Thursday, February 18, 2016

up and down and back up

For a long time it's been my biggest bone of complaint about basketball, that there's no such thing as traveling if you're driving at the rim.  Want to take three, four steps, and stick the ball on your hip or cradle it in your elbow?  These may have been literally the precise behaviors that James Naismith intended to leave out of his new indoor game, but in the name of Excitement it makes no difference.  Take what you need.  Any defender attempting to stop you from doing the single most illegal thing in all of basketball will be called for a foul, so run all you like.

(If you're diving for a loose ball, however, make sure to keep your feet up in the air, opponents' jawbones be damned, lest the prize for winning the loose ball scramble be a traveling violation.)

In this context it's not at all surprising the refs, inside Cameron Indoor Home Cookin' Stadium, allowed Grayson Allen to take three or four steps, hop up and down, throw a shoulder into his defender for good measure, and only then heave up a shot that somehow found the bottom.  Forget the idea that refs swallow their whistles on the final play of a game - this is something they let go all the time.

There's no defense against this.  Conceding the shot isn't an option for a competitor, obviously.  Stand your ground and try to defend it, and they'll whistle the foul, because when bodies collide the defender is considered to be at fault 90% of the time.  It's the whole reason Duke mastered the flop in the first place - doing your most spectacular Jenga tower impression is the only way to gain any sympathy from the refs.  I really wish Marial Shayok had flailed his way to the floor on that play - the reaction from the Cameron crowd to an offensive foul call would've been the single most precious thing in basketball history.

Therefore don't be so surprised when every pundit who throws in a comment about the play qualifies it with "might" and "maybe."  It was traveling, just as most drives to the rim are traveling; what they mean is it "might" have actually been egregious enough to call.  Sort of like how whether or not you get pulled over for driving 79 in a 70 depends on what kind of mood the cop was in when he left the house this morning.  Such is the state of basketball, when even the rare and always-called form of traveling - that is, up-and-down - is ignored.

Thanks to the fact that Roy Williams just isn't even trying anymore, the ACC race is tight like drum, and UVA could realistically win the whole thing or fall out of the top four.  Most of the top six has three games left against someone else in the top six.  Again - this is how the ACC looks when the basketball world is right and good.  And I'll say it right now, before it sounds like sour grapes: the regular season title is nice, and you can put it on a banner, but it's not the ACC championship.  It's something you can point to if you don't win the tournament, but if you do come out with that tourney title, you'll just about forget whether or not you won the regular season - especially if you didn't.

And right now, UVA is one of about ten teams that has as good a chance as any other to win the national title.  Can't ask for more than that.

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