March Madness is in full swing and to say that this year’s early rounds have been chaotic would be an understatement. 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown & SDSU, 9-seed Wichita State bounced Pitt & 1-seed Gonzaga and 13-seed La Salle is making waves by winning it’s First Round game and then beating 2 more opponents to advance to the Sweet 16. As awesome as these storylines are, my mind is on what went down in 2 other games. Both had similar last-second situations but one shining moment didn’t happen in the case of one team and that is the one that I wish my son could have seen.
The first game is the 2-seed Ohio State Buckeyes’ last second, game-winning shot in the 3rd round to beat the 3-point barrage of 10-seed Iowa State. Aaron Craft, OSU’s defensive-minded point guard, had just missed a couple free throws, missed a jumper in the lane and, by most accounts, had not been much help as far as keeping his Bucks in the game offensively (even though he ended up with a quiet 18 points by games end). But then he took a charge under the basket with about 1:45 left in the game, made a driving layup and then, with less than a second on the clock, fearlessly launched a jumper from the upper right side of the 3-point line to win the game in dramatic fashion.
The second is the Butler Bulldogs’ loss to a Marquette team that seems to have 9 lives as it has managed to squeak out 2 tournament wins by 3 total points. In the Madness, this is almost unheard of and yet they managed to survive due to one poor decision by the Bulldogs’ hot-shooting guard, Rotnei Clarke. Clarke had been on fire in the 1st half, hitting 6 of 10 field goal attempts and scoring 18 points from just about everywhere on the right side of the court. Marquette adjusted at halftime and forced him to his left, almost wiping him out in the 2nd Half entirely. At the end of the game, he had the opportunity to tie the game when Marquette threw the ball out of bounds with :05 seconds left in the game. But instead of driving to the basket and trying to either A) take a decent shot or B) attempting to get to the foul line, he chose to C) launch a shot from well past the 3-point line with 2 defenders in his face and hit…nothing but air. In the end, the offensive explosion that he had in the first half was a foregone conclusion as he finished the game with 24 points. But it was the poor decision at the end that eventually cost his team the game. The funny thing about this is that Clarke had hit a ridiculous looking 3-point heave earlier in the season to beat Marquette and so I imagine everyone thought he would do the same thing on Saturday but sadly…no.
Of these 2 moments, guess which one I will probably remember? I’m an Ohio State fan so you’d think #1, right? But no…it’s Clarke’s ill-advised jumper that I will remember. Why, you ask? Because it was a glaring mistake that took away an otherwise decent showing by Butler’s leading scorer and cost their team a shot at the next round of the Madness. So why pick on Clarke? I mean…he does lead the team in scoring and as far as being willing to take the shot in that situation, he was obviously the man to do it (unlike Craft, who SHOULD have probably gotten the ball to the Buckeye’s leading scorer, Deshaun Thomas). SO if the star of the team has the ball with 5 ticks of the clock remaining, why SHOULDN’T he launch from midcourt?
Because it was a TURRIBLE decision (in my best Charles Barkley voice).
Watch the replay of this shot and tell me THIS was the best thing to do. It was heartbreaking to see a kid who is as tough as Clarke, who has hustled the entire game, who almost single handedly kept his team in the game by hitting from everywhere in the first half, implode in the one situation where they needed him most. If I could teach my son a lesson, it would be what came from this situation. When you’re down by 2 and the other team gives you a gift…a 3-point bomb is NOT the best choice. As a senior and a leader of the team, it’s not a case of WHO should have taken the shot, it is more about WHERE the shot should have been taken. Clarke is gifted enough he could have created an opportunity for himself. Instead, he got greedy and it cost his team the game.
In the Buckeyes game, Aaron Craft made the correct choice when the opportunity presented itself. In Clarke’s situation, he didn’t. And the difference was he cost his team a possible overtime tournament win. In March, moments like these happen once in a lifetime. I imagine this moment will sting Rotnei Clarke for some time. If anything, we can all learn something from this situation. When opportunity presents itself, take it and take the best shot possible. But launching a 35-footer when you have time on the clock is probably NOT the best you can do. Just sayin’…
And now…on with the Show! #MarchMadness2013