Wasn't that Bill Walton in the stands grinning during the final moments of UCLA's win over Memphis on Saturday? What was he smiling about? Was it the Bruins' 35 percent shooting from the field? Was it their 51 percent shooting from the free throw line? Ironically, it was in the 1973 NCAA championship game against Memphis State that Walton made 21 of 22 shots and scored 44 points — a performance considered by many to be the greatest ever in a Final Four game. So by all measures, when the cameras caught him in the stands on Saturday, he should have been retching.
And so the debate arises: Has this NCAA Tournament given us great basketball, or just close basketball? Was George Mason's win over UConn one of the greatest tourney games ever, or merely closely contested, as would be many a Saturday night Rec League adult game? Arguments can be made both ways, but here's some things we've noticed: blocking out seems to be a lost art in this tournament. Shooting percentages are way down. And Jim Calhoun should have taken the energy he expended complaining about where his team had to play, and used it to teach them how to set a screen. When his players did try to set screens, most of the time they just went through the motions and screened air.
This is the 21st anniversary of Villanova's 1985 NCAA championship game win over Georgetown, 66-64, in which the Wildcats shot 78 percent from the floor (22 for 28), including 90 percent in the second half. Ninety freaking percent, against Patrick Ewing and David Wingate. And even though they didn't have the shot clock then, they still outscored UCLA-Memphis, '06 (50-45). We're seeing a lot of great athletes in this tournament, but are we seeing great basketball players? We're seeing a lot of close games, but we fear that we're never going to see the likes of Villanova-Georgetown again.
Though don't get us wrong; George Mason is still making it all worth while.
March Madness, Part III [20 Second Timeout]