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It was almost the greatest moment in NCAA Tournament history

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  April 6, 2010 10:22 AM

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I would classify myself as being more emotional than many members of my sportswriting tribe. But it was almost a universal feeling following last night's sensational NCAA title game that everyone was hoping the Gordon Hayward shot would win the game for Butler.

Time and again, I heard it. "If that shot had only gone in..."

I think we all might have crowned that as the greatest moment in NCAA Tournament history. This has nothing to to with any anti-Duke feeling --- most of us leave that to you folk --- and everything to do with rooting for a totally wonderful story.

And I agree with all those who say that Coach K should feel very lucky that his questionable strategy to have Greg Zoubek miss that second free throw with 3.6 seconds to go did not backfire. If Zoubek makes the second shot, the worst that can happen is an OT. By having him miss, Coach K leaves the door open for a defeat that would have haunted him throughout eternity. I don't even think it's a close call.

By the way, if coaches are going to employ the deliberate miss strategy at any level, perhaps they should have all their players practice the proper method of missing a shot. They all seem to be banging their shots off the glass or rim. That's stupid. You saw how easily Hayward rebounded, cleared some space and launched that last shot.

The better way is to loop the shot high in the air so that it hits the back rim and bounces straight upward. The clock will start when the ball hits the rim, and more time will elapse, no matter what happens.

I also happen to agree with those who are asking why Duke didn't receive a 35-second violation when the score was tied at 40-40 and Duke had the ball knocked out of bounds with one second left on the 35-second clock. The shot they got following the in-bounds pass did not appear to hit the rim, which should have constituted a shot clock violation. But play was inexplicably allowed to continue and Jon Scheyer scored on a put-back. Very strange and very important in the long run.

I furthermore agree with those who cite the offensive foul called on Hayward with 12:02 left as a very big play. That wiped out a basket that would have cut a four-point lead (47-43) to one and would have given him a needed boost. The call certainly could have gone either way.

Now we all need to credit Kyle Singler for doing a great job on Hayward, who never hit a single outside shot following the midway point of the first half of the semifinal game. He had to work for any extra space all against Singler, whose all-around game made him a very worthy Most Outstanding Player.

I happened to encounter Butler coach Brad Stevens as he walked out of the building. He said, "I can't believe it's all over now. Usually at this time, I'm thinking about the Cubbies, but they got blasted already today." Yes, indeed. Carlos Zambrano didn't get out of the second inning, did he?

Let's all hope Hayward, a sophomore, puts off the NBA for another year. That would give Butler back four of its starting five, and it would be pre-ranked Top 5. Butler may never get back to another Final Four, but it could raise a lot of hell in the college basketball world next season.

Now we all have to sit around while the NCAA hierarchy blows up a tournament that needs no fixing. We need 96 teams and another round like we need arsenic in our orange juice. 
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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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