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.