THE SKIP SHOT
By Aaron Brown
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
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.