Feb 28, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
More than 35,000 souls gathered under the Carrier Dome top to fete Carmelo Anthony and the championship team from 10 years ago (10 years already?), and to see the current Syracuse lot battle Georgetown one more time as a Big East rival.
Only one other basketball crowd will be bigger this season – the one on the first Saturday and Monday in April, under another dome roof, this one in Atlanta.
In between is the best time of the year in sports, one bursting with more possibilities than normal due to a chaotic college basketball regular season where no one stays on top for long and the overused term “upset” somehow gets more overuse.
Other terms and people are there to also grow tired of real quick, from bubble to mock brackets to Cinderella to Joe Lunardi to RPI. Avoid all of them. It will make your March so much more pleasant.
The only bracket that matters is the real one that shows up Selection Sunday, put together by a real NCAA Tournament committee that gets no ego points for their work, just unfettered grief from the usual “experts” and “geniuses” aggrieved because the committee didn’t do things their way.
Just remember that these same pundits were all mad about Virginia Commonwealth in the field in 2011. And look how that turned out. Maybe, just maybe, the committee knows what they’re doing.
Still, their job for the 2013 version of the Dance is a heavy lift, and it’s not just because Selection Sunday falls on March 17 (insert your own Irish pub joke). Other than making Indiana a top seed, literally anything else they do is likely to cause some form of debate.
Go down the list. Florida has rolled, yes, but has done so in the worst SEC in 25 years. Miami has risen fast, but had some ghastly early losses. Gonzaga has its best team yet, but still has to prove it can make a deep March run. Duke, Michigan, Kansas, Arizona – name the big name, and there’s two or three reasons to disown their feats.
Syracuse falls into a peculiar spot, not as a prohibitive favorite, nor as an also-ran. The Orange has gone through its seemingly annual Lose a Key Player for a Lengthy Amount of Time episode when James Southerland sat, and emerged still as a reasonable contender.
With Southerland, C.J. Fair and Brandon Triche putting in baskets and Michael Carter-Williams dishing to them, the Orange’s fate hinges on what the big men – Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita and a returned Dajuan Coleman – do inside. If they can effectively anchor the 2-3 zone and get boards, SU has a real chance to reach Atlanta.
Add to all this the rising noise of debate about the quality of the game. Every time there’s a big game, college basketball itself undergoes some sort of trial, and woe to those who score under 50 in a 40-minute contest.
For some, it’s even worse. Northern Illinois scored four points in a half. Georgetown couldn’t get to 40 against Tennessee – and still won, prompting a John Thompson III apology (really) for the display.
It goes beyond points, though. Due to advanced scouting and coaching techniques, defenses are better, and the game is way more physical because guys know that officials won’t whistle everything. At the end of games, coaches love to use those time-outs, whether they really help or not.
Above it all is, of course, the early exodus of the best players to the NBA, a charade set up by the association’s 19-year-old rule, preventing guys from going straight from high school to the pros. Even if it’s a tiny fraction of all the college players, the perception is that the game is worse, and you know the deal about perception turning into reality, even if not initially true.
Since March is the time when college hoops draws the attention far beyond that of the aficionado, bad games at this time of year (see the 2011 final and cringe, anyone other than UConn fans) will only increase the volume of criticism.
Legitimate solutions, worth consideration, have popped up, from tighter calls to a shorter shot clock of 30 seconds to fewer time-outs per game. In order, (1) do we need more whistles, (2) yes, more shots are good, even if they don’t go in, and (3) good luck getting TV to agree.
There’s plenty of time to have these arguments. What they shouldn’t do is overshadow the games at hand. If a contest is well-played on both sides and close to the finish, does it really matter whether it’s 54-52 or 63-62 or 104-103? All of these are actual scores of some of the most famous games of all time. It’s up to you to find the answers.
And while you’re at it, kick back in that comfy chair of yours, grab the remote and get ready. Magic and mayhem await in the next few weeks, and best of all, by the time it’s done, spring is in the air – or at least we hope it is.