Friday, March 26, 2010
Three you later
I was all set to write this morning about how the common script usually unfolds during the NCAA Tournament: Inspired, nothing-to-lose lower-seeded team takes early lead against higher-seeded, playing-on-their-heels higher-seeded team. Lower-seeded team, forgetting what got them to this point, gets greedy and begins to fire up a barrage of misguided 3-point shots that find nothing but rim. Higher-seeded team grabs rebound, ignites fast break and scores in transition, cutting into lower-seeded team's lead.
Repeat until higher-seeded team collects itself and wins.
Quick digression: I'm reminded of a scene from when I covered the Pat Riley-led Knicks in the mid-'90s. The Knicks were playing the Sixers in Philly, and our media seats were on the baseline, about 15 feet from the Knicks bench. Greg Anthony, now a commentator on ESPN and then a sometimes-undisciplined point guard, dribbled the ball up court. With about 19 seconds left on the shot clock, Anthony threw up a ridiculous 3 attempt that bricked off the rim. The Sixers got the rebound, flew down court and scored on the fast break. Riley immediately called time. As the Knicks sat in front of him, Riley said nothing, glaring at Anthony. Finally, with the 30-second break about to expire, Riley screams at Anthony, "What the f--- were you thinking?!?" With that, the buzzer sounded and the Knicks quickly retook the floor.
Back to the present. The scenario at the beginning of this post unfolded twice Thursday night; Xavier connected on only 12 of 28 from 3-point range in a double-OT loss to Kansas State (8-for-19 from 3), and the erstwhile-Cinderella Cornell was only 5-of-21 as it was ousted by mighty Kentucky (only 2-of-16 from 3).
Leave it to someone to buck the trend, though. The Butler did it.
The Bulldogs shot 6-of-24 from beyond the arc against Syracuse, but the Orange -- taking its usual bracket misstep -- fell prey to Butler's defense and was outscored 11-0 down the stretch on the way to a 63-59 elimination. Syracuse, the best 3-point shooting team in the NCAA during the regular season (7-for-19 on Thursday), thus joins Kansas as top-seeded tourney teams that will be watching the Final Four from their living rooms.
So keep a keen eye on the 3-point numbers on Friday -- especially from upstarts Northern Iowa (vs. Michigan State) and St. Mary's (vs. Baylor).
And we'll see if these longshots keep shooting short from far away.