For anyone that did not see the games last night, you missed some incredible basketball. The Zags beat Michgan St in a triple overtime thriller, Texas overcame Iowa and UConn defeated Arizona. All three games were enjoyable to watch but the best was the Gonzaga victory as Adam Morrison (43 points) hit clutch shot after clutch shot in a tireless effort. The high level of play is something you expect to see in March not November and even my wife (who will suffer through NCSU games with me but is not really a basketball fan) was enthralled in the game.
While watching these games several things crossed my mind…
(1) All six of these teams gained valuable exposure from these high profile contests. How many recruits saw Ager hitting the last second shot in regulation to send the MSU game into the first OT? Losing a big game like this is better for the RPI than beating up a cupcake
(2) Besides exposure, these teams learned things in this game that will prepare them for tournament success. After MSU freshmen Goran Suton missed a wide open layup with 4 seconds left, the camera showed Tom Izzo talking (not yelling) to the young man. This was a learning opportunity that was invaluable for the freshman and Izzo handled it masterfully. All of the players have now played in a high pressure situation and will learn and get better because of this opportunity.
(3) The offenses for both Gonzaga and MSU are already hitting on all cylinders. Some teams seem to struggle offensively this early in the year but the Zags and the Spartans are hitting on all cylinders. The announcers said that MSU runs a very complicated system of set plays and yet they did not seem to struggle.
(4) Both the Texas/Iowa and the Gonzaga/MSU games highlight the importance of end of game management. To win in the big games coaches must call the right plays and the players must be prepared to produce.
The question I have is why can’t NCSU seem to get into these high profile tournaments? There are 16 teams in the NIT, 8 teams in the Maui and 8 teams in the Alaskan shootout (which seems to have lost alot of its luster). Over ten years that is 320 opportunities, even if you assume each tournament will only take one ACC team a year, that is 30 opporunities we have missed. If NCSU expressed true interest in playing these tournaments, I find it hard to believe we would not be able to garner one of those spots. It is truly a story of wasted opportunities.