Improvement in basketball still turns March Madness into Midnight Madness

Terry Mosher 3


I hate to say this but I have been watching (or playing) basketball since I was eight years old and my second oldest brother Ronnie was playing high school basketball as a freshman. Ronnie is now 82, so you figure out how long ago that was.

So I have been around basketball long enough to watch its development as a sport, from the two-hand set shot and two-handed chest pass and if you dared move your pivot foot or dropped the ball that was passed to you, you could not pick it back up and start to dribble or a travel call would be whistled to now’s game that includes one-handed shots and one-handed blind passes and the jump stop move where it appears that the player has taken at least two steps and maybe more and then successfully hit a jump shot or dunked the ball.

It wasn’t too many years ago a cross-over was an attempt to reach the other side of a raging creek and if you drove the ball it was usually with your strong hand, which for most of us is right-handed.

Players today use the cross-over, switching from one hand to the other and driving the ball on the dribble  left or right depending where the perceived weakness in the defense is located.

And the ability to cross-over and bring the ball up the court is not confined to guards, but to everybody. You watch today’s college game on TV where everybody looks to be five-feet tall or smaller and when you realize the reality is that those guys coming down the court on a fastbreak so fast it makes your head spin are people six-foot six or  taller you have to take a deep breath and think to yourself, this is insane.

When you have guys six-feet or smaller taking off from the foul line and smashing the ball through the net like it was a Nerf ball and the hoop was an oatmeal box hanging from your bedroom door, then you know, as I have, that the game has so outgrown the time when as a young kid I was better than anybody my age to the point now that I could not play it no way, no how with the skill I then had.

It is obvious that basketball as gotten better – much better – since my brother was playing in the last 1940s and early 1950s at a high all-star level, and the older brother next to me, David, was averaging nearly 20 points a game at a time when high school scoring most nights barely reached, in total, 50, and I as an eighth-grader was scoring 12.5 points a game.

Like a lot of things in our society that have been improved – think how we receive our information –basketball has also improved from the grass roots the entire w ay to the pros. Kids now are being trained as young as five or six and the training includes every aspect of the game, including better health methods and better muscle building.

When you can play and train all year-around you better be getting better. The improvement of overall skills has led me to believe that most college basketball programs no matter the level – D-1 through NAIA – are getting better players then they once did. That invariably means that smaller D-! schools like Hampton or Monmouth or Stephen F. Austin or Middle Tennessee are more likely to get skilled players that are passed over by major D-1 schools. There are only so many scholarships available at the D-1 level,  so some good talent is being passed on down to those small D-1 schools and that filters down to other NCAA Divisions and NAIA.

The result gives true meaning to the term March Madness. It’s why my March Madness brackets got busted in the first round, and I’m assuming many others did also when Middle Tennessee went wild against Michigan State, one of my three favorites to win it all (the others are Kansas and Texas A&M). The Blue Raiders knocked Tom Izzo’s team (and me) from the NCAA, but then got their comeuppance against the zone of Syracuse in the next round, which is the other point to be made about March Madness.

We know that players have gotten better, and there are more and more better players, but March Madness  brackets must be filled out with some due caution because not only can a smaller mid-major school pull off an upset or two but the game also comes down to match-ups.  And figuring out match-ups is more detailed oriented and needs some homework to get it right.

What I look for when filling out my brackets is whether a team has a powerful presence in the middle and a point guard who is not just good, but great. I believe you need at least those two ingredients to bake a March Madness winner.

Having said that, I still don’t know, or understand, what has happened so far in March Madness. How to you explain Northern Iowa losing a 12-point lead with 44.3 seconds left in regulation to Texas A&M? I turned TV coverage over to another game because I figured my Texas A&M favorite was toast.


Four Northern Iowa turnovers later, the Aggies had tied the game and sent it into overtime and they eventually won it in the second overtime. It was one of the greatest collapses in March Madness history.

Of course, Northern Iowa only got to play the Aggies because guard Paul Jesperson banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer to beat Texas in a first-round game.

Arkansas at Little Rock had its own March Madness that it unveiled. It trailed Purdue by 14 points with less than five minutes to go and won, and Notre Dame and Iowa won on tip-ins at the buzzer.

And what about Bronson Koenig? He hit a three with 11.7 seconds to go to give Wisconsin a tie and then he hit a deep three from the corner at the buzzer to give his team victory over Xavier, and further bust my bracket.

All this March Madness led me to have midnight madness because my brackets – four of them – were tossed into the garbage by the time action had died down Sunday night.

So I guess I’m not the smartest guy around, no matter what I have said above. Maybe it’s just better to throw a dart at a bracket and pick winners that way.

That’s enough for now.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there

Have a great day.

You are loved.