy League. Those records include her first two years, when she was 21-39 overall and 13-15 in the league.

Doing the math, Courtney is now 211-54 and 112-14 in the last nine years. That comes to winning percentages during that time of .796 overall and .889 in the league.

Think about that. Courtney's teams have lost 14 Ivy League games in nine years. You'll win a lot of championships that way.

As for this championship, it was done with a team with three seniors - first-team All-Ivy selection Leslie Robinson and teammates Tia Weledji and Kenya Holland, both of whom were steady contributors for four years.

The bulk of the team is coming back, led by Ivy League Player of the Year Bella Alarie, who, you remember, is just a sophomore. Freshman Carlie Littlefield started every game this year and is the kind of player who is the glue of championship teams.

And then there's Abby Meyers, whose improvement as the year went along was extraordinary. Robinson finished her career with a nine-point, six-rebound, five-assist game against Maryland, and Alarie had 12 points and six rebounds in her first NCAA game, but it was Meyers who led the Tigers with 13 in the game.

With those three back, as well as the rest of the current group and another strong incoming class, Princeton will open next year as the Ivy favorite, it would seem.

And, with Alarie, Meyers and Littlefield for two more years together, Banghart may reach her stated goal of a Sweet 16 appearance once of these years.

TigerBlog is certainly rooting for it. 

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