A college basketball game takes a bit over two hours– 2:10 is pretty typical, what with all the timeouts and miscellaneous stoppages of play. A blowout takes a bit less, a close game a bit more (what with all the intentional fouling at the end), but it’s a rare game that finishes in under two hours.
And yet, ESPN persists in scheduling college games for two-hour time slots. Which means that if the game you want to see is the second game of a double-header (or more), you’re more or less guaranteed to miss the first 5 minutes or so of game time. And so it was that they joined the Maryland-UCLA game last night with a bit more than 12 minutes left in the first half, with UCLA already up 11-2. The outcome wasn’t really in doubt at any point after that.
This game was one of the semifinals for comething called the “CBE Classic,” which I can’t be bothered to look up. Whoever C, B, and E are, I’m sure they’re wishing they had booked a different game for their “classic,” because this was as ugly a display of basketball as you’re likely to see outside of a faculty pick-up game. To put it in perspective, Maryland shot 22-55 on the game, and they had a better shooting night than UCLA, who went 23-61.
This was an ugly, sloppy, early-season game. Despite the best efforts of Dick Vitale (who was, thank God, suffering from a cold and thus not in full voice) to make it sound like a brilliant defensive display, it was pretty clear that what was on display was rust, not defense. Passes sailed over the heads of their intended receivers, or bounced off of legs, feet, and hands, or just plain bounced off into empty space as guys didn’t cut when or where they were supposed to. There were a lot of contested shots, but also a lot of flat-out bricks.
Of course, what do you expect from November basketball?
This was such a crap game that I hesitate to draw any sweeping conclusions from it, but you can pretty much see the story of the game in the shooting percentage and rebounding lines of the box score: UCLA shot a lower percentage than Maryland, but won the game because they outrebounded the Terps 40-28, and 16-8 on the offensive end. Maryland only managed four more defensive rebounds than UCLA had offensive rebounds, and UCLA’s freshman forward Kevin Love and his tragic facial hair had almost as many rebounds (16) as all five Maryland starters combined.
Maryland has a really young team– they’re starting three sophomores, and the first few guys off the bench are frosh– so they’ll improve somewhat. But they got physically dominated on the boards last night, and looking at their personnel, I don’t see a lot of potential to turn that around. They’ve got good guards, but they’re weak in the paint at the moment– oh, yeah, James Gist put up some gaudy numbers in the first couple of games, but I could score a few against Hampton, North Florida, and Northeastern. They’ve got a lot of work to do before they can expect to hang with top-tier programs.
It’s a little hard to assess UCLA, because they’re missing a bunch of players at the moment, and even when they’ve got everybody, they play this same dog-ugly game. They’ve got some individual players who look good, but they were just as sloppy with the ball as Maryland was, and made up for it by getting two and three chances at the basket every trip down the floor. They’ll probably be really tough to play down the road, but it’s really hard to judge at this point, and from this game.