That was some weekend of basketball, huh? I don't know how any of the Final Four teams can top what happened in the Michigan State-Kentucky game for excitement, but then I wouldn't have known how anyone could have topped the Illinois-Arizona and Louisville-West Virginia games, either. And despite my overall incompetence at bracketology this year, I came thisclose to calling the Final Four correctly - my only misfire was picking Kentucky. You can see my folly here, which leads to a vexing question - how come this thing was set up so that North Carolina would be the Illini's foe in the semifinals? I've got Illinois over Louisville for the championship, and obviously that's not gonna happen. Hey, Yoni Cohen, what's up with that?
Ken Pomeroy makes an observation that usually gets overlooked in the wake of a classic battle like Mich State-KY:
There was no better illustration of how random chance can affect a game than on Patrick Sparks' successful three-pointer to send the Kentucky/Michigan State game to overtime. There were three main variables that could have flipped the other way from what actually occurred.
1) What if Patrick Sparks' foot is a micron closer to the basket, and so it's only a two- point attempt?
2) What if Kelvin Torbert (or "Torbit" as Jim Nantz says) is called for a foul on Sparks?
3) What if Sparks' shot falls off the rim instead of through?
Then consider each of the eight possible combinations to the yes/no answers of the above questions. Only one of those - Sparks makes a three, foul is called - potentially results in a UK win.
(If you want to know the ref's actual thinking on his decision, read this:
"On the court, I scored it as a 3 and scored it within the regulation of time," [referee James] Burr said. "When you go to the replay and you first see it, the camera angles that you have are very difficult. I felt that the play was so important in deciding a college basketball game that was as great as that, I asked the guy in the (production) truck to blow it up for me.
"I don't know how many angles he had. But he showed me every single angle he possibly could, and I still couldn't find anything that would overrule my original decision. When he finally blew it up, in my humble opinion, it showed that the kid was behind the line when he took the shot, and that is how I made my decision."
The point that needs to be stressed here is that it is the extremely rare champion that wins it all on superior skill alone. These teams are very evenly matched. If you could take each of the matchups in the regional finals and play them a hundred times apiece, do you think any of those teams would win as many as 60 games? Luck is a bigger factor than we want to admit - it's much sexier to talk about "character" and "knowing how to win". Michigan State won anyway, but had they not, Patrick Sparks' rim-rattler should serve as a reminder of that.Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 28, 2005 to Other sports | TrackBack