Anatomy of an Upset…

There are reviews and previews everywhere, so please don’t come here looking for that.My suggestion is BBState and its Tournament Wiz. You will lose yourself for a great deal of time in that thing.

Granted, we’ll talk VCU/UCLA, probably tomorrow, but you’re not getting Darren Collison’s efficiency rating or a lame Ben Howland quote. Re-read yesterday’s missive–while it may be next week before we convert back to what we once were, we’re about more than that over here.

As a goodwill gesture to one goal of adding to your viewing pleasure, here’s some guidance on how to smell an upset in the making…

It all began two weeks ago and two months ago, not Sunday. It’s a team having that look: playing with confidence, chock full of multiple weapons (preferably inside and outside), and having the ability to play at a different pace. An odd offensive attack (Princeton) helps, too.

As far back as 1986, when #14 Cleveland State knocked off Indiana, the Vikings were 27-3 and riding a crest of momentum. They featured four double figure scorers and an experienced team. They weren’t about to be intimidated.

You also have to have “that guy,” the guy you can lean on in tough situations. The CAA is inundated with Eric Maynor stories this week, and rightfully so. Two seasons ago Maynor dumped Duke. In 1993, #15 Santa Clara was led by some guy named Steve Nash in its upset of Arizona.

At some point in its first round game, an upset-minded team is going to need all of that.

Pick from that list, and enjoy the game, which should consist of:

The Good Start
George Mason rallying from a 16-2 hole against North Carolina in 2006 notwithsanding, it is imperitive for the mid major to get off to a good start. Tennessee-Chatanooga’s 20-2 run to open against Georgia in 1997 qualifies. You don’t want to hit that under 16 media timeout trailing by eight.

Absorb the Blow
The favored team is going to hit the mid major with a 10-2 run. The key is turning the 10-2 run into an 18-12 run, not an 18-5 run. The cliche is winning with seniors, and this is the part of the game you need them to stay calm.

Finish the Half, Start the Half

Coaches always talk about the last four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second half being the game’s most important time periods. They are right. Holding a lead, keeping a manageable deficit, and momentum are all significant outputs from this time frame. In its 1987 victory over Illinois–the Dick Vitale standing on his head game–Austin Peay nailed a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to tie the Illini.

You want the last 16 minutes to matter? Win these eight.

There are 12 minutes to play and you are up or down three points. This is where that confidence begins to pay its dividends. At this point you have a strong belief that this game is yours to win. Importantly, so does every fan not rooting for your opponent. You can turn this game into a road game for the higher seed.

Most importantly, if you opponent believes you can win, they get tight because confidence is a deadly two-way street: you have it, and your opponent sees you have it.

The Big Stop
It’s so much more comforting to have the ball down three as opposed to five–or have the ball up three with a chance to lead by five. Upsets occur when you lock down on defense for one or two possessions at a critical stage. Nothing builds momentum like forcing a turnover with two minutes to play.

Let’s combine two aspects: the #3 seed has just gone on a 10-2 run to close the mid major’s gap to three with two minutes to play. How big is forcing a turnover to the emotional state of the mid major in approaching the final two minutes?

Catch A Break
Let’s be clear: sometimes, it takes a little luck. Obviosuly Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beater over Ole Miss is the big shot of all big shots. But many forget that Mississippi missed a pair of free throws with less than five seconds to play to allow for Drew’s heroics. Make one, and we all miss a glorious tournament memory.

There are key possessions late in games, and every now and then luck rewards you.

The Big Shot
At one or two or three key moments in the second half–that guy hits that shot. We can all point to Drew or Maynor or any other last-second winner, but there are possessions in every upset when the hero earns that mantle.

Stewie Hare’s door slammer to put down USC comes immediately to mind, but it isn’t the best example. Think Lamar Butler’s four-point play or Folarin Campbell’s fadeaway swish against Connecticut. BA Walker’s three or Jesse Pellot Rosa’s elbow jumper against Duke. It’s the shot(s) that make you grip and exhale. You know what I mean.

The Other Guy and That Guy
An upset is made when the six-point, three-rebound post player manages 15 points on six-of-eight shooting, with 12 rebounds. It is in perfect alignment with that guy, like Harold Arceneaux, who 36 points sank North Carolina in 1999.


~ by mglitos on March 17, 2009.

2 Responses to “Anatomy of an Upset…”

  1. What’s throwing me: So many people are picking VCU to pull off the upset, you have to wonder if this is motivating for UCLA to prove that they were worthy of those three in a row Final Four runs.

  2. …is this blog on a “break” or something?

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