I’m TiVo blogging an event where two teams are playing for a million dollars. On one side, we have students from Cornell. The Ivy League doesn’t have athletic scholarships, and it has academic restrictions. Also, to minimize the number of missed class days, league travel games are played on Fridays and Saturdays. On the other side, we have athletes from Kentucky. Their team played about half their league games on Saturdays, but also scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday games for TV. Who cares about academics when there’s money to be made?
Cornell also provides a wider variety of opportunities. You might be surprised to know that Cornell Big Red sponsors 12 NCAA sports for men and 15 for women, while Kentucky Athletics has only 10 for men and 11 for women. There’s a difference in attitude, participation vs cash. Of course, Cornell is pretty much doomed.
In keeping with how the NCAA views its low-paid money spinners – excuse me, “student athletes” (giggle) – I’m not going to use names here. After all, it’s the coaches, generally old white men, that get the benefits. For instance, Kentucky’s coach earns almost $4,000,000 a year. That’s about 100 times what one of his players makes. There’s lots of money to be made. Onto the action.
19:19 1st half: Somehow there’s no foul called, because magically Cornell #20’s jersey fell away from his body into the hand of Kentucky #1. Kentucky #11 then tries to run over a Cornell player, but gets called for a charge.
17:23: The referees miss a travel on Cornell, for which they compensate by not calling the foul on the shot.
12:30: Looking at the court, all five players for Kentucky are black, and all five players for Cornell are white. It’s not 1966 anymore. In that respect, some good things have happened in America.
11:08: Kentucky survived the opening, and the crowd is now quiet. That’s not good for Cornell.
11:04: Cornell outsmarts Kentucky for an inbounds pass dunk. The weird thing here is that an Ivy League team dunked.
8:35: Cornell #1, the 7 footer, is the key person in this game. Without him, Kentucky can use its superior height and size to get lots of inside shots. With him out of the game, Cornell switches to a 1-3-1. Instead of beating it with a double low block post up, Kentucky #24 drives wildly, travelling while doing so (at the start), and a circus shot goes in. The commentator mentions that the Cornell player fell for the shot fake. Well, it will work if the player actually jumps.
7:40: After a timeout, Cornell runs a Princeton offense set. Kentucky immediately commits a foul.
6:51: I really need to check the NCAA rule on travelling, because I think Kentucky #15 shuffled his feet again before scoring a basket. This one is closer than the last two, so it might be OK. Is travelling a point of emphasis on page 20 of the rulebook? No, that’s for women. And it wasn’t a travel, because the dribble started. As the commentator states, the violation was a arm hook foul, Rule 10, Section 1, Art. 4.
5:10: Cornell commits a moving screen, which is properly called. Given the size on the floor, Cornell should move to the Princeton offense, which gave them their only decent look in the last 8 minues. Their only baskets have been on inbounds plays.
3:00: Unlike the play 8 seconds earlier, the strip that leads to a dunk is clean, and Kentucky #11 does not travel. Cornell really needs to spread the court more.
1:45: When I used to play pickup ball, there often was a point where one team would be entirely in the halfcourt, and the other team was just running fast breaks. The defending team had control. Kentucky is that defending team right now. Cornell just doesn’t seem to know how to get spacing.
1:04: If Kentucky could shoot, this game would be completely over. Of course, they can just push the smaller Cornell players around. Basketball has become a lot more physical than when I played, particularly on rebounds. Back when I was young, my parents and I chose basketball because it was supposed to be less of a contact sport. I played in an era where one could not shove into someone else to establish position. I don’t blame the Kentucky players for doing this; they didn’t change the interpretation of Rule 4, Section 55. But it’s interesting what players are not supposed to do on rebounds, according to the rulebook:
Art. 2. To attain or maintain legal rebounding position, a player shall not:
a. Displace, charge or push an opponent.
b. Extend either or both shoulders, hips, knees or extend either or both arms or elbows fully or partially in a position other than vertical so that the freedom of movement of an opponent is hindered when contact with any of these body parts occurs.
c. Bend his/her body in an abnormal position to hold or displace an opponent.
d. Violate the principle of verticality.
Art. 3. Every player shall be entitled to a spot on the playing court, provided that such player gets there first without illegally contacting an opponent.
17:30 2nd half: Cornell finally figures out how to score a basket.
17:10: Amazingly, a travelling foul is called on Kentucky. Maybe a comeback is on the way.
15:41: Right before the break, Cornell #20 missed an open 3 point shot that would have got the crowd going. That was the chance.
14:36: Cornell gets a foul call on a second layup attempt. The first was a foul too (by #54, not #15), but Verticality is another one of those things that doesn’t exist anymore.
14:20: Why is Kentucky #54 taking a three point shot when Cornell’s one big guy is out of the game?
13:20: Kentucky #15 is beginning to get a little frustrated, as Cornell #12 has realized that unlike rebounding fouls, the referees will call blocking fouls. But Cornell misses another open 3. At least Kentucky stupidly tries one as well. Kentucky is 2 of 12 from long distance, and Cornell is 2 of 13. Cornell needed to be 6 or 7 out of 13.
12:41: The proper foul call is not on Cornell #5 here, as the Kentucky player did not jump vertically. The crowd correctly boos.
