Monday, March 20, 2006

Sports: The NCAA Tournament

After the completion of the first round games on Friday, I think this year’s NCAA tournament featured the best opening two days I’ve ever seen. There weren’t a huge number of upsets, but almost every game was still in doubt with five minutes to go, and many went down to the last seconds.

It says something about the basic nature of the NCAA tournament that it still manages to be dramatic in spite of the incredible number of play stoppages. It’s nothing short of insane how often play gets stopped in the last minute. I doubt that it will ever change, because it really increases the amount of advertising that can be shown, but the NCAA would really improve the flow of the game if they did the following:
1) No consecutive timeouts in dead ball situations. That would end the ridiculous practice of coaches calling a timeout after they see how the other team lines up. I know coaches are generally control freaks, but good grief!
2) No timeouts to bail out the offense. If a team can’t get the ball in-bounds, tough. If they can’t get it across the ten second line, tough again. And no mid-air timeouts when a guy is flying out of bounds with the ball. In all these situations, the defense should be rewarded with a turnover.
3) No timeouts before or between free throws. Coaches “icing” a shooter is an idiotic practice. Let the kids play the damn game. If they want to call a timeout, let them do it after the free throws.

What’s happening now is that in the last sixty seconds of a game, there will often be three or four stoppages of play for timeouts, and since most of those will include commercial breaks, it absolutely kills what should be an incredibly dramatic situation. What I’d really like to see would be teams limited to one timeout each in the last sixty seconds of a half, but that will never happen.

One other thing. When a coach gets ejected from a game (any game—this generally only happens in the regular season), he should have to sit out the following game as well. This would stop Mr. Control Freak Genius from acting like a psychopath to get thrown out of a game to “spur on his team.” Uh, no thanks. Try doing a better job in practice, and maybe your players wouldn’t be playing like poodles during the game.

CBS has had generally good coverage (and the web live video from has been outstanding), but they do one thing with the HD games that drives me nuts. They put the tournament scoreboard at the top of the screen with a black background, and the way they frame the camera, on free throws the ball often disappears into the scoreboard. Um, maybe you guys could just have the tournament scoreboard move to cover the ball at all times, because it’s not like THE BALL is important or anything.

CBS did do one thing right, though. At the end of the Alabama-UCLA game last night, when there were about four timeouts in the last minute, instead of showing the players during the timeouts, they focused on the coaches’ wives. It was great to see the emotion on their faces, and showing them at every stoppage of play really drove home how agonizing it was for them. It was much more meaningful than seeing the players during the timeouts.

Oh, wait. No, it wasn’t. I don’t give a shit about the coaches’ wives, and neither does anyone else. Remember that kid who spent six hours a day playing basketball for since he was five, who played in the dark, in the rain, in the snow, and now is playing on the biggest stage in college basketball? Do you think it would be too much to show how agonizing it is FOR HIM instead of the person who bakes cookies for the team? How about showing them once and then focusing on the people who are actually playing the game? I know coaches’ wives suffer, but that doesn’t make them important in the context of the game.

That’s how crazy it’s gotten in terms of the way college basketball is marketed. First the coaches were elevated above the players. Now even the coaches’ SPOUSES are considered more important than the players.

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