Al's new way of watching tournament action
For the better part of a month, I’ve been trying to pretend that the current men’s college basketball season is nothing but a nightmare and that when I wake up, it’ll be October 2009. (Unfortunately, that would mean that I haven’t gotten the substantial raise I was given in 2010–but hey, what’s 25% more salary when the Tar Heels are the epitome of major basketball suckage?) So, for much of February, I avoided watching most games, and instead developed an avid interest in world soccer.
This all changed when my daughter and I decided to join the cadillac of torture chambers fitness clubs–an amazing three-story megaplex of all things workout-related. This place has more HD flat-screen TVs on the wall than the biggest sports bar in Raleigh and there are even small TVs on some of their exercise equipment.
Because my workout program is designed to kill me before I get healthy, I have to spend a lot of time at the fitness club and there’s no way to avoid college basketball and workout at that place, because 80% of their approximately 8 million TVs have been tuned to men’s college basketball tournament play. Plus, I always feel obligated to watch as much of the ACC Tournament as possible based on the fact when I remember when winning that tournament was almost as big a deal as winning the National Championship. I also remember how, basically, all work used to stop in the state of North Carolina during that time and everyone knew, to the minute, what was happening, thanks to small TVs and radios smuggled into the office.
As a result, I now feel qualified (not that one really needs to feel qualified to write something here at EJSIC) make these observations based on what I’ve seen, as well as raise some rhetorical questions.
This is a men's college basketball score? Seriously?
First and foremost, the scores of most of these games seem abnormally low. Out of the 39 Division I games played yesterday, not a single team made it to 90 points and only three teams had scores above 80. And not a single one of those games had both teams with a score of 80 or above. One of the big games of the night–West Virginia and Notre Dame–had a final score of 53-51. Duke’s win over Virginia was 57 to 48. 57? 48? What is this, college football? These kinds of scores are expected in the Big 10, where for years, making baskets has not been as important as preventing them, but when teams in conferences known for high-scoring offenses, such as the ACC and Big East, have scores that would make Wisconsin and Illinois fans sigh with envy, I have to wonder what’s going on. Is this year’s crop of teams really that good defensively? Some might argue that this is so, but I really think that there’s been a lot of really sloppy play this week.
My next observation relates more to the ACC than it does the other conferences, although I’ve seen glimmers of it in the SEC, Big East and PAC
The layup...soon to be a lost art?
10, too. It really does appear that many of the ACC players I’ve watched are lacking some basic basketball skills such as inbounding, passing, layups and free throws. The Tar Heels in particular sucked at all four. However, watching both the Miami and Virginia Tech game and the Maryland and Georgia Tech games yesterday, I started cringing every time anyone went to the free-throw line, tried to inbound the ball, headed to the basket to attempt a layup or tried to get the ball to another player down the court. I’m left wondering what these guys actually do during practice. Three-point shots? Traveling without seeming to? Flopping? What’s happened to working on the basics? There’s no excuse for missing an easy layup or consistently screwing up a pass. There’s also no excuse for letting 3 minutes go by without either team scoring a basket, especially when there’s no evidence that either team has a good defense.
Thirdly, I’d like to know when all the tournament refs got together and agreed not to call 90% of the fouls committed by either team in any tournament. I’ve seen an enormous amount of hacking, attacking, bruising and pushing going on while the refs stood idly by, apparently incapable of using their whistles. I guess I should be happy that they don’t seem to be favoring one team over another in these games, but honestly, it’s getting to the point where you have to wonder if we should just get rid of the notion of fouling all together if so many flagrant fouls are going unpunished.
I don’t want to seem like a total curmudgeon (although I fear I’m becoming one as I age and the years I’ve followed basketball creep toward 35), so I want to be clear that I’ve seen some good things in these games.
For example, I’ve enjoyed very much the resurgence of the zone defense–especially the zone defense played well. I’ve also seen some excellent individual play, such as that of Derrick Favors, Sherron Collins and John Wall. Also, the number of upsets in these tournaments has had me on the edge of my comfortable fake leather-couch or treadmill (if I’m at the fitness club) and I love that. My hat’s especially off to San Diego State, Minnesota, Miami (FL) and the Woofies of N.C. State for shocking everyone. I also still can’t believe that Georgetown knocked off my new bandwagon team, Syracuse. I still think the Orange can win it all, though.
Of course, the upsets beg questions that I still can’t answer–have they happened because this is one of the weakest years for men’s college basketball? Or is it because so many teams know that their tickets are already punched for the NCAA tournament so they don’t care? Or is it because so many bubble teams want to get in so badly that they play out of their minds and upset a higher seed or favorite? What do y’all think? Let me know.
Colonial League Kings: The ODU Monarchs celebrate their ticket to the Big Dance.
On a final note, I’m going to make a little plug for a Cinderella team: The Old Dominion Monarchs. One of the nicest guys at my high school is their associate coach. They’ve had a really nice home winning streak going and they won their conference. It should be fun to watch them play.