Monday, January 31, 2011

Lets get things straight: When to and when not to storm the court

(I've been wanting to write something like this for a long time, and after the events of this past week, I believe that time is now. Also, I believe I have the adequate credentials to write such a post: I've been part of a court-storming following an upset victory over the No. 1 team in the country. But I've also been on the wrong end of many-an-overtime-game-winning-goal-dogpile. In fact, my ratio of dodging dog-piles to actually participating in them is astronomically-high.)

The storming of a court is a time-honored tradition in college basketball. But in recent years, it's been watered-down due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of what constitutes a court-storming. Many analysts, announcers and talking-heads have spoken out against court-storming when they have felt them to be unwarranted, most-notably, Dick Vitale, who comes from the Barry-Sanders School of Thought "Act like you've been there before".

Down south, in SEC country, schools are fined by the conference if their students storm the court, and only in a few instances (South Carolina/Kentucky 2010) would the schools probably be OK with picking up the check.

I mention this only because, well, this past week we witnessed at least six court-stormings, and I'm not entirely sure any of these games finished in a way that necessitated having the court stormed. Well, each contest had some elements of what constitutes a court-storming. But if you only have pie crust and no apples, you probably shouldn't make an apple pie. (OK, that made like no sense, but keep reading. I swear I'll stay away from the analogies)

The thing is, with the right game-results, and the right environment, a court-storming can be a beautiful thing. But let's take a look at six incidences that took place this week, all which received scrutiny from the media, in hopes to nail down a-somewhat-concrete set of rules or guidelines for performing the proper court-storming.

No. 9 BYU 71, No. 4 SDSU 59 in Utah

This was the biggest game of the year west of the Mississippi river, and probably the biggest game for each of these programs in the past couple of years. JimmerJam2011 was sweeping the nation. The Aztecs were undefeated. All solid reasons why a court-storming could be in effect. But now think about this: BYU won by 13. The outcome had been decided with four minutes to go. BYU is not a Cinderella-story, they are a legitimate top-10 team. Yes I understand, the students just wanted to touch Jimmer, but a 13-point victory over a team you were favored to beat by five is no reason to storm a court.
Verdict: Unnecessary

Providence 83, No. 7 Villanova 68 in Providence

Other than the fact that Villanova was never in this ball-game, this was a decent example of court-storming. But I'm not sure we can get over the fact that Villanova was never in this contest therefore Providence could have probably done with out the post-game chaos. But this one a good amount of prerequisites: a vastly-superior-top-10 opponent and a large, passionate fan base. But still, it was the wrong atmosphere. These types of upsets are bound to happen in the Big East, so a 15-point home win (unless you're DePaul) doesn't really seem like the proper time to storm the court.
Verdict: Unnecessary

Indiana 52, No. 21 Illinois 49 in Indiana

If Indiana had beaten Ohio State, this would be a no-brainer. But Illinois had lost three of four and were on their way out of the top-25. Yes, Indiana is a legendary program with a passionate fanbase chomping-at-the-bit to return to glory. And yes the Hoosiers won in-large part to Jordan Hulls clutch-shooting late in the game to claim victory but in this case, the importance of this game and the current market-value of their opponents didn't constitute a court-storming. Plus, it was a pretty half-assed effort as well.
Verdict: Close, but unnecessary

New Mexico 86, No. 9 BYU 77 in New Mexico

I kinda see why New Mexico fans rushed the court. JimmerJam2011 was at an all-time high. It was a must-win game for the Lobos, and well, it was at The Pit. The game was a close, back-and-forth battle for 39 minutes, but even with the nine point win, I'm not sure a court-storming was in order. I have no problem with it happening, but it could have been a lot better.
Verdict: Unnecessary

St. John's 93, No. 3 Duke 72 in New York City

This had all the makings of a worthy court-storming except for one fatal flaw: the Johnnies won by 21. A margin-of-victory that high negates a court-storming regardless of other pending circumstances. St. John's basketball is on the up-and-up, and playing against Duke in Madison Sqaure Garden on a football-less Sunday could have set the stage for an epic finish. But like I said, the Johnnies won by 21. If Duke had rallied late to tie the game, only to see St. John's hit a late foul-shot or game-winner, then storm-away, but even if St. John's had beaten the Lakers by 21, you don't storm the court.
Verdict: Unnecessary

