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Welcome back to a Tar Heel-stained edition of BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for all your offbeat NCAA tournament needs. Today, we blow the whistle on the NCAA, examine the relative merits of aging, check the odometer on DeAngelo Williams' car, and close out the first weekend of games with a salute to the greatest closer ever. So without further ado:
AREN'T YOU GLAD WE ASKED?
"Snafu" is an acronym that originated in the military during World War II, and if you don't know it, BracketRacket suggests looking it up when no children are present. It also captures what happened during the final 1.6 seconds of Iowa State's 85-83 upset win over North Carolina.
We don't have the time or space for a proper recap, so watch for yourself here: http://deadsp.in/1f90GIx
All you need to know is that while the game-clock operator — and everybody on the floor for North Carolina, from coach Roy Williams to freshman guard Nate Britt, who grabbed the inbounds pass and dribbled twice before crossing half court — got it wrong, the referees ultimately got it right.
OK, they needed a review. But even being generous, North Carolina used up 2 seconds-plus trying to get a timeout, when their best chance to win was letting Britt chuck up a shot from 50 feet or so while he had the chance.
To Williams' credit, after the refs called both coaches to midcourt to explain, he immediately extended a hand to Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg and took his lumps.
"You can't lay that on the officials," Williams acknowledged. "It's our mistake."
But that doesn't let the NCAA off the hook.
Right after the game, the sports information director from a Big Ten school told Associated Press sports writer Luke Meredith that during regular-season conference games, the referees have their whistles synched to the game clock, "so you blow it and the clock stops dead."
Think about how much time and confusion that device would have saved, then think about the roughly $700 million the NCAA pockets in rights fees from CBS and Turner Broadcasting each year to televise the tournament and finally, ask yourself why it wasn't being used.
We asked the NCAA instead.
"Several conferences do utilize this technology," Dan Gavitt, vice president of the men's basketball championship confirmed in an-email. He said the NCAA tournament does not because the "multitude of camera angles in high definition by CBS & Turner have provided sufficient coverage to correct timing errors with the replay equipment."
Gavitt also noted the championship committee "reviews all officiating matters annually, and available technology is a topic that will be considered again."
All righty, then.
THIS YEAR, THE KIDS AREN'T ALL RIGHT
Talent vs. experience is college basketball's version of the nature vs. nurture debate.
Ever since one-and-done became the law of the NCAA landscape, coaches and fans have anguished over whether it's better to recruit supremely skilled kids who will flee campus the second the NBA comes calling, or patiently build second-tier talent and late-bloomers into a cohesive unit.
Many of the game's traditional powers — Kentucky and North Carolina, quickly, and with relish; Duke and Kansas, gradually, and more grudgingly — went down the first road, in part because blue-chippers still beat the doors of their programs down. The next-level powers — Michigan State, Louisville, UConn, and Florida, to name a few — have learned to mostly make do with the latter option. The mid-majors whose occasional tournament runs catch us by surprise rarely have a choice; when it comes to recruiting, they're already picking through leftovers.
The talent vs. experience debate heated up again this weekend, when star freshmen Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas — both projected NBA lottery picks — exited stage left with their teams, sent packing by experienced squads from Mercer and Iowa State.
This year, that wasn't just a coincidence, either. Research by STATS shows that Duke and Kansas relied heavily on those spectacular freshmen and underclassmen, in general; giving them 66 percent and 76 percent of the minutes doled out during the tournament. In North Carolina's case, the figure was 65 percent.
This year, that was practically a recipe for an early departure. STATS' research also showed that 10 of the 16 teams that advanced to next weekend handed over more — and usually much more — than 50 percent of their minutes to upperclassmen. Stanford was the leader at 96 percent, followed by Tennessee (82), UConn (78), Louisville and Baylor (71) and San Diego State (68).
Most of the other Sweet 16 teams were within a few points of the 50 percent threshold. Surprising Dayton, for example was at 49 percent and there were only three real outliers — Virginia (30), Michigan (20) and Kentucky (1 percent, or just 5 of the 400 minutes the Wildcats played in the tournament).
So you could say youth must be served. Just tell us how you'd like your toast prepared.
CELEBRITY ALUM OF THE DAY
Did you know Memphis had a rifle team? No?
Neither did we.
But Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams did, and he's a big fan. He told AP freelancer Evan Markfield at Raleigh, N.C., that he'll watch just about any sport his alma mater plays — "whether it's the rifle, basketball, football, softball (team), it doesn't matter, brother, I'm out here."
He flew down to San Antonio to watch the Tigers lose the national championship in a heartbreaker in 2008, and upset he couldn't get to their second-round game Friday, Williams packed his brood into the car Sunday and hit the road.
"This is our first one (in person) this year because it's so close," he said. "It's a breath of fresh air, man. To get the opportunity to drive 2½, 3 hours away and see the best university in the country is grand. I encourage everyone to come out and experience the same thing I'm experiencing."
Of course, that was before Virginia crushed Memphis in their round of 32 game.
We just hope the trip home went half as swimmingly as the ride up.
STAT OF THE DAY
Louisville vs. Kentucky has been called the best rivalry in college basketball at the moment, and with both Duke and North Carolina out of the tournament, nobody is going to argue. Their meeting next week in Indianapolis, just up the road from both campuses, will also mark the first time since 2004 that the winners of the previous two national championships collided in the tournament the following year — and just the fourth time in NCAA history.
STATS notes that could be a good omen for Louisville, since the defending champion has won all three previous clashes: 2004, Syracuse beat Maryland (round of 32); 1995, Arkansas beat North Carolina (national semifinal); 1962, Cincinnati beat Ohio State (championship game).
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"He's been our Mariano Rivera. He's been our closer all throughout this season." — Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, talking about DeAndre Kane, whose twisting layup with 1.6 seconds beat North Carolina and put the Cyclones in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.
At Raleigh, N.C.
Virginia 78, Memphis 60
At San Antonio
Iowa State 85, North Carolina 83
At St. Louis
Stanford 60, Kansas 57
At San Diego
UCLA 77, Stephen F. Austin 60
At Raleigh, N.C.
Tennessee 83, Mercer 63
At St. Louis
Kentucky 78, Wichita State 76
At San Antonio
Baylor 85, Creighton 55
At San Diego
Arizona 84, Gonzaga 61
At Memphis, Tenn.
Dayton (25-10) vs. Stanford (23-12)
Florida (34-2) vs. UCLA (28-8)
At Anaheim, Calif.
Wisconsin (28-7) vs. Baylor (26-11)
San Diego State (31-4) vs. Arizona (32-4)
At New York
UConn (28-8) vs. Iowa State (28-7)
Michigan State (28-8) vs. Virginia (30-6)
Kentucky (26-10) vs. Louisville (31-5)
Michigan (27-8) vs. Tennessee (24-12)