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The REAL March Madness

By Aaron Brown


PLAINFIELD, IL -- All this week, I've heard so much about how exciting the NCAA college basketball tournament is, especially the first round of games that are always played on Thursday and Friday of the third week in March. At some point, the term 'March Madness' became associated with the frenzy of 32 games that take place across the country, causing businesses a major loss in productivity as the games start in the early afternoon and people rush to watch on television.


Which means that as some of my friends ask what I'm doing on Friday afternoon, I realize I have a key decision to make: Do I hang around with friends and watch college basketball after school, or do I leave directly from work and head to Fenwick to cover the Dan Lynch Tournament and some of the best high school teams and athletes in the state of Illinois?


The decision is simple, as it boils down to what is more exciting: watching one of the best games in state thus far this year between #1 Oak Park and #2 Naperville Central or sitting through television timeouts and commercials that make a forty minute basketball game take three hours to complete.


Note: The Fenwick Tournament consists of the top six teams in the state, plus several other ranked teams that will go head-to-head to determine where they stand after two weeks of the high school season. A grand total of 26 games, including a battle between #4 Brother Rice and #5 Lyons that already finished in a thrilling 10-10 tie.


And that's when I started to compare college basketball and their version of 'March Madness' to the upcoming Fenwick Tournament this weekend. The comparisons were astounding.


First of all, I know that the water polo games tomorrow will only take approximately 45 minutes to complete. After all, the games consist of four six-minute periods that total 24 minutes of actual playing time. What a concept! When you add in the time between quarters and halftime and for timeouts, you realize that when you watch a water polo game, you actually get to WATCH a water polo game...not a bunch of breaks and commercials and a lot of standing around doing nothing like I saw yesterday during all of the college basketball games.


Did I mention timeouts? At the Fenwick Tournament, teams get two timeouts which coaches must use wisely. Compare that to college basketball, where the coaches must get a full allotment of 12-15 timeouts that they use to set up EVERY single play down the stretch of a game.


In one situation, a team had the ball with twenty seconds remaining, called timeout to setup a play, missed the shot and got the rebound, then called ANOTHER timeout to setup ANOTHER play with ten seconds left. It was as if the teams never actually practice and learn the plays themselves, so the coaches have to tell them what to do every time.


Not in water polo, where teams spend enough time practicing and competing that they are well-prepared when it comes to the end of games. They have to be...they don't get 12-15 timeouts in water polo!


Yesterday, during one game, a player from Washington scored the go-ahead basket with four seconds left. Five minutes later, the game was still at commercial and I thought I had missed the last play of the game. Nope. One team had called a timeout to setup a play, the other team then called a timeout to setup their defense, THEN the referees decided they had to review the previous play to see if there was either 3.2 or 3.3 seconds left on the clock. Seven actual mintutes later, Marquette threw-up a halfcourt shot that missed and that was the end of the game. It took them SEVEN MINUTES to do that!


Compare that to water polo, where if you took a bathroom break you might end up missing an entire quarter. When the whistle blows in water polo, it normally means for play to continue. Fouls usually call for an immediate startup instead of players walking around for a minute before getting two free shots from a short distance with no one guarding them or the basket. After a foul in water polo, you don't get to walk around, take a deep breath, talk with your teammates, and get ready to take an uncontested shot. Even when a penalty is awarded in water polo, the shot is normally taken relatively quickly and the game moves on.


There is probably a more extensive list of things I could come up with that highlight why water polo is much more exciting than college basketball. And it will probably help that my audience mainly consists of people who coach, play, or are fans of the sport of water polo.


So when it comes time to make a decision on what I should do tomorrow, the choice is simple. I'll be watching the top teams in the state playing in 'The Real March Madness' at the Fenwick Tournament.


See you at Fenwick...




Editor's note: The author of the article played junior high school basketball in 7th and 8th grade and also once wrote a 42-page book about the NCAA Tournament over Spring Break when he was 12 years old. Just wanted to point out that the author has done things other than water polo and feels justified in comparing the sport of college basketball to the sport of water polo.




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