By Steve Williams
This year there was a lot more drama in the NCAA women’s Final Four than in the men’s.
When Loyola of Chicago’s Cinderella run ended against Michigan in the semifinals, my interest in the men’s tourney dropped like an air ball.
Meanwhile, those ladies’ games had matchups the likes of Frazier vs. Ali in boxing, Connors vs. McEnroe in tennis and Bird vs. Magic in basketball.
(I know, I’m showing my age with these comparisons. But you should YouTube some of those rivalries.)
Seconds after Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale beat Mississippi State 61-58 with that off-balance 3-point shot for the title, I told my brother John that my newspaper headline the next morning would simply say: Giant killer!
After all, she had slayed UConn much the same way in the semifinals.
Still, I didn’t like how the women’s finale ended.
Taking all that time to put 0:00.1 (one-tenth of a second) back on the clock seemed to squeeze a little of the fun out of a Lady Irish celebration that already had begun. And putting the Lady Bulldogs back on the court in a hopeless situation so the last 0:00.1 could disappear just seemed to add to their agony.
By rule, the only way a team can score under 0:00.4 (four-tenths of a second) is with a tip. Mississippi State needed three points in that situation. When was the last time you saw a ball tipped in 20 feet from the basket?
In my opinion, a storybook ending to a great game was tarnished by the impossible.
What if Ogunbowale’s shot had given Notre Dame a four-point lead? Would officials have taken time to reset the clock to 0:00.1 and put the Lady Bulldogs back on the court?
Probably, because that’s their job. That’s what they are supposed to do.
Here’s another scenario that could happen in that kind of situation: Tempers flare and a brawl breaks out as players line up for a meaningless play. Would we want an outcome decided by a slew of technical foul shots?
The TSSAA has a rule in football that if a touchdown is scored as time runs out, the extra point is not tried if it has no bearing on determining the winner and the game is over.
Here’s a tip (no pun intended) for the NCAA rules committee. Put in a special rule to better end a game like Notre Dame and Mississippi State had.
Call it “the Arike rule.” The first name of the ND star is pronounced uh-REE-kay.
When officials determine there is three-tenths of a second or less remaining in a game and Team B is trailing by three points or more, the game is over and Team A is the winner.
If a rule like that had been in the book, the Lady Irish’s joyous celebration could have proceeded with no further interruption and the Lady Bulldogs would have had a little easier time dealing with the heart-breaking loss.
And a great moment in sports wouldn’t have been tarnished.