“About 80 percent of basketball is improvisation.” — Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball coach Josh Schertz.
That’s a quote from last weekend that has stuck with me as another basketball season — or at least my in-person reporting on it — nears the end.
The coach made that comment as an aside in his remarks after his team beat Wingate 68-58 to win the South Atlantic Conference Tournament and a spot in the NCAA Division II tournament. As I recall, he was contrasting basketball to the more rigid discipline of football play-calling. And there’s a lot of truth in that. When a football play breaks down, it’s chaos.
When a basketball play falls apart, that’s when many players are at their best and the game becomes like a jazz composition. Maybe that explains why I’ve always preferred basketball, even though I’m also a football fan. Regardless, it’s been a fun season. And I just wanted an excuse to use that quote.
After tomorrow, I will have traversed the state from Hickory to High Point covering games in the last week. (It doesn’t have the same oomph and doesn’t cover as much geographical territory as the state’s “From Manteo to Murphy” promotional slogan, but it’s the best I can do on what I get paid…)
The SAC tournament in Hickory last weekend provided some interesting games, but not a championship for the Wingate teams, which both advanced past the quarterfinals for the first time in two years.
The Wingate women lost 77-66 to regular-season champion Tusculum, a team whose best player is a 4-foot-11 guard, in the finals. The Bulldogs’ season isn’t over, but they’ve got a tough first-round matchup coming up in the NCAA Southeast Regional in Morrow, Ga., this weekend, drawing Lander, which spent much of this season as the No. 1 women’s team in Division II. They were replaced by Clayton State at the top late in the season after losing to the Lakers, another team from the Peach Belt Conference
That league is the Big East of D-II women’s basketball this season. How tough was the Peach Belt? Neither Lander nor Clayton State made the championship game of their tournament, and the conference got five of the eight spots in the regional.
Out of all those Peach Belt teams, I’ve seen only Lander, which demolished Divsion I Winthrop by a 70-40 score in Rock Hill back in November. They’re a quick team with a powerful inside game and guaranteed not to give an opponent a pleasant afternoon.
On the men’s side, Wingate didn’t make the NCAA tournament with a 19-10 record, falling victim to Division II’s byzantine formula for determining tournament berths. Two teams that didn’t get as far as the Bulldogs did in their conference tournament made it in, but Wingate had gone 0-3 against them in the regular season.
But Queens, upset by Belmont Abbey in the quarterfinals of its conference tournament, did get a bid on the strength of its regular season conference championship. They’re a No. 4 seed and their first opponent on Saturday night in Augusta, Ga., will be very familiar. The No. 5 seed is Conference Carolinas rival Limestone, which won the tournament after Queens was eliminated. Queens won both regular-season meetings.
Tomorrow I have the Big South Conference women’s tournament at High Point University, covering No. 7-seed Winthrop against Radford. The Eagles (12-17) beat the No. 2-seeded Highlanders 65-55 in Rock Hill in January, but the teams have gone in different directions since.
Winthrop has lost its last five, starting with a 69-47 loss at Radford in the rematch. And this week Eagles coach Bud Childers announced that he would resign after the tournament after seven seasons in charge.
On the surface, then, not many reasons to expect a Winthrop win. But that’s what makes this time of year a lot of fun for the basketball fan. It’s one last chance to make a statement for teams which may not have done much to speak of lately.