Washington State 87, No. 17 Washington 80 at Wash-State

Rivalry game? check. Ranked-opponent? check. ripped straight from the headlines? check. Close finish? not-so-much. See folks, there's the problem. Wazzu was up eight with four minutes to play. They were up eight with three minutes to play, and were up eight with two minutes to play. The end-result needs to be more dramatic than that to constitute a court-storming. If Washington was say, a top-5 team, then I totally agree with the decision, but this wasn't a stunning upset.
Verdict: Close, but unnecessary

So you see, six court-stormings and not a single one is fully-justifiable. Now, having looked at a descent sample-set of mediocre court-stormings lets hash out some guidelines and prerequisites to ensure that court-stormings in the future are done only when absolutely necessary.

- Must be a game of importance (Gameday game, Big Monday, rivalry game, whiteout, Senior Day, undefeated team, No. 1 in the country, Conference Championship etc.)
- There must be a significant difference in talent between the winning team and losing team
- The game must still be undecided with two minutes to play
- Only the losing team can be ranked.

- You can only storm the court once per season (but that does not mean every team is allowed one court-storming per season)
- A dramatic finish, such as a half-court-buzzer-beater can be grounds for sporadic-court-storming even if not all the prerequisites have been met
- The entire student section must partake (A half-assed attempt is grounds for an immediate revoke of any/all court-storming privileges)

Now, there are exceptions to every rule. But hopefully, if these guidelines are followed we can limit the number of unnecessary court-stormings, which will in-turn, limit the amount of bemoaning from the sports community.

Because, like I said earlier, a court-storming, when done correctly, is a beautiful thing.


bball fan man said...

Another criteria should be: if your team has a rich basketball history (A.K.A. you have a history of big wins and national championship(s)) you should never storm the court. Powerhouse teams just need to enjoy a win, no matter how big it is. UNC, Kansas, etc. come to mind. Although UNC is unranked - maybe not for long with Barnes and co. showing improvement - it would be unnecessary to storm the court even with a win against Dook. Even though it is the biggest rivalry in sports, UNC has won 2 championships in 6 years, and 6 total throughout it's history. So storming the court is never an option.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that this was the last time UNM would be playing BYU as a MWC opponent. That sweetened the win a bit as well....

enjoy your blog...keep up the good work!cos

Troy Machir said...

both are good, valid points.

I can see situations this year that would possibly warrent UNC storming the floor but I see what you are getting at.

And that was a excellent point about BYU leaving the MWC. If the court-storming was more organized and powerful, I would have commended it.

Anonymous said...

Let me start by laying some cards on the table. (1) As a student, I never rushed the court. Not once, though there were opportunities. To a certain extent I regret not doing it, but at the time I felt constrained by expectations to be 'classy' or 'mature'. (2) Also, I don't think that rushing the court is a bad thing. Possibly ever. Storming the court is a genuine expression of joy from college students who are passionate about their school's basketball team. Fundamentally, as long as no one is hurt, I don't see what the problem is. Kids don't usually have much personal experience with big wins, and so when they have what they see as a big win on their hands, they want to celebrate it. When jaded adults tell them to 'act like they've been there before', all I can wonder is 'why?' They haven't been there before. And more importantly, there will only be 'there' for four (or maybe five) years. They should enjoy it, and if people in the press no longer feel like some particular win doesn't live up to some artificial 'standards', then its sad that those adults in the press have lost the sense of what it was like when /your/ school finally had a win that rated rushing the court /in your own mind/ which is the only place that matters for expressing their happiness..

Troy Machir said...

Wow, that was a fabulous response, and I completely get where your are coming from. I like seeing a court getting stormed...when it's done properly. That's all I'm saying.

I'm not scolding any of these kids for doing what they are doing, because I would do the same thing. But as a hoops aficianado who loves seeing courts get stormed on TV, I want to make sure that if they do it, they get it right.

Anonymous said...

The recent storming of the field from Minnesota after they beat Iowa last weekend gas brought this issue up at Big Ten schools as well. Some media are saying it’s poor form by the Gophers to rush the field while others are saying it’s an important rivalry win for a rebuilding program. There’s been a good debate at TC Huddle. I found your article searching for more opinions on the issue.

Thought you might want to check it out. It’s enjoyable if nothing else: