TBT and EE: A-OK.
The perfect tournament, at the perfect time.
Sometimes, there’s not a lot of detail or fancy language needed. Sometimes, things are that obvious. TBT, The Basketball Tournament, is perfect. I love everything about it. I’m sure there are tweaks to iron out as it becomes more popular, but as a concept, as a tournament, as a connection, the damned thing checks every box.
It’s our heroes, both recent and very recent, wearing the uniform again. RamNation on the front of the uniform matters around here, more than anything, and in many towns and with many programs like ours. I’m not really a Syracuse kinda’ guy, but Boeheim’s Army—and their support—is awesome to see. It’s in July. Even if you’re worn down by the season and need an April vacation, by the time the fireworks hit the skies we are ready. We need just a little taste of winter. We get it. Hell, we get Seth Greenberg and Dan Dakich together—a hilarious broadcasting duo that if ESPN has half a brain will schedule them throughout the regular college basketball season.
Yeah, I’d like to finally beat those SOBs from Overseas Elite—and I call them SOBs as a compliment—but that loss won’t change how I feel about this idea. We get to re-appreciate Eric Maynor, Jamal Shuler, BA Walker and Darius Theus. The Burgess Brothers. The Mayor and The Melvin. They all remind us of those moments that bind us and we love that. The number of fans that showed up for a pair of July TBT games was better than five A10 team had during the actual 2017-18 basketball season. Guys like Joey Rodriguez, Jesse Pellot-Rosa, and Justin Levine get to learn how to coach in a competitive environment. We owe thanks to Reggie Williams, James Farr, and Zeke Marshall—honorary members of the family. We owe a debt to Mat Shelton, who has been the galvanizing force behind the fun.
I never want it to end, and I never want it to get cheesy. That’s my challenge to the owners. Resist the Roquefort. TBT has some cool tweaks, most prominently the Elam Ending, which is fine. But they have to remember to keep it about the players and competition.
So let’s talk Elam Ending. For those who have not been following, it’s an alternate ending to games that removes the game clock. At the first dead ball after the 4:00 mark, a target score is created and there is no clock. You add seven points to the team that’s leading the game and the first team to reach that number wins the game. For example, Team A is leading 71-67 when the whistle blows under 4:00. The target score becomes 78 and the teams play until someone hits 78 points.
It’s really smart and I like it—it isn’t cheesy–but it’s unnecessary. What exactly are we solving for? A bunch of fouls with a minute to go? Is that such a scourge that we need to alter the fabric of games? We get to see more college basketball. We get to hang out in That Animal longer. We’d lose overtimes and buzzer beaters. Plus you know coaches and their obsession with every minute advantage. They will strategize around the Elam Ending. I think the eventuality of coaches catching up to it means we see those same fouls with five minutes to go. It’s like sawing off your arm because a patch of poison ivy itches.
And please allow me some braggadocio. If you listen to me and Robby call a game, you are familiar with the Robinson Vortex. In short, the Robinson Vortex is that time between the 4:00 media timeout and roughly 1:30 to play. The gist is this: you may be down seven or up seven when you enter the vortex. How you play during that time is where the balance of the game hangs. It feels like there’s only a couple possessions–a wisp of time–before you look up and the clock reads 1:31.
If you come out of the vortex up or down three, it’s game on. But if you come out of the vortex up or down eight, cheap fouls ensue. It’s named after Robby because it was his observation, but it shares the same principle as the Elam Ending: do work between 4:00 and 1:30 or the game is over. If you listen to RamRadio, you’ve experienced a form of the Elam Ending for six seasons. You just have to listen. We are living the Elam Ending; we just don’t know it.
Yeah, that’s a shameless plug.
But I like the Elam Ending. I wouldn’t change it. I think Elam Ending is perfect for TBT. It’s kitschy and cool and different, much like the whole damned tournament. But it’s like craft beer or podcasts or doughnuts with bacon. Lots of people like it, but it has its place.
And that place is not between November and March. I want overtime. I want buzzer beaters. I want The Dagger, mentioned repeatedly during TBT. A shot that was hit with less than two seconds to play on the clock, followed by a Greg Paulus heave from halfcourt that took my breath away.