Monday, April 5, 2021

That 1992 Game

The game Saturday night between Gonzaga and UCLA was, of course, the best college basketball game since Duke beat Kentucky 104-103 in the East Regional Final back in 1992.  Some folks prefer the Villanova three-pointer to beat UNC and win the title in 2016.  But that game wasn't played at such a high level, and it didn't end on a miracle play.  The Villanova/UNC game was an excellent game between two very good teams -- but it didn't give you that same Rocky Balboa feeling that one team has caught lightning in a bottle, and that the favorite will have to play at an absurd level to survive.

That's the most exciting moment in sports -- when a heavily favored team faces an extraordinary new challenge, and we get to see how good they really are.  Sometimes they don't make it -- Nebraska lost to Miami in 1983, the Patriots lost to the Giants in 2007.  But when they do -- the Reds over the Red Sox in 1975, Duke over UK in 1992, Tiger Woods over Bob May in 2000 -- we get a new understanding of just how great the winner really is.  

On Saturday night, UCLA would have beaten almost any team over the last five years.  UCLA had six players who played at least 18 minutes in that game -- and all six had an offensive rating of at least 116.  As a team, UCLA scored 1.22 points per possession.  UCLA outrebounded Gonzaga 32-26.  Both teams had the same number of turnovers.  But the Bruins still couldn't win.

According to Ken Pom, here is the complete list of teams since 2002 with an Adjusted Efficiency Margin greater than 35:

2021:  Gonzaga:  38.13
2015:  Kentucky:  36.91
2008:  Kansas:  35.21

Until Saturday night, it was hard to see just how great Gonzaga was, because they hadn't been tested.  Now we know.

Of course, if Baylor beats Gonzaga this game won't be as important.  But I don't think that's going to happen.  Baylor's a great team, but I don't think they will play better than UCLA already did.

Here are some statistical comparisons between the 1992 Duke/UK game and this one.  I think the level of play in the Duke/UK game was slightly higher, and I think the shooting stats bear that out.  On the other hand, the Duke/UK game was a game of runs, with Duke shooting out to big leads, and UK hauling them back -- while Gonzaga and UCLA were close the whole time.  So both games showed a remarkably high level of play.  Remember that if the winning team misses just one more shot, the outcome could have been very different:

1992:  Duke 104, Kentucky 103 (Overtime)

Duke:
2-point shooting:  26-36 (72.2 percent)
3-point shooting:  8-16 (50.0 percent)
Free throws:  28-34 (82.3 percent)

Kentucky:
2-point shooting:  25-43 (58.1 percent)
3-point shooting:  12-22 (54.5 percent)
Free throws:  17-23 (73.9 percent)

2021:  Gonzaga 93, UCLA 90 (Overtime)

Gonzaga:
2-point shooting:  30-42 (71.4 percent)
3-point shooting:  7-21 (33.3 percent)
Free throws:  12-20 (60.0 percent)

UCLA:
2-point shooting:  26-42 (61.9 percent)
3-point shooting:  8-17 (47.1 percent)
Free throws:  14-21 (66.7 percent)

75 comments:

  1. Baylor's uniform tonight has a reference to Colossians 3:12-14. Here it is in the NIV, since I figure that's what Baylor uses:

    "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

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  2. The Texas Rangers are losing to the Blue Jays 5-1. It's not that big a deal, except it is the first game since last March to be played in front of a full stadium.

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  3. Throughout the NCAA Tournament, Westwood One Radio has been running spots from the Federal Government warning us to be careful around trains. Apparently, the government is concerned that people are taking dangerous chances in their cars and trucks when trying to cross railroad lines. The spots tell us that the trains cannot stop and that the consequences for the bold driver will be disastrous. I have two questions:

    1. Do we actually have a problem with Americans trying to beat trains?
    2. If it is a problem, is it as big a problem as these Westwood One ads make out? Because they make it sounds like Americans are being killed by trains all the time.

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  4. Hubert Davis will be the new coach at UNC. I am not surprised that once again, the Tar Heels chose to promote from within. I think there are certain aspects of that program that you really can't understand unless you've been there awhile.

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  5. Baylor leads 9-0 with 17:10 left in the first half.

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  6. Jalen Suggs is called for his second foul with 16:46 left. Suggs has to leave the game.

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  7. Baylor leads 11-1 with 15:30 left.

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  8. Baylor leads 16-4 with 14:25 left in the first half, and Gonzaga calls time. So far Baylor is 7-10 from 2-point range, and 2-2 from 3-point range. I think Gonzaga has to put Suggs back in the game.

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    1. I caught the Jon Hamm thing at the start, and then I had to do a few other things, and this is where I came back in.

