Every year during the NCAA Tournament I'm struck again by what a good job CBS does with it. It's really remarkable how, year after year, the Eye resists the temptation to jazz up its coverage with new elements that are innovative, clever and dynamic. And that suck.
Once again this year we've been spared camera angles that bring us closer to the action -- while also making that action impossible to see.
So as players roar downcourt on fast break after fast break, are we treated to that baseline camera, through which we can see a bunch of bodies getting rapidly bigger but not the ball or what becomes of it? We are not.
Are we switched to the unique perspective of the camera mounted on top of the backboard, which affords us a dazzling view that's impossible to get in real life -- and that no one has ever been interested in getting? Because you can't see what happens to the ball? Which is why they don't sell seats on top of the backboard? And don't try to say they can't sell seats up there because if they thought somebody'd pay a few thousand a pop, they'd figure out a way? We are not.
We also have been denied having our view of the game provided from the worst seat in the house, with the players looking like little scurrying ants. This is an angle that brings us closer to the fans in the arena. The very fans we'd chosen not to be among when we decided to watch the game on TV instead of paying $150 for nosebleed seats.
CBS just has no consideration sometimes.
At least on the Bay Area affiliate I was watching, CBS went 50 minutes without a commercial Saturday as it followed the first half of the Stanford-Marquette game and the end of the Xavier-Purdue game. That's an astonishing stretch on network television. It's five minutes longer than the 45 minutes American TV networks supposedly couldn't go without ads to cover a soccer match properly.
I'm sure CBS got its ads in, but I don't know that any other network would have been as conscientious. Surely it could have cut away during one of the Stanford-Marquette media timeouts before Xavier-Purdue was at the very end, with Greg Gumbel assuring us, "We'll get you back in time for the last few seconds."
And for all the heat they take in blogland, the announcers have been fine too. Billy Packer hasn't gone off on any rants that I've heard, and Gus Johnson has. Perfect. I miss Bill Walton, but you can't have everything.
Stodgy old CBS. Best sports network in TV land.
The deadly end game [PERMALINK]
I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but then again, the world needs sadistic, hippophilic necrophiles too. So: Someday, someone will figure out a way for the ends of college basketball games not to be so preposterously boring.
Actually, that someone is me and the someday was years ago, when I proposed the elimination of free throws and the reduction of the shot clock to 10 seconds in the last two minutes of a game, thus speeding up the action to mind-blowing levels of excitement while still giving trailing teams a chance to mount late comebacks.
That I haven't won a Nobel Prize for this is evidence of nothing more than blatant cronyism in Stockholm.
But just look at that Xavier-Purdue game Saturday, which Xavier won 85-78 to advance to the Sweet 16. When Stanford-Marquette tipped off at 6:46 p.m. EDT, the Xavier-Purdue game had 7:48 left. The Musketeers and Boilermakers didn't finish until 7:31, so it took 45 minutes to play that last 7:48.
While they were doing that, Stanford and Marquette played 17:46 of actual basketball.
It gets worse than that, as you know. It took Purdue and Xavier 33 minutes to play the last 3:25. It took them 24 minutes to play the last 1:42, 14 minutes to play the last 42.8 seconds. All that time consisted almost entirely of dribbling, fouls, walking from one end of the floor to the other, foul shots and timeouts. Plus a few desperation shots hurled up by Purdue.
You know what? Commercials would have been better.
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A well-earned defeat [PERMALINK]
As if this Tournament season wasn't painful enough for me, having to watch Stanford and UCLA pull out close second-round victories in the men's Tournament, I had to watch the alma mater go down to ignominious defeat in the women's Tournament as well.
If ever a team deserved to lose, though, it was California in its second-round game against George Washington, which pulled out a 55-53 win, a 6-over-3 upset in the Greensboro region -- the women are still using those dumb city regional names.
The Colonials had just tied the game with 12.1 seconds left when Cal called timeout. The Bears then inbounded under their own basket and Natasha Vital dribbled to the front court, where she tried to call timeout again. But she traveled before she could get the signal together.
George Washington took over with 5.7 seconds left and Sarah-Jo Lawrence scored the winning basket at the buzzer after rebounding Kimberly Beck's airball.
If you call timeout with 12.1 seconds left just so you can plan a strategy to get the ball to the front court so you can call timeout again, you deserve to lose. Coach Joanne Boyle led the Bears to their most successful season ever and deserves praise for that. The attempt to micromanage the end game, not so much.
Tellingly, George Washington coach Joe McKeown didn't call timeout before either the game-tying or the game-winning possession.
Sometimes the best coaching is the coaching you don't do. Or a better way to put it: Sometimes the best coaching is the coaching you've already done.
Previous column: The politics of the China Olympics
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