Monday, April 1, 2013

Tourney Notes, Part Four

Random thoughts on the NCAA Basketball Tournament now that it is down to the Final Four:

All four teams that advanced over the weekend are talented, and all of them are physically and mentally tough. That gives us reason to hope this coming weekend will offer up some tense and exciting games, but the regional finals that just ended were the biggest bunch of duds I can remember seeing in a single tournament. When the most remarkable incident is an injury - and the lone bit of suspense is a team getting dominated for 30 minutes and then mounting an unsuccessful rally only after their opponent's best defender leaves the game for good - you know that the weekend was not exactly competitive.

The 2-3 Zone
In case it wasn't clear from the second section of my previous post, let me put it this way: I am sick and tired of hearing everyone in the sports media talk about Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense. You would think it is some kind of radical, innovative, bullet-proof system that just appeared and no one is able to figure out. The truth, however, is that Syracuse has been playing the 2-3 since I was in high school and I am only one year away from my 25th reunion. If the system were that good they would have more than one national championship to their name after all these years.

The 2-3 is certainly a good system, but it has significant weaknesses. It leaves lots of open floor on the perimeter, which makes it susceptible to teams who shoot good from the outside. Because it provides plenty of room away from the paint for opponents to move the ball around, it allows opponents to eat chunks of time off the clock - which makes it harder to come from behind when you play the 2-3 than it is when you play man-to-man.

Nebraska's football teams did not win all those championships in the 1990's because their option offense was new and perplexing. If anything it was old and predictable, but they won because their players were outstanding and executed it to perfection. Opponents could not play their own systems as well as Nebraska played theirs, so the Cornhuskers won more than anyone else...Or as the old saying goes, it's not about the X's and O's, it's about the Jimmys and Joes...If Syracuse cuts down the nets next Monday, it will be because of the players, not the system.

The Bespectacled One
While I'm rambling about something that relates to Syracuse, I feel I should spend a few words on their coach. It would be dishonest for me to call myself a Jim Boeheim fan, for over the years I have found myself cheering against his teams at least as often as cheering for them, and I have uttered my share of uncharitable things along the way. However, there is much to respect about him.

Boeheim is 68 years old. Other than a three-year stint playing semi-pro basketball, he has lived in Syracuse, NY ever since the age of 17, either playing or coaching basketball for Syracuse University the whole time...Boeheim has the secondmost wins among all coaches in NCAA history, and the most wins to have occurred all at one school...In 44 seasons as a coach (seven as an assistant and 37 as head coach) Syracuse has never had a losing season, and the only time they finished .500 was in his first year as an assistant...And it certainly says something about him that he is able, decade after decade, to recruit blue-chip athletes to spend their college years in this bitter-cold, modest-sized city in the middle of the state.

If you still need convincing that Wichita State is a genuinely strong program that is attractive to top talent, read this.

If you want a reason to cheer for Michigan, read this.

Prayers go out to Kevin Ware for a full and speedy recovery.

And lastly, as much as I hate to despoil this post by ending it this way, I have to say that the media's handling of Ware's injury was pathetic and ridiculous. Refusing to show anything but that distant camera angle amounted to treating adults like preschoolers who are incapable of seeing something unpleasant. Opting to broadcast one replay after another of teammates crying and Rick Pitino wiping away tears, while refusing to show the reality of the injury that triggered those emotions, was yet one more patronizing contribution to the wussification of America. And I hope millions of my fellow citizens are with me on this one.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Stanton,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your Tourney notes; your take on the 2-3 Zone and the players impact on a system was "spot on" accurate. The old addage is true, "Great players make great coaches".

That said, I find it troubling that you failed to mention that if Louisville falls short of winning the National Championship, GTO will win his workplace bracket pool for the second straight year. I think I can safely speak for the majority of the free world when I say that your readers would find this tidbit compelling reading.

Be well brother,
Gary O.

JDS said...

Back-to-back workplace championships would also prove that Miami fans who hail from Massachusetts and make their way to Asheville by way of Tampa are among the smartest sports observers on Earth. Best of luck seeing it happen my friend!