Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/23/2007 01:08:00 AM
Thursday Thrillers, With Slightly Empty Endings
Memphis' (from left to right) Kareem Cooper, Joey Dorsey and Willie Kemp felt the suspense in the final minute against Texas A&M on Thursday.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
NEW YORK -- What a crazy night. Thursday was my first opportunity to sit back and watch an entire day's worth of tournament games on TV rather than from press row, and I was blessed with five and a half riveting hours of basketball. Makes me worry that there won't be any magic left over for East Rutherford (where I'll be on Friday).
Memphis had a counter-punch for every aspect of Texas A&M's physical play, and the Tigers' relentless offensive glasswork in the last minute -- which resulted in Antonio Anderson's game-clinching trip to the foul line -- was a thing of beauty. With Joey Dorsey, who shed his jersey after fouling out, looking on in a white undershirt, and Anderson grabbing what Grant Wahl referred to as "nether regions" to punctuate the win, Memphis appeared to have the raw, ballsy edge it'll need to take down Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, pulled off an epic comeback with more long-distance wizardry from Ron Lewis. I question how long they can keep tempting fate, but I encourage them to continue trying. It makes for amazing drama.
I can't sign off for the night, however, without feeling slightly depressed. I'm confident the better team won each game in San Antonio, and both (Memphis 65-64 and Ohio State 85-84) were one-point thrillers. It's just that the losers' failed shot attempts at the buzzer left something to be desired. A lot to be desired, actually. Two of the tourney's clutchiest (that's my Stephen Colbert word for it) players, Texas A&M's Acie Law and Tennessee's Chris Lofton, were bounced from the dance as a result. And why is that depressing?
Because, despite their well-deserved big-shot reputations, neither guy was given the chance to take the last one on Thursday.
On the Aggies' final possession, an inbounds play from beyond halfcourt with 2.0 seconds left, Law was used as a decoy, streaking toward his basket with a couple of Memphis players tracking him. This was probably the smart chess move by Billy Gillispie, since it guaranteed a quick, open look for someone else. Law had also just missed a breakaway layup that he would later claim "cost us the game." That said, I'd still put money on Law taking a double-teamed three at the gun over Dominique Kirk taking one in single coverage. Every time.
The Vols' last play was a scramble situation, with the ball in the hands of freshman point guard Ramar Smith, who had no intention of passing it and drove the right side of the lane. He put up a floater that might have had a chance, had its flight pattern not been altered -- drastically and disastrously -- by Greg Oden's right hand. All the while, Lofton was camped on the left wing, well-covered, waiting for a kick-out that never happened.
I'm sitting here looking at the box scores, which say that Law took 17 shots and Lofton took 18. Both players hoisted more than any of their teammates, but those numbers are irrelevant when they don't include the two shots that mattered.
A parting thought for Texas A&M and Tennessee: You lived on Law and Lofton's cold-bloodedness all season. While it's possible you still would have died with the ball in their hands on Thursday, we'll never know if they were capable of heroics. They were owed, at the very least, a chance to find out.
I still can't believe Smith didn't dish it off to Lofton at the top of the key. He had a good three or four feet between him and his man and he has the range there. Taking it into the lane against Oden there gives you no shot, especially since they stopped calling fouls on him with five minutes to go. Anyway, Lofton for three would have been a classic breath-taking split second regardless of whether the shot actually went in.
I first saw ACIE in that Texas-Tex A/M game-man, oh, man! Yes, we talk about clutch all the time--but simply because good players will necessarily make a certain number of jumpers. But what Acie did that day was simply the stuff of legends. I mean this guy was smothered, the shot clock was down, and it didn't matter for two overtimes. If they had won, the moment would definitely have been enshrined. I would have PAID to see ACIE take that last shot even from freaking half court!!!
Please, Ohio State should have blown out Tennessee. They have the most dominant presence on the flood (Oden) but his guards refused to get him the ball, granted he was in foul trouble, but even still. It'd be like having Shaq or Duncan on your team and not utilizing them. Oden should touch the ball on EVERY play, being the first and second option. The game shouldn't even have been close
I was wondering about the blood on Oden's jersey too. I don't know if the outcome would have been any different if he were sent out of the game to get it cleaned up but rules are rules. And the rules were clearly ignored in that game last night.
Let's not start on rules of the game. How many times is Oden fouled EVERY game and it isn't called??!? Just because he is the biggest guy on the court doesn't change the definition of what a foul is. But the refs give other guys leniency when they are up against Oden. See the picture from the Xavier game where the Musketeer has his arms wrapped around Oden's arm. No foul called. So let's not complain about rules. If the fact that Oden was allowed to play with blood on his jersey was what you saw as the difference here, then what about the 17-point comeback (most of which Oden wasn't in for)?
Ohio State has a significant talent advantage over almost every team they meet, yet continue to play down to the competition whether it is Big Ten cellar dweller Penn State, every inch a nine-seed Xavier, or height poor Tennessee. This tendency will not be profitable when an equally or more talented team comes calling (North Carolina, Florida, Kansas) and requires the intermittent Buckeyes to play forty minutes of basketball. The results will not be unlike December 23rd when the Gators destroyed the Buckeyes by 26 points.
Kind of curious if there's a lot of ticket dumping going on in San Antonio, now that the hometown Aggies have been eliminated..Do you think there will be 30,000 at the Alamodome for Memphis-Ohio State??, I think the NCAA needs to revisit some of this "hometown" edge in the Regionals..it works great for the first round games (although New Orleans Arena and Sacramento looked positively barren at times last weekend),,but they run the risk of massive ticket dumping if the hometown boys don't get thru in the regionals (this doesn't apply to UCLA..California fans continue to be notoriously fickle as to IF they will even show up..)..Is anyone aware of this phenomena happening? Have Aggie fans flooded San Antonio with leftover tickets??
Actually, the "blood rule" is that the jersey must be "saturated" with blood, which it wasn't....there were a couple of drops. Furthermore, Oden would have just switched into the blood jersey they keep on the sideline, and he wouldn't have been kept out.....
From the Rulebook: "Art. 15. An immediate substitute shall be required when a timeout has been granted for a player who is injured, bleeding or has a blood-saturated uniform and that player is not ready to resume play after the final horn that indicates the expiration of the timeout. The opponents shall be permitted to counter with a substitution."
"When a timeout is requested and granted to either team, one or both players are permitted to remain in the game after the expiration of the timeout. No bleeding can be in evidence. A uniform that is saturated with blood needs to be replaced."
If Oden was currently bleeding, he would have had to be removed from the game. If his bleeding had stopped, he would have been allowed to stay. So... if the jersey is "saturated with blood" but his chin had stopped bleeding, a new jersey would have allowed him to play.
Either way, I saw his chin bleeding, he should've been removed. But Tennessee shouldn't have blown a 17-point halftime lead, either.