The Spartan Nation Basketball Weekly

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Not sure we want to see the Spartan Nation writing staff dancing like these ladies, but we can all agree that March is a time to celebrate Spartan Basketball.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Not sure we want to see the Spartan Nation writing staff dancing like these ladies, but we can all agree that March is a time to celebrate Spartan Basketball. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

The March to Accountability

March is definitely different. The College game is filled with different matchups, different venues, and different stakes. While a team might have been able to get away with a little sloppiness earlier in the year, there’s little room for error when you’re in the final games of a Conference race or Tournament play. In March, the finer points of the game end up examined under the powerful microscope of elimination.

“From a Defensive standpoint, everything is magnified,” Tom Izzo began. “It seems like the games are more possession oriented, and they come down more to who can defend and rebound the best.” On the other side of the ball, even the casual fan knows that Guard play and Free Throws jump into the spotlight, but it’s not the only thing on Offense that shines in a brighter light.

“Because possessions seem to go a little longer, because everything seems a little tighter…having the ability to handle the shot clock and what you’re going to do as the clock runs down…it sometimes doesn’t play as big of a role during the regular season as it does during a tournament,” Izzo explained. The main reason the final ticks are so important in March is the matchups become more competitive. Spartan Nation need only look back a year to the Sweet Sixteen Kansas comeback, and Kalin Lucas’ “count it and the foulllllllllll!,” shot of the ’09 Dance, to find a happy example. Purdue’s Matt Painter echoed Izzo’s belief that the end of the shot clock becomes more crucial during “one-and-done” time, but also felt that experience should not be overlooked when trying to “survive and advance.”

Yet, year in and year out, teams end up shooting themselves in the foot by relying too heavily on the 3-point shot to complete a late comeback. Illinois was the best College Basketball team in 2005, but they didn’t win the National Title. That does happen sometimes with March Madness. Bruce Webber and the Illini lost to Roy Williams and UNC in the Championship game after over-relying on the “3” in hopes to complete another late game comeback. What had served Illinois so well in their miracle comeback against Arizona in the Regional Final ended up clipping their hopes late against the Heels.

Even though College Basketball has seen this story play out again and again, we can all but guarantee it will repeat itself this year. “Guys are trying to make big comebacks, and trying to hit the Grand Slam with no one on base,” Webber told Spartan Nation. “That’s just the situation and the stresses of it…you need veteran players that have been through it, that keep their poise.” Nearly every team that successfully completes a big comeback in a deep tournament game follows a similar script, according to Webber. “You’ve gotta chip away at it, you’ve gotta use the clock, and you’ve gotta take what the other team gives you.”

Handling the stress of March Madness’ elimination games is something Bo Ryan prepares the Badgers for all year long, but doesn’t try to overhype. “I don’t try to be overly dramatic and make the pressure cooker (of one-and-done time) more than what it already is,” Ryan explained. “But, it is abrupt, so you keep reminding (the players) of all the things during the year that you’ve worked at…because you know if you have a bad one, the uniforms are put away.”

The Coaches Big Dance?

As March Madness shifts into another gear this weekend with the annual rite of Selection Sunday, College Basketball’s fan base will have increased exponentially by the time “the ball is tipped” next Thursday. Even the non-sports fan fills out and follows their bracket through the Big Dance. But if you ask one of those people about the “Big Dance” during a different time of the year, there’s a good chance they’ll think you’re talking about “Dancing with the Stars.”

“Dancing with the Stars” has predictably been a monster TV hit ever since it premiered in America many years ago now. While it tends to attract a much different audience than the typical College Basketball games, its wide ranging interest, especially with women, cannot be denied. And since we’ll have so many “Dancing with the Stars” fans filling out brackets next week (probably lapping the so called “bracketologists” in the process), Spartan Nation dug deep to find out which Big Ten Coach could cross over best from the hardwood to the dance floor. Who would be the favorite in a “Dancing with the Big Ten Coaches” competition?

“Boy, that’d be an ugly group…” Tom Izzo told Spartan Nation earlier this week. “I know a couple guys that wouldn’t…me and (Matt) Painter and (Bruce) Webber…and Crean, he wouldn’t.” Having the Dean of Big Ten Coaches knock out nearly half the field, we pressed on to identify the favorites. Illinois Coach Bruce Webber didn’t exactly call his shot, but did point towards Minneapolis for signs of rhythm. “I’m gonna go with Tubby Smith,” Webber said. “He’s just a fun loving guy...maybe he’s the one that could be a star in a “Dance Off.”

But if Spartan Nation had to handicap a favorite, it would be the guy Spartan fans love to hate more than any Coach in the Conference. “Bo Ryan,” Penn St. Head Coach Ed DeChellis quickly tapped as a winner. “I saw him dance on one of those video You Tube things to some kind of rap music…he was pretty impressive,” the Lions head man explained. “Plus, he’s from Chester, PA, and those guys from Chester are pretty smooth on their feet.”

Ryan agreed. Before I could get the whole question out, the Wisconsin head man and You Tube “Soulja Boy” legend jumped in, “I would.” It turns out that dancing runs in Ryan’s family a bit, as his sister once danced on the classic TV hit “American Bandstand.” “We did (a Dance Off) in a “Coaches vs. Cancer” thing where people had cards at each table and they donated “X” number of dollars for me to do the “Ham Bone,” Ryan recalled. “It got to a certain amount, and I did it…it was one way of raising money.”

Yet, while Ryan would probably be the favorite going in, Izzo agreed with Webber that Bo could have some legitimate competition from Wisconsin’s neighboring states. “I’ll give it to Bill (Carmody) since he’s got that Princeton (education)…he’s smart enough to study it quickly and figure it out,” Izzo determined. “But Tubby (Smith) would probably have something to say about that.”

Since there’s such an enormous following for “Dancing with the Stars,” maybe one day there will be a special episode of “Dancing with the Big Ten Coaches.” And there is a free night in Chicago around the pre-season Media Day, right? I don’t know if anyone ever thought of this idea before, but if the BTN ends up broadcasting such an event one day, they should probably give me the Sideline, errrr, Sidefloor Reporter gig.

The Spot Up 3

Three quick takes to consider during the College Basketball weekend:

  1. I still believe if either Purdue, Ohio St., or MSU wins the Big Ten Tournament and has to go through the other two teams to do it, they could end up the fourth #1 seed come Sunday evening
  2. Leagues that end their Conference Tournaments on Selection Sunday are at a significant disadvantage to those that end earlier given the possible travel squeeze of returning home Sunday night and turning around for a cross country trip as early as Tuesday.
  3. Both Villanova and MSU quietly sit in pretty good spots right now, hovering in the land of a #2 or #3 seed, and knowing that none of the teams ranked around them have the invaluable experience of making a last year’s Final Four.

 

Jon Schopp is not only a well-respected attorney, (possibly the first ever) but also serves on the Atlanta Sports Council and is a weekly columnist for Spartan Nation.  He also likes hot chocolate with marshmallows and candy canes.  He is seen often wearing heavy wool sweaters (in Atlanta in the summer) with loud colors and weird patterns that he inherited from his crazy uncle.

Jon Schopp is not only a well-respected attorney, (possibly the first ever) but also serves on the Atlanta Sports Council and is a weekly columnist for Spartan Nation. He also likes hot chocolate with marshmallows and candy canes. He is seen often wearing heavy wool sweaters (in Atlanta in the summer) with loud colors and weird patterns that he inherited from his crazy uncle.