One of the things that makes college basketball fun is the variance in styles on display. Sometimes that leads to fast-paced action, sometimes it leads to a defensive battle, and sometimes it pits teams with contrasting strengths against each other, which can be a lot of fun.
Other times, you get what happened tonight, with Syracuse and Arizona State stumbling all over themselves and somehow producing a fun ending regardless.
That’s not underselling how ugly the game was. Syracuse and ASU both shot just 40% from the floor, and 35% and 34% from 3-point range. Things weren’t better from the free throw line; Syracuse hit 13-23, while Arizona State made 3-10. 3-10! Both teams combined for 22 turnovers as well.
And yet, when you have a game that counts for something, and the play-in games do definitely count for something, a close ending can make all the difference. At the end, things were certainly close.
First of all, check out this crossover from Tyus Battle:
That’s a felony in most states. Here, it was eventually ruled a three.
That gave Syracuse the lead, but Arizona State wasn’t out of it. They had a few possessions that in other contexts would be ugly, but here, rose to something almost akin to art:
This was the pivotal sequence, as a missed Syracuse free throw gave Arizona State the ball down two:
Then, the game ended in fitting fashion: Jim Boeheim ordering Frank Howard to miss a free throw intentionally, which makes no sense. Up four with .4 seconds left, the lead is more likely safe than if he’d missed it. Instead, Here’s Boeheim right after the final whistle, his team having just won:
This is perfect. pic.twitter.com/d4y9I5OKss
— Jay Rigdon (@jayrigdon5) March 15, 2018
Howard clearly tried to miss, too, but Boeheim was furious his player couldn’t execute his terrible strategy. What a joy he must be to play for.