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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Storming The Court: A College Basketball Guide to Dos and Don'ts

Recently, the topic of whether it is appropriate to storm the court after a college basketball game has come under much scrutiny.

And, while there are those who favor the act regardless of the circumstances (Dan Dakich, I am talking to you) I thought I, too, would weigh in on the subject. After all, I was once an undergraduate at an institution of higher learning (The George Washington University, in case you were wondering) And our men's basketball team, now somewhat of an afterthought, was once ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Well, it was among the Top 25 for a brief period of time during my freshman year, anyway.

But I digress. The point I want to make here is that while it has become very trendy to bum rush the court after your college basketball team defeats school X, it is not always the right thing to do.

 First of all, students need to be aware of the injury risks they pose to the players or event staff. Dan Dakich himself states that his career ended when fans stormed the court after a win, but, if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't change a thing. That might be cool for Dakich, as he probably was nothing more than a role player at best. But what if, for instance, during the end of the Wisconsin-Michigan game yesterday, fans had injured center Jared Berggren to the point he could not return for the remainder of the season? Would they still be celebrating the Badgers' upset win over the Wolverines with the same enthusiasm? I don't think so.

Then, maybe just as important, is the safety of the staff working the ballgames, many of whom are fellow students. As a matter of fact, while I was at George Washington, I had the privilege of working more than a few men's basketball games. And, while the students never rushed the court during my four years there, I was, along with my fellow coworkers, instructed to see that such a thing did not occur. I thank my lucky stars I was never injured as the result of my fellow students storming the court.

All of this, you say may be sour grapes on my part. That now that I am 35 years old, I have forgotten what it is like to be a college kid. Far from it, I remember some of those times like they were yesterday. In fact, when I was a freshman, I remember our Colonials (ranked 15th in the AP poll at the time) hosting the University of Rhode Island Rams (ranked in the top 10, I believe) who featured All-American and future NBA star Lamar Odom. Although we ended up losing the game, the atmosphere was electric, as it was one of the few sellouts of our 5,000 seat Smith Center Gymnasium.

Would I have wanted to storm the court had we beaten the Rams? Well, considering I was sitting in the upper bleachers for the contest, I wouldn't have been in position to do so anyway. But after having worked several games, my perspective changed somewhat.

Fast forward to today. This is not to say I am against storming the court altogether, but I believe there should be restrictions that guide when and where it happens. What then, you ask, should those restrictions be? I'd be happy to answer that:

1. Any school that wishes to storm the court must not only be ranked outside the AP Top 25, but they must also defeat a school ranked within the Top 5.

This rule should be almost automatic, especially given the fluid nature of this year's Associated Press Poll.  If you're going to put fellow students, on athletic scholarship no less, in harm's way, then at least make sure it's due to the fact you pulled off an improbable upset.

2. Corollary to Rule No. 1: If your school has upset a Top 5 school in the past five years, you are not allowed to storm the court, regardless.

This may seem somewhat harsh, but what I am trying to accomplish here is a set of boundaries that will protect not only the student-athletes but also game staff.

3.If you belong to a school that has no chance of making the NCAA tournament, and that school defeats an AP Top 10 school, you may storm the court.

I'm all about player safety, but if you're not making the NCAA's, chances are defeating a Top 10 program will be your biggest win that season. Go ahead and celebrate.

Thanks for your time. Please go out and enjoy the game in a safe manner. :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ohio State Basketball: Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross are X Factors for the Buckeyes

As the Ohio State University men's basketball team is still reeling from last night's 76-74  overtime loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor, there are still some unanswered questions.

Chief among them is why head coach Thad Matta refused to call timeout with a little more than seven seconds left in overtime, leaving the potential tying basket to chance rather than a set play. Instead, Matta trusted that his team would be able to catch the Wolverines off guard, and that the Buckeyes would live to play one more overtime. The game would end, however, when junior point guard Aaron Craft 's layup was blocked by Michigan guard Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Yet, despite the fact that the Buckeyes lost their third Big Ten game of the 2012-2013 season, there is a silver lining to last night's loss. First of all, Ohio State took the Wolverines best shot, on the road, and went toe to toe with the No. 3 team in the nation before falling to them in overtime. That in itself speaks volumes for a team that, only a month ago, was blown out by Illinois when two met in Assembly Hall.

More importantly, however, for the Buckeyes might be that sophomores Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross may finally be living up to the hype that surrounded them as freshmen last year. Ross, a 6-9 swingman from Mississippi, scored 16 points for Ohio State last night on 7-10 shooting, including a perfect 2-2 from three point range. Williams added nine points but, more importantly, had four blocked shots on the defensive end.

These two couldn't have picked a better night to have what was by far the best game of their careers at Ohio State. Ross is still averaging only 8 points per game over the last five Big Ten contests, yet he has steadily seen his minutes increase since the last time Ohio State played Michigan (in Columbus). If he continues to shoot as well he did last night, it won't be long before he's averaging double digits.

And while no one expected Amir Williams to duplicate Jared Sullinger's numbers on the offensive side of the ball, his progression on the defensive side of the ball( he's averaging three blocks per game in his last five games) has to be music to the ears of Buckeyes' fans who felt the center from Detroit would be this year's version of Anthony Davis. Now if coach Matta can only get him to rebound the ball a little better.

But I digress. The point of the matter being, as Ohio State marches toward the NCAA tournament, Amir Williams and Laquinton Ross's improvements over the last several games mean the Buckeyes should no longer be an easy out. Ross is finally starting to come around as the Bucks' scoring alternative to forward Deshaun Thomas. And Williams seems quite content to be a game changer on the defensive end. With this year's tournament field being as weak as it is, it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Ohio State once again playing on the final weekend.