Friday, April 1, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NIT Final

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - It wasn't as much a 'shock'. Wichita State defeated Alabama 66-57 to give the Shockers their first NIT championship. For the second straight game the Missouri Valley Conference representative had a surprise marquee player under the bright lights of Madison square Garden.

Outside MSG about two hours before tip off
on a wet, damp day

The pace and efficiency:

Wichita State65102

The Garden floor waits patiently.
About 90 minutes before game time.
Not a player in sight
but the two cheer squads are limbering up.

The Four Factors:

Wichita State58283229

The turnover rate stands out for Wichita. Alabama had only a 17-14 edge in points off turnovers. Regardless, surrendering almost one third of your possessions in the TO category could spell disaster against a quality opponent as Alabama.

The Crimson Tide's eFG rate was largely due to a 2 of 14 showing from three point range. More solid defense on the part of Wichita.

Shockers were 7 of 15 (47%) from three and 16 for 31 (52%) from two point range. Both good showings as was their overall scoring balance. The leading scorers for Wichita were J.T. Durley and Graham Hatch, both with a dozen points.

Taking a halftime break from tempo-free charting
to get in a picture with a few Wichita State cheerleaders

Charting Possessions
Kept a long hand record of the possessions. At the half had 35 for each team. The formula gave 36 for each team. Wichita State led 37-34 at the break. The halftime efficiencies (on the 36 per formula):

Wichita State103

The second half charting yielded 29 possessions each. For the game that would be 64. Using the formula the second half possessions were also 29. The final total was 65, thus another example of how accurate and useful the possession formula is.

Most Outstanding Player. Yours truly was in on the voting and have to say it was tough. Good thing the ballots were collected with three minutes to go The All-Tournament team was not as difficult but that outstanding player, another story.

Wash. St.AlabamaTotal
Garrett Stutz35540
Graham Hatch121628

Taking it on a per minute basis for the two games:

Eff. per
Garrett Stutz470.851
Graham Hatch460.609

NIT Selection Chairman C.M. Newton and the champions from Wichita State

Relatively close call if you look at the per minute contributions. Yours truly voted for Stutz, but had no problem with Hatch's selection. Had both on my All-Tournament team. Stutz had the great breakout game, 24 points 11 boards against Washington State. In that one Wichita State never trailed. You can argue it was an easy rout. But one reason it was one sided was due to Stutz's asserting himself very early on.

The final saw 6 ties and 9 lead changes. Hatch earned the MOP not due to tying for the club scoring lead. Rather, there were crucial threes he hit in the stretch to put this one away. The senior swingman's clutch perimeter shooting proved to be the difference and enough to get the votes needed for MOP.

Given the type players on and off the floor, neither Stutz nor Hatch would have a problem regarding who took the MOP trophy.

Fans of the Shockers celebrating and savoring the moment

JaMychal Green was effective inside for the Tide. Green scored 12 points (5 of 7 from two and overall) while adding four rebounds. Once again foul trouble reared its ugly head. Green logged only 25 minutes, which hurt the Tide especially the latter part of the final half. Tony Mitchell, the Tide's 6-6 sophomore forward, led all with 13 points, 12 rebounds. Mitchell played 33 minutes but he too weathered foul trouble.

As noted, the Tide struggled from the perimeter. Anthony Grant's club was 19 of 42 (45%) from two point range, reflecting how tough the defense of Wichita State was.

Manley Game Leaders
The leaders in Manley for the final:

Tony Mitchell, Alabama16
Graham Hatch, Wichita St.16
JaMychal Green, Alabama15
Aaron Ellis, Wichita St.12
Chris Hines, Alabama11

Wichita State finished 29-8. The 29 wins a school record. Alabama wrapped up at 25-12. The All-Tournament team:

Alec Burks, Colorado
JaMychal Green, Alabama
Trevor Releford, Alabama
Garrett Stutz, Wichita state
Graham Hatch, Wichita state (MOP)

Besides being an outstanding coach, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State showed a deep appreciation for the NIT history and tradition. Naturally, he was extremely proud as well as thrilled that his club could emerge champions.

First half saw the two teams shoot 100% from the line. Wichita 9-9 and Alabama perfect on all five. Teams combined to hit 17 straight before there was a miss. Wichita finished 13 of 17 (77%) while Alabama was much improved after the semis, connecting on 13 of 15 (87%).

About 45 minutes before the game music began to play on the Garden PA system. The very first song was 'Wichita Lineman' by Glenn Campbell. Asked the Wichita State cheerleaders, warming up, if they were familiar with the song. None heard of it and one thought the singer was Frank Sinatra. Explained the song's background and how it was a hit in December of 1968. Larry Rankin, the Wichita State Media relations Director, explained the song was for Wichita County in Kansas but adopted by the city of Wichita.

Next song was 'Alabama Getaway'. Alabama cheer squad was familiar with it. In fairness, Alabama Getaway came about 12 years after Wichita Lineman and was performed by the Grateful Dead.

Favorite of the Wichita band was 'We're not gonna' take it' of Twisted Sister fame.

Attendance, only 4,873 for the final. The Wichita contingent did travel well with a very active group.

Post game festivities on the floor seemed to go on a good forty minutes. Shocker fans reveled in this victory. Following the presser some close friends and family were invited to the Wichita state locker room. Again, they wanted the party to continue.

Heading home, got in my car after getting the train to Secaucus. Popped in a 60s CD with the first song that came up, none other than, 'Wichita Lineman'.

They may not know the "Wichita Lineman"
but the Wichita State cheer squad knew "New York, New York"
and danced to the lyrics in post game celebration

No comments: