It was a bad shot. That’s really where you have to start. It was pretty much indefensibly bad. Ali Farokhmanesh cannot plausibly argue that it was wise to take that three-pointer from the right wing with 37 seconds on the game clock, 30 on the shot clock, and his Northern Iowa Panthers up one on top-seeded and top-ranked Kansas.
Farokhmanesh had played an uneven game to that point. After a hot first half (4-for-4, 11 points), the UNI senior hadn’t scored since intermission. The Panthers, likewise, began leaking oil down the stretch. Solid for much of the afternoon, Northern Iowa struggled to get the ball past halfcourt against Kansas’ press. The Jayhawks found lanes for layups and putbacks. A double-digit lead was trimmed to one, and it seemed Kansas would have, at worst, a chance to tie with its next possession.
I wrote—albeit briefly—about my love of the NCAA Vault late last season. For the uninitiated, the NCAA Vault contains every NCAA Tournament game from the Sweet 16 on played since 2000. That is 165 games in all. That is, in fact, too much for you to rationally sort through to figure out which games are worth skipping to the end, which games are worth perusing, and which merit full-blown opening-tip-to-final-buzzer immersion.
That’s why I’m here.
As part of our comprehensive college basketball preview over the next few days, I’ll be breaking down the contents of the NCAA Vault (and March Madness On Demand, which houses all 64 games from last season’s epic Tournament). Whether you’re in the mood to see a great individual performance, a team operating on all cylinders, or the moments when an eventual champion came closest to elimination, I’ve got you covered.
Sounds like gooooood watchin’.
The Five Games from the 2010 Tournament You Should Rewatch…NOW
Let’s be honest: The NCAA Tournament had hit a little bit of a late-decade rough patch before 2010. From the 2006 Final Four blowouts straight through to North Carolina’s romp through the field in 2009, there wasn’t a whole lot of memorable action (Mario Chalmers’ three and Stephen Curry, notwithstanding). Continue reading
Tim and John S collected themselves after last night’s brilliant National Championship to bring you this special National Championship Edition of The Double Bonus:
TIM: So John, are we allowed to breathe now?
JOHN S: I guess you can. I still haven’t. That game was the most nerve-wracking, heart-wrenching, emotionally draining game I’ve ever watched as a Duke fan. It unfolded almost like a nightmare. Butler was doing to Duke exactly what it had been doing to teams all Tournament long: Staying close and then holding them without a field goal in the final minutes. It looked like it was setting up perfectly for a Butler comeback, with Nolan Smith, our best player throughout the Tournament, and Kyle Singler, our best player in the Final Four, each clunking shots off the front of the rim, setting up not one but TWO attempts at the game-winner by Butler’s star.
And I, like so many others, thought they were both going in when they left Gordon Hayward’s hands…. Continue reading
TIM: Four more days of lousy basketball, am I right, John? We lose all our Cinderellas by Friday, and then the refs giftwrap a Duke win on Sunday. I can’t wait for the Tournament to be ruined next year with 96 teams.
JOHN S: I hope you’re kidding. Duke’s in the Final Four! At least be excited about that. And we did get some great games last week. Michigan State and Tennessee was decided by one point, Butler upset Syracuse, West Virginia upset Kentucky in a game that can only be described as very weird, and the Duke/Baylor game was exciting throughout. But we should probably discuss the best game of the Tournament at least little, despite so much already being said about K-State vs. Xavier. I’ll ask you this: Does that game lose any of its cache because K-State lost its next game? I mean, I think if the Wildcats had managed to beat Butler and then steal the championship, that game would be put in the Pantheon with the Laettner shot. As is, it probably won’t even be as remembered as Farokhmanesh’s shot by this time next year.
TIM: You saw right through me. I totally wanted to start with K-State and Xavier, and not just because I got into a brief commenting war with a fellow named “Mikey” on Joe Posnanski’s blog about it. I, for one, thought this was the best Tournament game since 2005; if I were one of those weird people who thought the decade ended in 2010 and not 2009 and my list of the Top 10 College Basketball Games of the Decade were pushed back a year, Kansas State and Xavier likely would have fit in nicely at No. 4. Even before the game went to overtime, I remember thinking that it had been particularly well-played and was shaping into one of the Tournament’s most memorable games. Continue reading
I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m 36-12 in this NCAA Tournament; last time I checked that’s 75 percent. That means you can take three of these four picks to the bank. Which one doesn’t come through? Well, that’s the beauty of the Tournament, isn’t it?
1. Syracuse vs. 5. Butler
Original: Syracuse over Butler
What I’ve Learned: The Orange are just fine without Arinze Onuaku, and the Bulldogs continue to survive with Matt Howard in foul trouble. Howard has been in foul trouble in just about every big-time game Butler has played all season, and the Bulldogs responded on Saturday by going small and matching Murray State’s athleticism. The problem is, they can’t afford to go small against Syracuse, even if the Orange don’t have Onuaku. Howard needs to stay on the floor and be a presence inside; it wasn’t too long ago he was Horizon Player of the Year and the standard for old-fashioned, interior fundamentals—a mantle usurped last weekend by Omar Samhan. In order for Butler to win, Howard needs to demand attention on the block, Gordon Hayward needs to announce his presence on a national stage with a 20-10 kind of game, and Shelvin Mack and Co. have to shoot lights-out from the perimeter. I can see two of those things happening, but not all three.
The Pick: Syracuse Continue reading
With losses this week by the top two teams in the country, as well as Purdue’s loss of its best player for the whole year and Villanova getting its fourth loss in seven games, a popular refrain has settled in among the college basketball punditry: There are no elite teams this year! The front line is weak! No team is unbeatable!
Well, obvs. College basketball is not like college football, where dominant teams often do seem unbeatable. College basketball teams don’t go undefeated—not anymore—and therefore, they are all beatable. No. 1 seeds are going to lose at some point during the season, but that doesn’t mean the sky is falling.
It’s popular to compare this season’s probable No. 1 seeds with UNC from last year, the preseason favorite that coasted to a National Championship. But the idea that last year’s Tar Heels were unbeatable or invulnerable is revisionist history, stemming largely from the fact that UNC did not face a significant challenge in the NCAA Tournament.
At this point last season, though, UNC was the #4 team in the country, behind Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, and UConn. They started out 0-2 in ACC play, including a loss at home to an unimpressive Boston College team, and at this point in the season had three total losses—one more than Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse have this year. It’s true that the ACC was a stronger conference last year, and that the Tar Heels were generally considered the favorites throughout the year, but they were by no means an unstoppable behemoth, surviving close calls at Florida State and at Miami. Continue reading