Invariably, any basketball postseason experience, whether you are watching an NBA game or any of the contests on the slate during March Madness, will have a game that will come down to the final minutes and a four or five point deficit. It is moments like these, after years of watching painful finishes, that have made me despise announcers who feel required to say that the team trying to claw into the lead does not need to go for three.
The latest example came yesterday while I watched in horror as my original alma mater, the University of Illinois Illini, tried to overcome a deficit that waned between four and five points over the last two minutes of the last first round match up of the night.
I was already angry that the Illini waited until three minutes left to actually start playing like they wanted to win the game. I was already angry that the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers looked like they could recruit better athletes in the Sun Belt conference than Bruce Weber could in the Big Ten. I was already angry that the loss of Chester Frazier would actually have such a drastic effect on the team.
Once I began listening to whoever was announcing (I think it was Gus Johnson or Brent Musburger, really I forgot as I was seething in anger) start the old adage you do not need a three I had to clench my jaw lest let out a primitive scream.
I understand the theory. The theory is that you get two and then you foul. You foul in the hopes of the other team missing free throws under pressure. The problem is that I have an overwhelming majority of teams fail to come back using this strategy.
It seems like coaches are resigned to accept the loss as long as they use this time consuming strategy. In a single-elimination tournament like the NCAA Men’s Tournament shouldn’t the team trying to make a desperate comeback do anything to realistically win the game. In reality I have seen far more comebacks sealed with an onslaught of three pointers than with the trading baskets theory.
I have also seen my share of teams lose with the three in the final minutes, but at least those losses did not drag on timeout after agonizing timeout. The conservative basket-trading strategy seems to only accomplish a prolonging of a living nightmare for fans.
This is true at every level. You could have Lakers tickets or even Celtics tickets for the NBA playoffs and be forced to endure this. This useless strategy that must have been conceived before the three-point line was added has become ingrained into the game. It is inescapable and only works to the advertisers’ advantage.
Alas, the Illini lost 76-72 and I was forced to listen to the final straw with .9 seconds left on the clock. The Illini had a chance to get the ball back after Western Kentucky’s free throws and the anonymous announcer said if they get the ball back they can throw it down three-quarters length of the court. They said they had seen it done before, but it a long shot at best.
My bracket may not be busted but my rage has surely been elevated after just the first day of games.