Don't laugh, I'm dead serious about this. March Madness is pretty good, but if you're looking for a perfect combination between excitement and humor, look no farther than the NIT. Where else can you find a forward "un-retiring" a few weeks after his career seemed to be over? Here's a rundown of the highlights of the Gopher game.
It was poorly played. Only one field goal was made in the entire overtime period, which only happened after Malik Smith missed two free throws that would have sealed the game in overtime, and then no Gopher was able to foul Devin Bookert before he could shoot a three to tie the game. Later in overtime, DeAndre Mathieu got confused and fouled Bookert with the Gophers up by four. Finally, the game ended with Dre Hollins hitting one of two free throws, Florida State going down the court, and missing a three pointer when the Gophers, once again, didn't foul. You can't make this up. The Star Tribune said the next day the Gophers "Disposed of" Florida State. I would just say they avoided losing the game.
For me, that was by far the biggest shock of the NIT. I had just spent the last three weeks watching the best played college basketball in the world. I had forgotten what a careless turnover looked like. It was obvious either team would have lost by about thirty to any of the elite eight teams.
It was poorly officiated. There's a reason those refs weren't in the NCAA tournament. They were more dramatic than Broadway actor. After every offensive foul they would come charging onto the scene and wave it off before dramatically pointing the opposite way. It's hard to describe in text but just know it looked something like this. After a free throw by Hollins in the last ten seconds of the game right after he had been fouled before the inbounds pass had come in, both teams tried to make subs and they wouldn't let them because no time had come off of the clock. Nothing to complain about there, but then they took no less than five minutes trying to figure out who to send back to the bench and who to keep on the court. This isn't rocket science, guys.
It was poorly announced. I think Bobby Knight said about ten words the entire night. Then, in today's paper he told Sid Hartman that he was very impressed with the way the Gophers played and that he thought the Gophers, "Played very well in critical situations," This definitively proves that he paid no attention whatsoever to the game. His partners, John Saunders and Fran Fraschilla, weren't much better. They spent more time analyzing a ball bouncing off of a referee's leg than they did any other play. That isn't a joke.
Looking at everything as a whole, it was one of the most entertaining games of the year. Take everything I've talked about, then add a whole bunch other comedic material, like Rick Pitino sitting right next to the Gophers during the game so you could see Joey King in the frame when ever there was a shot of him. The NIT is like a older and significantly less successful brother of the NCAA tournament. If you want a great experience, watch March Madness. But if you want a laugh, there's no question which one you should see.