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    2. Your concern for Gonzaga here was on the mark.

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  9. Gonzaga's last loss in the NCAA Tournament was in the West Regional Final in 2019, when they were manhandled by Texas Tech. Baylor is doing much the same thing right now.

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  10. Google has chosen to go with an optimistic commercial about the end of COVID. That strikes me as a very big deal.

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  11. Suggs still on the bench. Baylor up 16-6 with 14 minutes left.

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  12. Baylor up 23-8 with 12:50 left. Gonzaga without Suggs is just regular Gonzaga.

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  13. Baylor leads 23-8 at the under-12 media timeout.

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  14. Suggs comes back with 11:42 left before halftime.

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  15. Baylor 5-5 from three-point range. Bears lead 29-12 with 9 minutes left.

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  16. Baylor up 31-14 with 7:50 left before halftime.

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  17. Suggs makes his third turnover so far. Baylor leads 33-14 with 7:08 left. Suggs is the reason Gonzaga is so great, and he just hasn't played well at all.

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    1. From here to the end of the half, Gonzaga outscored Baylor 23-14.

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  18. Baylor absolutely killing Gonzaga on the boards. Bears lead 35-18 with 6:11 left.

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  19. Zags have gone to a zone, and Gonzaga's offense is finally starting to click. Baylor leads 38-26 with 3:41 left before the half.

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  20. In this century, only four teams have won the national championship while wearing the road uniforms:

    2003 Syracuse
    2006 Florida
    2008 Kansas
    2016 Villanova

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  21. Baylor adjusted to the zone, so Gonzaga went back to the man-to-man. Baylor ends the half on a 9-2 run. Baylor still leads 47-37 at the half.

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    1. Obviously, Gonzaga ended the half on a 9-2 run.

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  22. Gonzaga:
    2-point shots: 11-16 (68.8 percent)
    3-point shots: 1-6 (16.7 percent)
    Free throws: 12-13 (92.3 percent)

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  23. Baylor at the half:
    2-point shots: 12-26 (46.2 percent)
    3-point shots: 7-12 (58.3 percent)
    Free throws: 2-2 (100 percent)

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  24. Baylor out-rebounded Gonzaga 16-10, and had only 5 turnovers to 8 for Gonzaga. So Baylor had a lot more possessions, which explains why the Bears took 38 shots to 22 for the Zags. Baylor was also red-hot from the outside. Over the last 10 minutes, the Zags got back to attacking the rim, which is why they've taken so many free throws.

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  25. Baylor was up 23-8 when Suggs came back into the game after the under-12 timeout. With Suggs on the floor, Gonzaga outscored Baylor 29-24 the rest of the half.

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  26. Barkley says that Mark Few has to tell the Zags that Baylor won't shoot 60 percent from three-point range for the game.

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  27. Barkley says that Baylor will regret not building a bigger lead in the first half. I see his point, but it's hard to see how Baylor could have played much better than they did.

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    1. Barkley is hardly alone in staking out the position in sports commentary that it would be a good strategic move for some team or some competitor to decide to score more points than its opponent--except in golf, where commentators often point out that the more prudent strategy is to take fewer strokes than the opponent.

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  28. Of course, the only team in history to trail by 10 points at the half of the national championship, and still win the game, is the 1998 Kentucky Wildcats.

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  29. UK trailed 41-31 at the half, and outscored Utah 47-28 in the second half. That may be the best half I've ever seen UK play.

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    1. I watched this game with my parents in my Cleveland Park studio apartment in Washington, D.C. I actually made them dinner--it was like an unintentional tapas affair where I brought out this dish and that dish as I sporadically got them finished. My parents were a lot of fun.

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    2. I watched it sitting at home in my house at Arlington where I watched almost all UK games from November 1992 until March 2000. UK and I were almost unbeatable in that house. I've never had a better record as a fan anywhere else. I was furious that we were at risk of losing to Utah after surviving Duke and Stanford. But the Cats did not let me down.

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  30. It's very strange for me to watch the National Championship game without more of a rooting interest. I think this is the least rooting interest I've had in the National Championship since Michigan beat Seton Hall in 1989.

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    1. Now this game I watched in the lobby of the Garrett Conference Center on the campus of Western Kentucky University, in breaks of a production night for a Tuesday issue of the College Heights Herald. You could get hot chicken(ish) soup from one of the vending machines in the Garrett Conference Center. I often bought Funyuns.

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    2. I was in a dorm room at Yale Law School, not paying all that much attention (since I didn't have a rooting interest) until the game was almost over.

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  31. For the record, Ken Pom had Gonzaga winning 85-81. It could still happen.

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  32. I'm not convinced that "The United States of Al" will be a hit.

