TOURNAMENT TIME AND ALL’S NOT WELL
UCONN women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma isn’t a fan of campus hosts for regional games in the NCAA tournament. Case in point, this year Nebraska is a host site and tonight the Cornhuskers, seeded 4th in the Lincoln region, take on 12th seed BYU in a second round game in Los Angeles. With a win tonight, and a UCONN win over St. Joe’s tomorrow, both considered likely, parity in the women’s tournament not being what is in the men’s, UCONN and Nebraska would meet in the Sweet 16 next weekend in Lincoln.
Geno’s also not thrilled about the way the pundits are sizing up the women’s tournament, as if it’s a two week pep rally for a final four featuring UCONN, Notre Dame, Tennessee and South Carolina, the Vols and Gamecocks along for the ride just to make it interesting while the whole world settles in to watch the only game that counts, UCONN and Notre Dame for the national championship, two weeks from tomorrow in Nashville.
Geno can’t help it, but he’s as much to blame for the situation as anyone. In 35 games no one, not even the best teams in the nation, have been able to stay within single digits of his Huskies. And no one expects him to take it easy on St. Joe’s tomorrow night just to make things interesting. As much as Geno doesn’t like it, the tournament sets up pretty much the way the pundits see it.
As for the UCONN men. I pat myself on the back for my pick even before the selections that the Huskies would reach the Sweet 16, and nearly break my arm doing so over my prediction, after the seedings, that they’d beat old Big East foe Villanova to get there. At the next juncture I have the Huskies losing to Iowa State, but the Cyclones should be aware heading into Friday’s game that UCONN will be the home team at Madison Square Garden and few teams have had more success there than UCONN, which certainly enjoys the home cooking at 33rd and 7th even more than the real home team, the Knicks. It’s the perfect venue for getting the Huskies to the final four, and they never showed themselves to be more ready than when they battled back to take out St. Joseph’s in overtime in the opening round.
It’s a shame the spotlight from that big win, the biggest of the Kevin Ollie era to that point, had to be shifted to a nonsensical story about Jim Calhoun being a candidate for the Boston College vacancy. There was no reason for the team to have to sit in the back seat, even answer questions about the possibility of their former coach moving back to Boston, when the team and the win should have had the stage to themselves for that day. There was no way Boston College was going to offer Calhoun the job, for at least a half dozen obvious reasons and a half dozen others I could come up with without working up a sweat.
One thing that needs adjusting in the tournament is the use of replay in the final two minutes. They don’t get it right when a replay changes an inbounds call but clearly shows the possession was the result of a nearly flagrant foul that can’t be called on replay. The team that should have had the ball, and probably some free throws, is the team that gets penalized, all quite evident by watching the replay that didn’t get it right.
And the next analyst who calls a four point game a “Two possession game” should be forced to spend two days watching and rewatching the end of regulation in the VCU-Stephen F. Austin game which demonstrates that as long as the kids who are kept out of class to play basketball can’t absorb what they’re taught on the court, a four point lead can be erased in one stroke. Apparently nobody did the math with the players and told them when you’re up four with three seconds left stay as far away as possible and let the kid take the shot.
Glad I got all that out of my system.
With some comments from the tournament world, I’m Scott Gray.