It's time someone blew whistle on foulfests at end of game

Phil Jackman

March 17, 1992|By Phil Jackman

Tourney twaddle, tidbits and trivia:

Perhaps you noticed, during the Big East Conference title game between Georgetown and Syracuse Sunday, that the final two minutes took in excess of 25 minutes to complete.

A couple of years ago, an average of 10 minutes and 20 seconds crept by while the last two minutes of the 60 games leading up to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament were completed.

"Ugly," is the way LSU coach Dale Brown describes the situation, and who should know from ugly better than Brown following his display in a game between his Tigers and Tennessee the other night?

The coach is right when he says it's ridiculous that "a great game for 38 minutes turns into a foulfest. There's certainly no beauty in it and it even takes away some of the joy you have in winning."

Suggestions to correct the situation -- awarding two foul shots and possession, for instance -- go unheeded.

* The tourney selection committee chairman, Roy Kramer of the SEC in this case, has got to come up with a better line than "our goal is to pick the 34 best [at-large] teams to fill out the field," then, in effect, blaming all indiscretions on a computer.

The operative words are "power ratings, strength of schedule, strength of conference, blah-blah-blah," which is simply another way of assuring that the expensive teams, the money-makers, will continue on in their self-sustaining monopoly.

The Big Eight, we are told, was the best conference this season. But six teams in the tournament, including Iowa State with its prodigious 5-9 record in conference play?

No wonder the players from Wisconsin-Green Bay showed up at a bar to hear of their fate via the CBS selection show Sunday. Despite a 25-4 record, they probably sensed they should have access to sorrow-chasing libation.

* If the current 64-team format carries on long enough, chances are memories of "Bitter Monday" will live on on just about every campus since it takes only one bad experience to sour a school on the process.

A total of 76 teams won 20 games this season. OK, they're in. Then there are conference champions, regular season, and conference tourney winners, a dodge much too lucrative to give up.

Add special exceptions, teams that show up with large followings, teams with colorful coaches (for it is a coach's game, remember) and teams with notes from their mother and you'd probably end up with a hundred entries or so. It would add an extra round plus byes, that's all.

What, we're going to continue under the pretext that teams are hustling back to the classrooms and laboratories immediately after games not to dwell solely on basketball again until the referee tosses the ball in the air for the next game?

A few years ago, when Seton Hall made a run to the championship game, the Pirates left the campus on a Tuesday and returned three Tuesdays later. Even with lousy connections, Marco Polo could have circled the globe twice in that time.

Another pretty good argument for letting more (within reason) teams in is nearly a third of this year's cast (21) carry records containing at least 10 losses. This is the creme de la creme? Close behind with nine setbacks is Georgetown, possessor of what amounts to a weak junior college schedule outside the Big East. Some of the Hoyas' 21 victories don't even count since they came against non-NCAA teams.

Then there's the matter of conference play and the two losses to the only worthy opponents they faced otherwise. Georgetown split with six Big East rivals while sweeping Connecticut, Pitt and Miami, and the latter three wins should be worth no more than half value.

Still, John Thompson's guys have been in the 13 previous years and, well, what good's a monopoly if . . . so much for that strength of schedule foolishness.

* Too bad poor Howard draws No. 2 Kansas in Dayton Friday and figures to be home and unpacked by noon Saturday. If they stuck around for a while, folks might be interested in hearing about a team that started out 0-4, 1-8 and 5-11 and had to win its last five, including three in the MEAC tourney, to get to 17-13.

A word of caution to the Jayhawks: Don't let the outcome come down to the last minute or so. The Washington school out-experiences you in close games. Exactly half of Howard's 30 games were determined by five points or less, including five by one point, and it went 9-6 in nail-biters.

* Several years ago, after having his Maryland team go uninvited, coach Lefty Driesell yelped, "From now on I'm going to schedule 20 victories."

Still didn't help. Lefty's James Madison club stumbled in its tournament, stands at 21-10 and has the NIT to look forward to.

* QUICKIES: How come Texas has played 34 games already? Can't anybody in Austin count? Is is possible Notre Dame's abhorred exclusive contract with NBC for home football games had something to do with the Irish being left out of a CBS-sponsored tournament despite their fine 14-14 mark? Obviously, someone on the seeding and site selection committee has a heckuva sense of humor. Imagine Brown and LSU playing Bobby Knight and Indiana in the second round out West. Boise, Idaho, may never be the same. It's too early to make a pick. After all, the coaches haven't even had a chance to exclaim their well-practiced tourney cliches yet.

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