The Final

I’ll hold off on my big spring break summary to share some thoughts on the end of the college basketball season.

I don’t know if it is me getting older, the media getting stupider, or a combination of both, but I have a harder time following sports media without getting pissed off these days.

For example, in the lead-up to last night’s National Championship game I kept seeing articles, mostly on ESPN, that referenced the “controversial” foul call at the end of the Virginia-Auburn national semifinal. You know, where Kyle Guy was clearly fouled by Auburn’s Samir Doughty?

I’ll admit, in real time, I started screaming. “They’re calling that??!?!” Because the camera angle kind of hid the point of contact, below the waist, and there did not seem to be any contact up high. But all it took was one replay to show that Doughty clearly went into Guy’s legs.

That’s a foul in the first minute of the game, the last minute of the game, every day of the week.

How is this “controversial”? But even yesterday that storyline was being cranked out.

Of course, what was controversial was that UVa’s Ty Jerome had clearly double dribbled moments early, which should have ended the game. But that play had some nuance to it: the players were moving up court quickly, the referee was expecting Auburn to foul, and it was kind of weird how the double dribble occurred.

Oh, and last night, at halftime, there was some more media stupidity. While talking about his keys to the second half, Seth Davis pointed out that Texas Tech only had four team fouls in the first half. He noted that several times in the tournament teams went into the final minute of the game needing to foul to put their opponents on the line, but had not committed seven fouls yet to put the other team on the line. He suggested both teams needed to manage that closely in the second half in case they did need to foul to stop the clock late in the game.

So Seth Davis, longtime college basketball “expert,” was basically saying both teams should foul more?

Is he dumb? Trying too hard to find a clever angle no one else had? Or just let the moment get to him? I expect dumb things from Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, who understand basketball but, once again, proved they don’t know much about college basketball. But Davis should be better than this.

Oh, the game. Pretty much a dud for 30 minutes. Yes, there was some amazing defense on both ends of the court that made it ugly. And I appreciate good defense. But I also don’t like watching teams struggle to get the ball inside the 3-point line before there are five seconds left in the shot clock, throwing up bricks, and future NBA lottery picks looking like walk ons.

Thank goodness for the final 10 minutes of regulation and overtime.

Ironically the final score ended up being about 10 points higher than the last overtime title game, that glorious game in 2008 between Kansas and Memphis. The ’08 game was filled with future NBA players, was back-and-forth all night, and sure felt a lot better than last night’s game. Yet more points were scored last night.

One possible explanation shows how hoops have changed over the past decade. In 2008 the title game teams combined to go 9-34 from 3-point range. Last night the finalists combined to shoot 21-54 from three. In 2008 the Jayhawks were 26-43 from inside the arc, the Tigers 19-40. Last night Texas Tech was 17-33 and Virginia 16-35 on 2’s. The game can be uglier, slower but still end up with more points because teams are chucking from deep more often.

I had no real dog in last night’s fight. I don’t really like either team, but also didn’t really hate either team. It would have been cool for a Big 12 team to win the title, for one of the teams that ended KU’s Big 12 streak to be a national champ, and I like Chris Beard. But it also would have kind of sucked for a Big 12 team other than KU to win. Hey, my luke-warmth for the Big 12 has been long-documented, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. 

As for Virginia, I really admired how they handled the end of last season, Tony Bennett seems like a decent guy and a good coach, and Guy being from Indy helped. But another east coast, ACC team winning is super annoying. Duke and UNC will make a claim on a portion of this title, and the national media will celebrate it much more than a Tech title would have been celebrated.

Speaking of Bennett, I think he might be the strangest coach in the country in terms of how people from other programs view him. He’s a terrific coach, and this title is confirmation of what he’s built at UVa. I can’t remember him ever doing or saying something that would embarrass or offend me if I was a UVa fan. Yet, there’s that style of play. Sure, he wins, but it is sooooo hard to watch. I bet most college hoops fans have a similar view to mine: good guy, good coach, but I would not want him coaching my team. Which is kind of dumb. But sports are dumb, so there you have it.

A spring break angle now. Our hotel did not have any of the networks showing games the weekend of the Sweet 16. So I wasn’t able to watch any of the games. I realized it might have been a blessing that KU wasn’t playing, as it would have sucked to follow along on the ESPN app, try to stream it on bad hotel wifi, or worse of all go to some bar full of drunk college kids to watch KU play.

It was strange following some of those great endings over the weekend – MSU-Duke, Purdue-UVA, Purdue-Tennessee – on the ESPN app. C said I was making strange faces as Michigan State closed out Duke.

Thus ends a tumultuous season and begins what promises to be an off-season filled with controversy. I expect the NCAA to take a deep, hard look at allegations that Zion Williamson’s family both asked for money from programs and may have accepted money from Nike, and in the end suspend Silvio De Sousa for two more years.