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NCAA Tournament is a game of Russian roulette

Hot shooters, sprained ankles and questionable whistles can alter the outcome of a game — and the future of a coach.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 6, 2014

photo - Kentucky coach John Calipari is shown on the big screen at AT&T Stadium during his team’s Final Four game against Wisconsin. 
                  AP photo
Kentucky coach John Calipari is shown on the big screen at AT&T Stadium during his team’s Final Four game against Wisconsin. AP photo

The NCAA Tournament ends Monday night, and by any definition, this dance has been fabulous.

A seven seed, Connecticut, plays an eight seed, Kentucky, for the national title.

Sixty-six games have been staged. Twenty of those games were decided in the final 10 seconds. Twenty! Five more were decided in the final 30 seconds.

The entertainment value of this March Madness is at an all-time high. Game after game, riveting and memorable. My quick favorites: Dayton-Ohio State, Stephen F. Austin-Virginia Commonwealth, Kentucky-Wichita State, Iowa State-North Carolina, Louisville-Kentucky. And the Final Four didn’t disappoint Saturday, with two more keepers.

College basketball has plenty of problems, but its postseason is not one of them. The only thing wrong with the NCAA Tournament is when decision-makers put too much stock in its results. When they make hiring decisions based on the bounce of a solitary ball. When they make firing decisions based on the same.

Truth is, college basketball has plenty of parity, with lots of good teams, and the sport offers up a puncher’s-chance tournament. In the NBA playoffs, the better team wins most series. Play best-of-7, and one upset doesn’t matter. Quality wins out over multiple nights. But in a single-elimination tournament, with hot shooters and sprained ankles and whistles that can go either way, there is no Game 2.

Check out the NCAA finalists. Connecticut has made a great run with Thunder fave Kevin Ollie, after a mostly ho-hum regular season. The Huskies trailed Saint Joseph’s 70-67 with 40 seconds left in their NCAA opener and needed an old-fashioned three-point play just to force overtime. And Kentucky has played four straight games that came down to a 3-point shot in the final 10 seconds. Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet and Louisville’s Russ Smith missed, Kentucky Aaron Harrison made (with three seconds left against Michigan, to win by three, and seven seconds left, against Wisconsin, to win by one).

So Kentucky and Connecticut keep advancing. It’s a great story for both, who deserve everything they’ve gotten. The winner is a worthy champion.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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