On the replay, Kentucky #54 makes a strong block. It’s made a lot easier since Kentucky #33 stripped the Cornell player’s hand off the ball first, by making contact below the wrist. It’s a tough call for the official, as I get to run it back in slow motion, while the official is on the other side of the play. From the other side, it would look like hand-to-ball or hand-to-hand contact. Officiating basketball is a difficult task, and it’s safer to not make marginal calls.
10:30: Cornell is 3 of 19 this half. If Kentucky was at all good on offense, this would be laughable.
10:13: Kentucky gets called for a hold. OMG, the millionaire coach with zero non-vacated Final Four appearances is shocked. Can Cornell take advantage with free throws? Yes. Hope remains. In the substitution shot, the official sports drink – Vitamin Water – is clearly visible. Of course, 6 of the flavors contain small amounts of banned substances, but the NCAA clarified that normal amounts were OK, to protect the relationship. Who cares about hypocrisy when there’s money to be made?
9:46: Kentucky #54 makes a great hustle play. By making notes like this, I want to clarify that in no way do I dislike the Kentucky players. By the rules that are enforced, they’re playing well. My issues are with the coaches and rule makers and officials.
9:38: Even the commentators note this uncalled Kentucky travel. Karmically, the shot is missed, and Cornell is desperate. They make a screened elbow jump shot, and the crowd is now attempting to keep Cornell in the game.
8:55: Grabbing a jump shot airball, Kentucky #15 leans backwards at about a 15 degree angle and jumps into Cornell #1. Of course, this is a foul on Cornell. Somehow. I need to figure out how to add a screenshot that shows the angles. The Kentucky coach moves outside the coaching box to applaud. On the free throw miss, having played lots of basketball, I know that it’s very easy to tip the ball if you can get above and push the opponent. There used to be an “over the back” call, 25 years ago when I started playing. You couldn’t consistently do that. Now, there’s not. The game has changed.
6:23: How is Cornell still alive in this game? Kentucky is 2 of 10 on free throws, or something. Oh yes, and Kentucky #24 just made an idiotic foul, and gets sent to the bench. But Cornell misses the second free throw. Are the rims extra small at the Carrier Dome? Neither team can shoot.
5:42: Cornell #12 pulls a Kentucky and forces contact. It works, as the open 3 makes it a 6 point game. Honestly, neither team should advance from this game. I’ve played in better shooting games than this.
5:15: Kentucky #15 shoves Cornell #12 on a rebound, and at the same time Cornell #20 pushes Kentucky #1. The foul is on Cornell, of course.
4:35: Here’s the game in a nutshell. Great Cornell ballfake, uncalled jersey grab, good Kentucky help defense, missed jumper, Kentucky #54 shoves for the rebound, Cornell foul.
3:20: I’m tired of this. Kentucky #54 does the forearm in the back to Cornell #1 on a missed free throw. It’s hideous. Of course he gets position! Heck, I can get position if I’m allowed to do that! It’s not “Height, Strength, and Will” as the commentators say. It’s not legal. It’s as if Rule 10, Section 1, Article 1 does not exist. Under this rule enforcement, Cornell cannot win.
2:46: Kentucky #11 travels on the jump shot attempt, as the ball is not released before the foot touches the ground. It wasn’t “just about come down”; it was down. The player coming in is legal, though. Only one touch in bounds is needed, and the second foot was good.
2:15: Given how poorly Kentucky is shooting, Cornell should be fouling immediately at this point. There are plenty of nerds on the bench. And why are there kid ballboys? They’re about 11 years old, and it’s 11:30 at night. I guess it would cost too much money for the NCAA to employ grownups. They need to keep money for the leaders. Their last leader made over $1,000,000 in one year. Who cares about academics when there’s money to be made?
1:56: With a timeout at 51-41 Kentucky, we switch to the other game in overtime. Interestingly, the foul call on a strip attempt really isn’t one. From Rule 10, Section 1, Article 2, “A player shall not contact an opponent with his or her hand unless such contact is only with the opponent’s hand while it is on the ball and is incidental to an attempt to play the ball.” The player hit the hand while trying to strip the ball. But it looked like illegal contact, and the referees often go on appearance.
In the other game, there was another play that shows basketball today. Lining up for a free throw, there was a lane violation on Kansas State #23, as his back foot was clearly beyond his block. And Xavier #55 committed a violation by having a foot on the block line. Then, both players make contact before the shot. Given the amount of contact there, the foul on #23 is very marginal. He had better position, and both players pushed. I guess the officials called the effect.
1:35: Kentucky #11 did not foul contesting that 3 point shot. Cornell has started to foul aggressively, which is a good idea. But it’s likely too late.
0:00: And it is. 62-45 is a reasonable final given the game. Honestly, Kentucky played miserable offense, but Cornell was worse. Cornell went 5 of 21 from 3, and missed 5 free throws. If you want to beat a superior athletic team, that won’t work.
Finally, listening to the postgame press conference, the phrase Questions for the Student Athletes? led me to start laughing. I know: when was the last time you went to class? If tuition is a student’s “payment”, doesn’t doing well mean that they miss more class, getting paid LESS?
The tournament could use an Ivy League schedule. Or it could schedule the first round on Saturday and Sunday, letting first round losers miss fewer class days. But that would take away from the TV contract. As the transcript suggests, it’s not like classes matter or anything. Or, for that matter, letting the players sleep at a healthy hour, since the mandatory press conference was held around 12:30 AM. Remember the motto, the lesson here: Who cares about academics when there’s money to be made?