Should college basketball adopt the Elam Ending?
The Basketball Tournament, or TBT has it has become known, has grown into an event that is bigger and more successful than I ever imagined it would be.
Launched in 2014, it’s an open entry tournament featuring 72 teams with a grand price of $2 million for the winners to share. You qualify for the tournament by getting fans to vote for your team, which is why you see so many alumni teams -- a Marquette alumni team is currently in the semifinals -- playing in the event.
The tournament is loaded with fringe NBA players, overseas pros and some of the biggest names from yesteryear. For example, on Sunday, a team with Greg Oden squared off against a team with Jimmer Fredette.
It’s high-level basketball played during a month when the only other options on TV are baseball (gross) and binging whatever show it is on Netflix you’re currently hooked on. Once you tire of that, your sports options are ... well, baseball.
It’s filled a demand amongst hoopheads admirably, and one of the interesting changes that TBT has employed this year is that they are only using the Elam Ending.
If you’re unaware of what the Elam Ending is, the concept is actually pretty simple: At the first deadball under the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter, a target score is determined by adding seven points to whoever is in the lead at that moment. So if Team A is leading Team B 76-73 at the first deadball under four minutes, the target score will be 83 and the clock will get turned off. The first team to get to 83 points will then be the winner, regardless of how long it takes.
The theory here is that instead of having a game end in a parade of fouls and free throws, dragging out an ending of a game that is more or less already decided, this will make every possession critical. If your team can lock up and defend for 10 or 12 or however many possessions it takes, you can win any game while creating a situation where there is always -- always -- going to be a game-winning shot.
It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It even set up a whole new brand of controversy. Three-time defending champions Overseas Elite were playing Louisiana United and, at the first dead ball under four minutes, lead 80-74, making the target score 87 points. Louisiana United proceeded to give Overseas Elite fits, creating havoc defensively and forcing miss after miss. Trailing 85-84, Louisiana United appeared to get a stop and give themselves a chance to win, but a foul called on a push-off during a rebound sent Overseas Elite to the line. A couple of possessions later, with the score tied at 86 -- meaning, quite literally, that the next point wins -- Louisiana United appeared to get a steal and a runout layup, but a foul was called, sending Overseas Elite to the line, where one free throw won the game.
Thrilling finishes. Controversy mired in poor officiating. A guaranteed game-winning shot in every single game.
I love it.
But I’m hesitant to advocate for it’s inclusion into college hoops -- and, for that matter, the NBA -- for one, simple reason: Buzzer-beaters are the best thing in all of sports.
There is no moment quite as agonizing as the moment when a shot is in the air while the clock hits zero and the red light comes on behind the basket. There is nothing else like it in sports, particularly when the shot going in turns a loss into a win; or a win into a loss. It’s particularly thrilling when buttressed up against a clock that is counting down to zero.
Is that really something that we are willing to eliminate from the sport?
I feel the same way about changing the college basketball calendar. I understand all the arguments for it. Moving college hoops out from under college football (and the NFL) might bring it more attention during the first four months of the season, but if, say, we have May Madness instead of March Madness, college basketball would suddenly be battling the NBA Playoffs for eyeballs.
As it currently stands, college basketball owns one month of the sporting calendar in a way that no other sport does. Would it really be a net-positive to slide it back two months to get a little bit more attention for the portion of the season that doesn’t matter quite as much?
Basketball’s buzzer-beaters are the absolute best thing in sports.
Is improving the final minutes of games that may or may not already be decided really worth ensuring that we never see a moment like this again?
You tell me.