So the madness got put pack in March tonight. A fun night unless you had a rematch of the 2003 final in your Final Four.
It just so happened that the Vermont/Syracuse contest was the first game that I tried to take notes on using the Oliver possession scoring method. I really struggled with it, but the end result was a fairly detailed play-by-play on what happened. The game was a defensive slugfest until Syracuse’s Terrence Roberts was hit with an absolutely atrocious technical for hanging on the rim with 8:58 left. Honestly, there will be about 50 dunks in the tournament where a guy is on the rim longer than Roberts.
After the two free throws, Vermont was up 36-31. At his point, Jim Boeheim decided to throw on a full-court press after a made basket or backcourt dead ball. Here were the results of the five Vermont possessions when that happened, assuming my records are accurate:
1P) Shot clock violation after an airball.
2P) Backcourt turnover.
3P) Timeout used when they couldn’t inbound the ball, then committed a backcourt turnover.
4P) Sorrentine missed three.
5P) Backcourt turnover.
That’s five possessions, no points, four turnovers, three times failing to advance the ball past mid-court. With 3:47 left, Syracuse tied it at 45 and Boeheim took off the press on the ensuing Vermont’s possession. Result:
1NP) Coppenrath made lay-up.
After two Warrick made free throws, the press was employed. Result:
6P) Hehn missed shot.
Then after a Warrick dunk, the press was taken off again…
2NP) Mopa Njila made shot.
Syracuse went back down and tied it again at 51. Again no press followed. Result:
3NP) Coppenrath made shot.
For those keeping score: Press = six possessions, zero points. No press = three possessions, six points.
Syracuse pressed on Vermont’s final possession of regulation, and the result was a Vermont turnover, although it occurred when Mopa Njila stepped on the baseline just before making a lay-up.
Syracuse showed the press once in overtime. It resulted in another UVM timeout, and ultimately a Sorrentine miss.
After the game, Boeheim, who has always been a total class act in defeat, said he took the press off because he was concerned about fatigue. It’s totally Monday morning quarterbacking on my part, but it’s strange that fatigue enters the equation to quit on a successful strategy with a minute to go in regulation.
– I watched the post-game press conference and when Boeheim faced a question about his team’s 24 turnovers (10 by Warrick!), he expressed that he was surprised that they were so careless with the ball. Naturally, whenever you turn the ball over on more than a third of your possessions, that’s exceptionally bad. But to illustrate his point he referred to his team’s low turnover totals in two games against Connecticut.
As readers of this blog know, UConn is among the nation’s worst teams at forcing turnovers. Their defense is solely in the business of blocking shots, to the extent that UConn rejects one out of every seven of their opponent’s shots. It was news to me when I discovered that UConn eschews the turnover back in December, but I am surprised that it is news to the Big East. This year UConn was the 4th worst of 330 D1 teams in forcing turnovers, last season they were 5th worst out of 326. So taking care of the ball against them is not a sign your team is particularly careful with the rock. (For reference: Central Florida committed only nine turnovers against the Huskies on Friday.)
– Gerry McNamara went 4 of 18 from the field. I wonder what it will take for him to shake his reputation as a deadly marksman. McNamara led the nation in three point attempts this season, but only one other player in the top 25 in attempts was less accurate than McNamara. Now I know that McNamara is the only long-ball threat on the team and so defenses focus on him, the result being he doesn’t get many open looks. But nonetheless, his 4-for-18 games are more common than the 12-for-18 games that make legends.
On a totally unrelated note, I have to pass on this fascinating bracket in the ESPN contest, thanks to a post on a Virginia Tech message board. The guy had a perfect first round going into the final set of games on Friday night – 28 for 28. And he got three out of the four late-night games correct. A great start, right? He finished the first round with 31 of 32 games correct. The one he missed was Kansas…whom he had winning the championship. This guy went from being the luckiest bracketeer in the nation, to having lightning strike him.