As the NCAA tournament rumbled through the past four days, producing possibly more than its usual share of stunning upsets and memorable moments, a certain sentiment has bubbled up from various places.
@TimBontemps @thomasharperiii You are crazy. This is real basketball without clear outs and dunks. More strategy too.— Grant (@gtyman17) March 17, 2016
But let’s look at how some of the best games of the weekend ended:
— Providence beat Southern Cal on Thursday night when the Trojans didn’t cover a Providence player as he cut to the basket for a wide-open layup on an inbounds play, something teams are taught not to do in middle school. This came after a referee watched as a USC player dribbled a ball off his foot right in front of him — and then called a foul on Providence (the referees will become a common theme here).
— Yale beat Baylor when, among other things, the referees failed to realize about 15 seconds came off the clock with about a minute to go. Then, a Yale player airballed a free throw with a few seconds left … only to have a Baylor guard then fall down without getting up a game-winning shot.
— Arkansas Little-Rock beat Purdue by missing a free throw … only to have Purdue give the ball away after a guard either traveled or was fouled — and nothing was called either way.
— Northern Iowa was leading by 12 with 30 seconds to go, and then allowed Texas A&M to outscore it, 14-2, to send the game to overtime — where Northern Iowa eventually lost in double overtime.
— Saint Joseph’s had a chance to tie the score in the final seconds against Oregon, but DeAndre Bembry dribbled the ball off his foot and turned it over.
These few weeks of the NCAA tournament are obviously a tremendous amount of fun. Watching one game after another end in dramatic fashion Sunday was incredibly enjoyable.
But games being compelling or dramatic or entertaining is a far different thing than games being better. There are people who try to say that the college game has more strategy and skill than the pro game, and that the quality of play is better. None of these arguments are true, or even remotely close to it. The intricacies of the game, and the attention to detail, at the professional level are at a height that the college game can’t reach.
And that’s not to mention the pro game has talents like Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
So don’t get carried away with the emotion and excitement about the NCAA tournament. Sure, it’s a great time. But better than the pro game? Not even close.
This week’s rankings
1. San Antonio Spurs (59-10) | Last week’s rank: 2
San Antonio did what it had to do Saturday night, beating the Warriors at home.
2. Golden State Warriors (62-7) | Last week’s rank: 1
Definitely a positive sign for Golden State that the Warriors lost close without Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala or Festus Ezeli, in the second half of a back-to-back set.
3. Toronto Raptors (48-21) | Last week’s rank: 4
Could the Raptors finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference?
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (48-22) | Last week’s rank: 5
A four-game winning streak seems to have Oklahoma City locked into the No. 3 seed out West.
5. Atlanta Hawks (41-29) | Last week’s rank: 11
It took them a while to do it, but the Hawks are finally playing again like they did most of last season.
6. Miami Heat (38-28) | Last week’s rank: 6
If Chris Bosh comes back, you have to think Miami is the biggest threat to Cleveland getting out of the East.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (49-20) | Last week’s rank: 3
LeBron James’s struggles in Miami continued, as Cleveland got routed by the Heat on Saturday night.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (43-26) | Last week’s rank: 7
It’s hard to explain how the Clippers could lose to the injury ravaged Pelicans on Sunday.
9. Charlotte Hornets (39-30) | Last week’s rank: 8
Steve Clifford is doing a remarkable job with this Hornets team.
10. Boston Celtics (40-30) | Last week’s rank: 9
The Celtics have started to fade, and could now start their first round series away from home.
11. Memphis Grizzlies (40-30) | Last week’s rank: 10
Grizzlies’ insane string of injuries is finally taking its toll.
12. Indiana Pacers (36-33) | Last week’s rank: 12
A week ago, the Pacers looked safely in the postseason field. Now? They’re only a half-game ahead of ninth, and two ahead of 10th.
13. Detroit Pistons (36-34) | Last week’s rank: 14
The Pistons keep going up and down, but also keep hanging around the playoff picture.
14. Houston Rockets (35-35) | Last week’s rank: 15
What is Dwight Howard doing using Stickum? And how can that help someone play basketball?
15. Chicago Bulls (35-33) | Last week’s rank: 17
The Bulls are another of these teams at the bottom of the East playoff picture that’s impossible to decipher.
16. Utah Jazz (34-36) | Last week’s rank: 18
The Jazz have kept hanging around the back end of the West playoff race – and it might still get in.
17. Washington Wizards (34-35) | Last week’s rank: 21
Clearly it’s foolish to try and explain this team.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (36-35) | Last week’s rank: 13
The Trail Blazers have fallen off recently, and the playoffs are no sure thing.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (30-40) | Last week’s rank: 19
Milwaukee isn’t making the playoffs, but things have improved for the Bucks in recent weeks.
20. Dallas Mavericks (35-35) | Last week’s rank: 16
It’s hard to see Dallas finishing the season in the playoffs out West.
21. Denver Nuggets (29-41) | Last week’s rank: 20
What Mike Malone is doing in Denver is further proof of how big a mess things are in Sacramento.
22. Sacramento Kings (27-42) | Last week’s rank: 26
DeMarcus Cousins couldn’t even avoid issues with Madison Square Garden security guards.
23. Orlando Magic (29-40) | Last week’s rank: 22
Another year, another lottery trip for the Magic.
24. New Orleans Pelicans (26-43) | Last week’s rank: 23
With Anthony Davis out for the season, is there any reason to watch another Pelicans game?
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (22-47) | Last week’s rank: 24
The question here is whether Sam Mitchell will be back as coach next season.
26. New York Knicks (28-43) | Last week’s rank: 25
Everything that could be said about this situation was written in this column below last week.
27. Phoenix Suns (19-50) | Last week’s rank: 28
Tyson Chandler reportedly being upset is the latest problem in Phoenix.
28. Brooklyn Nets (19-50) | Last week’s rank: 30
Bojan Bogdanovic had a huge week, including scoring a career-high 44 points against Philadelphia.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (14-52) | Last week’s rank: 27
That the Lakers could potentially keep Byron Scott next season is almost too much to believe.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (9-61) | Last week’s rank: 29
Repeating from last week: the last time the Sixers beat a team besides the Brooklyn Nets? Jan. 26. Yikes.