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    1. This reminds me that I'm excited to check out the new Mighty Ducks series starring Emilio Estevez and Lauren Graham. I've never seen anything from the Mighty Ducks franchise, but I like both of those two a good bit. And the other night, we were watching a Gilmore Girls rerun, and Lauren Graham's Lorelei mentioned Emilio Estevez!

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    2. Also, the new season of Family Reunion is available on Netflix. This show stars a former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, Anthony Alabi. It was one of the first hits of my family's pandemic media experience, and I'm interested to see if it still holds my daughter's attention. It's amazing how much she's aged during the pandemic, and I think she might've just aged right out of interest in Family Reunion (and Mighty Ducks, for that matter). We'll see.

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  33. Baylor makes two three-point shots to open the half. Gonzaga misses two. Baylor leads 56-41 with 17:50 left.

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  34. Gonzaga gets a few baskets back. Baylor leads 56-45 with 15:51 left.

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  35. I would be a lot more impressed with that smartphone glass commercial if she dropped the phone on the sidewalk instead of the sand next to the sidewalk.

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    1. I love the song in that commercial--it's perfect for what they are trying to convey (though I agree with you about the sand vs. sidewalk, which was obviously intentional and basically is the video depiction of a warranty exemption). I went crazy in the late 1980s for this Eric Dolphy song, and it makes me think whoever produced this smartphone-glass commercial might've been eating vending-machine Funyuns and chicken soup from his university student center at about the same time I was.

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  36. Gonzaga got to within 58-49, but then Baylor went on an 8-2 run and lead 67-51 with 12:51 left. Zags call time.

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    1. I just couldn't believe this Baylor run. I still didn't believe they were going to win, though.

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    2. This was the part where I gave up on Gonzaga's behalf. Throughout the entire game, I thought Gonzaga was slowly catching up and I thought we were headed for a close ending. But when Baylor went on this spurt, I realized they could just go where Gonzaga could not catch them.

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  37. Gonzaga's offense is working pretty well -- the Zags are on pace to score over 40 points in this half. But they have had no answer for Baylor. When they try a zone, Baylor hits open shots from all over the floor. But when they try man-to-man, Baylor just passes the ball until it finds a mismatch and scores.

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  38. The problem is that you can't zone the best three-point shooting team in the country, and the Zags' athletes can't stay with Baylor one-on-one.

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  39. Baylor leads 67-53 with 11:45 left.

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  40. Baylor now 10-19 from three-point range. The Zags are 1-8.

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  41. Baylor has out-rebounded Gonzaga 26-16. Baylor has 5 turnovers; Gonzaga has 10.

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  42. Baylor goes on another run and now leads 73-56 with 10:20 left. That Laettner highlight may be good for another year after all.

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  43. Jim Nantz tells us: "The perfect season is on life support."

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  44. Baylor still up 75-59 with 7:42 to go.

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  45. Houston's got to be feeling better about getting crushed by Baylor on Saturday.

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  46. Jim Nantz points out that we're in Indianapolis, and Peyton Manning was born the same week that IU finished its undefeated season in 1976.

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    1. I will go to my grave believing that UK 1978 would beat IU 1976 by about eight points.

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  47. Baylor up 80-63 with 4:30 left, and the Bears are going to win the national championship.

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    1. You were smarter about this game than I was. I still thought Gonzaga was going to come back until there were about three minutes to go.

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  48. It's really hard to see what Gonzaga could have done differently here. The Bears have outrebounded Gonzaga 36 to 19. The Bears have forced 13 turnovers, while only making 8 of their own. Those differences relate to Baylor's superior athleticism; there's not a lot Gonzaga could do about it. If Baylor hadn't been so hot from the outside -- or if Gonzaga hadn't been so cold -- this would have been a closer game. But it's really hard to win a basketball game when the other team is just bigger and stronger than you.

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  49. It seems like Nantz should have focused on the parallels between the Manning family (legendary dad, two sons who followed in his footnotes) and the Drew family.

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  50. This does make me feel better about UK's loss to Wisconsin. We ran into a similar buzzsaw, but we played much better.

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  51. Baylor wins 86-70 in a game that just wasn't that close. It's the most lopsided final I can remember since UNC crushed Michigan State 89-72 back in 2009.

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  52. Baylor was completely dominant on the boards, out-rebounding Gonzaga 38-22. The Bears were also better at outside shooting -- making 10-23 three-pointers, compared to only 5-17 for the Zags. If the other team is stronger than you, and they are better shooters than you, you are in for a long night.

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  53. I will be curious to see how this affects Gonzaga's final Ken Pom rating, and whether they will now slip below 2015 UK.

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