The NCAA tournament “reconvenes” today and we will complete the process of winnowing the field to the Final Four by Sunday night. As I have said here many times, college basketball in March is my favorite sporting event; nonetheless, I have to offer a critical observation here:
- MLB is rightfully concerned with issues surrounding “pace of play” and is considering ways to increase it. The “pace of play” in college basketball is just fine until the last three or four minutes of a close game; then it downshifts into a “glacial pace”.
- The reasons for that are not mysterious. Teams usually have 2 or 3 timeouts apiece in their pockets and when the game is close they will use all of them. Teams will extend the time it takes to administer fouls shots with multiple substitutions in each situation. AND, particularly in close games, there will be at least a couple of times when the officials “go to the monitor” to review a call or to put a tenth of a second or two back on the clock.
- The final three minutes of a close game – especially in the NCAA Tournament – can take twenty minutes to play.
The NCAA rules mavens could address all three of those root causes for glacial pace of play if they wanted to; there may be no perfect solution here that would garner universal acclaim but finding ways to improve this “pace of play” issue is not like acing a course in differential topology.
If the NCAA needs some motivation to get working on this issue, let me offer up this one:
- If the games moved along more quickly in the final minutes, all of those student-athletes would have to stand around doing nothing; they could all be back in the library studying to become school alumni.
I want to mention a couple of the broadcast teams for the tournament based on what I heard/saw last weekend:
- Brian Anderson/Chris Webber: Last year, these two were abysmal; it was painful to hear the contorted logic Chris Webber would use to try to explain things that needed no explanation. This year, there is significant improvement; this tandem is still not close to being the best announcing team to do the tournament games, but they are no longer the broadcast equivalent of a root canal.
- Jim Nantz/ Bruce Raftery/ Grant Hill: These guys are really good. The best 3-man announcing team ever was Dick Enberg/Al McGuire/Billy Packer back in the 80s. The current group is not that far behind.
- Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner: Miller and Bonner do a good job with color/analysis. If Harlan could tone down his play-by-play just a bit below the intensity of “hair-on-fire”, it would be a major improvement.
- Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel: For reasons that were always mysterious to me, CBS had this tandem together and then split them up a couple years ago. Now they are back together, and they have regained the same easy delivery that makes them easy to listen to.
Pitt basketball was the pits this year. [I apologize; that was too easy.] Back in the days when Pitt was part of the Big East in that conference’s original incarnation, Pitt was a contender and an annual invitee to the NCAA Tournament. In the process of imploding the original big East, Pitt moved to the ACC and changed coaches; that has not exactly worked out well for Pitt. This year in ACC Conference games, Pitt’s record was 0-19 – including a quick exit from the ACC Conference Tournament. As a result, Pitt fired coach, Ken Stallings and is hunting for a replacement.
I wonder just how appealing the job at Pitt is. On one hand, a coach who takes the job and makes Pitt competitive/relevant in the ACC would be a hero in Pittsburgh and it would make said coach very much in demand 5 or 6 years down the road. On the other hand, Pitt may just be destined to be a bottom-feeder in the world of ACC basketball and the coach that takes the job there will pocket a nice chunk of change and take his career down to the mid-major level after that. Tom Crean is an excellent coach; he was looking for a job and interviewed at Pitt; Tom Crean took the job at Georgia not Pitt. Nate Oats was a “hot rumor” to take the Pitt job but he chose to stay at Buffalo and signed a contract extension there. Those situations are telling:
- It appears as if there is “word on the street” in and around the coaching community that the Pitt job is not a great one. Pitt will get a coach and it may even get a coach you have heard of before. The thing you can be sure of is that the boosters at Pitt are going to have to dig deep into their pockets to come up with a fat contract offer to lure that new coach.
Finally, here are some pertinent comments from folks who do not take the NCAA Tournament as a life-and-death situation:
“How bad is my bracket doing? I’ve just learned that two of the schools in my Final Four dropped basketball 10 years ago.
“No. 1 overall seed Virginia was upset by UMBC, which I’m pretty sure is a credit union.” [Brad Dickson, formerly with the Omaha World-Herald]
“The PAC-12 Conference – which just went 1-8 in football bowl games last season – followed up with an 0-3 showing in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.
“And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, now the Washington Generals are threatening to sue for trademark infringement.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………