I must say I was very impressed by the turnout, and Reliant Stadium was filled with 70+ thousand people. The cavernous facility that was the final destination of this year's NCAA tournament had to be seen as a success purely based on attendance.
But as a basketball game, last night's finale, at least, was an abject, unadorned failure. A gnarlier game has never before assailed my vision in the NCAA tournament, and hardly ever in the regular season. As a viewing experience, its cringe-worthiness ranks right up there with the Jerry Springer Show, and in entertainment value fell well short of a rerun of the late Julia Child's 1960-era cooking show. It is a measure of my masochistic tendencies that I actually watched almost the entire misadventure.
Congratulations to the Connecticut Huskies. Even if the final act was so loathsome as to be a stain on the entire season, the entirety of Connecticut's season will go down as legendary in the annals of Storrs lore. Not only did Connecticut come from the depths of unranked anonymity all the way to claim the flag, they did so without allowing an NCAA investigation to distract them as well as starting three freshman and a sophomore beside the divine Kemba Walker. No matter what you think of Connecticut basketball or Jim Calhoun, you have to be impressed with that.
I am curious about a few things, though. Why does the NCAA feel compelled not only to make the players suffer through the depth perception problems of domed stadiums, but also place rims there that act like they are arc-welded to an Abrams tank instead of bolted to Plexiglas? I'm all for tight rims, but please, guys, one handicap for shooters is enough, don't you think?
The officials are starting to swallow their whistle too much. I like letting teams play, but when someone throws a cross-body block, that's got to be a foul in basketball. Matt Howard looked like he had been thrown into hand-to-hand combat with a grizzly bear. The officials allowed too much physical play all throughout the tournament, especially inside. I thought they were trying to clean that up?
How many calls did you see for carrying the basketball, especially in the later rounds? Point of emphasis? Not so much.
I did like the fact that there were very few technical fouls called in this tournament, and despite what I thought was too much of a laissez-faire attitude in the officiating, I will admit that the referees were rarely, if ever, part of the story. There were a few obvious missed calls, but there weren't the usual number of head-scratchers. Replay showed the vast majority of the questionable-looking calls were right.
I thought the NBA commentators added a valuable and sometimes puzzlingly humorous perspective to this game. I liked that dynamic, and I expect a lot of others did also. We'll probably be seeing this again, assuming Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith are willing to risk the unalloyed misery of sitting through another debacle like last night. I was also very pleased with the way the coverage worked on the four networks, that made the tournament about as enjoyable from a viewer perspective as it could possibly be.
Like every tournament, this one had plenty of good, and a decent helping of bad, a big wad of which we were force-fed last night. The NBA guys really wanted to ask, "Is this the best these college guys can do?", and you could hear that in almost every comment -- justifiably so.
Yes, I understand the pressure, the big stage, and all that, but seriously, a combined shooting percentage of 26%? Really? Yes, both teams played good defense, but there is no level of defense that could produce that result between two major college basketball teams. The Butler Bulldogs shot 19% from the floor! That almost seems statistically impossible, like the odds of UK going 33% from the line the other night. But I saw it with my own eyes.
I hope I never have to see it again in this lifetime.