Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Mourning After

I had never seen a game in which my team was eliminated because the winning points never went through a hoop, crossed the goal line or touched home plate. But then I watched last night's Boston College-Villanova basketball game.

With just 3.5 seconds to go and up by 1 in overtime, the BC Eagles were defending an inbounds pass under the Villanova Wildcats' basket and blocked a Villanova shot cleanly. Unfortunately for them, the block happened after gravity kicked in and the ball began its downslope. The refs called goaltending and the basket wound up being Villanova's game-winner, 60-59.

Was it the right call? Technically yes. But I've never seen such a high-profile game end on that kind of call. Picture a baseball playoff game ending on fan interference. Either way, picture me stunned and maddeningly angry.

On top of this, the refs were shaky throughout this huge postseason game. (Sound familiar?) In addition to Craig Smith getting mauled under the basket, BC repeatedly was called for ridiculous fouls and violations. My favorite was when an Eagle grabbed a rebound, was pulled to the floor by a Wildcat and called for traveling.

Not that BC deserved to win on its own merits. The Eagles blew 9-0 and 25-9 leads, wilted at the charity stripe, tossed lollipop passes with less strength than an elementary school gym class, and coughed up possessions as if the Wildcats were repo men.

Still, I think basketball should implement a new rule: If goaltending is called in the last 10 seconds, it should result in a two free throws for the shooter, not an automatic two points.* That way, the team that wins actually scored the points by having a ball go through a hoop. What a concept!

This is the furthest I ever watched BC go in the men's basketball tournament, which made me realize that there's no postseason I like less as a fan who wants to avoid ulcers. Sure, 65 teams have a better shot to make the tournament, compared to just 8 or 16 in other sports. But a failure to win six games -- or seven, if you're in the play-in game -- has to cause more broken hearts, brackets and furniture than any other playoff system.

In pro baseball, basketball and hockey, there's at least a best-of-five or best-of-seven format. In pro football and college hockey, you have to win only four games maximum to raise the championship trophy. NCAA basketball tournaments are like life-and-death with every possession.

Is that more exciting? Sure. Is it more fun? Ask fans of 64 of the 65 teams that make the Big Dance. Then make a point to ask the BC fans who lost on a basket that technically didn't happen.

Better yet, wait a few days before you do the latter.

*UPDATE! I no longer think my proposed rule is fair, but I still contend that winning points should not be scored via goaltending. Check out the comments below!


Anonymous said...

Sorry, totally have to respond to this: if you implemented your brilliant rule (free throws instead of automatic points in the last 10 seconds), any shot that looked like it would go in would just be swatted away by some big man standing under the basket. You'd obviously rather have them shoot two than just shoot one...the whole point of the goaltending rule is to prevent people from standing around with their arms acting like baseball bats. If you don't want someone to get an automatic two, don't goaltend. I would understand your bitterness if it were a complete BS shot that had no chance, but Sheridan's was going in, no question. But actually...even if it weren't, don't break the goaltending rule and you won't have a problem. BC would've won if they hadn't messed up. Love, a Villanova '05 alum...

Chris S. said...

All good points, Nova dude. I can't argue against any of them.

I basically came to all the same conclusions before you posted yours. And I'm pleased that your argument is constructive, NovAlum, as opposed to the ever-popular "BC Sucks."

This loss was the equivalent of a team death, sometimes resulting in irrational moments of overcompensation.

Still, I don't think goaltending should be THE way to end a game. I agree that the ball was heading toward the basket, but that's like saying Bill Buckner's glove was heading toward the ball that went under his legs.

In football, a game cannot end on a defensive penalty. I just think there's got to be some comparable solution for basketball that involves the ball going through the hoop, instead of magical points that never happened.

I'll keep brainstorming. Thanks for a fair counterpoint, NovAlum!