23.3.08

ACCUMULATION OF SMALL ADVANTAGES. Once upon a time, chess was an exciting game. The preferred style of play involved gambits and counter-gambits, and good chess etiquette made it a faux pas to refuse the offer of a pawn. Thus would the attacking player place additional material en prise in order to open attacking lines, while the defender would attempt to husband the material for a winning ending. First, though, came the middle game.

Then came Steinitz, and after him Nimzovitch and Portisch, who demonstrated that the way to refute a gambit was to accept it, then to return the material in such a way as to achieve equality, by forcing the gambiteer to accept an inferior position otherwise. The commentariat began to refer to chess as "boring" as the lines with fireworks and Queen sacrifices and alley-oops proved to be unsound.

So let it be with basketball, where Wisconsin have been conducting a clinic in breaking opponents through the accumulation of small advantages.
You could see it in the [Kansas State] Wildcats' frustrated body language not long after the Badgers began to exert their dominance, and you could sense it in [highlight film aspirant Michael] Beasley's exasperation as he made just two field goals in the second half. Per the Ryan way, the Badgers played Beasley straight up, mostly with Marcus Landry. And in keeping with the UW custom, they took it right at Kansas State inside; you knew it was their day when Greg Stiemsma, sometimes going over the top of Beasley, scored a career-high 14 points in 14 minutes off the bench.
Via Wisconsin Sports Bar, a Kansas City Star columnist who concedes the same thing.
Saturday, though, [Kansas State] were not exactly ordinary. No, they were just beaten by a better basketball team, a college basketball team that contests every shot, and controls the tempo and finds the open man. That’s a team that knows exactly what to do and then does it. NBA scouts may not agree. But that’s talent.
Here's the columnist reacting to Kansas State coach Frank Martin.
“That’s not the team you want to play on a night you don’t make jump shots,” Martin said. But the thing is, nobody makes jump shots against Wisconsin. That’s the whole point. The Badgers gave up 53.8 points per game this year. They have not given up even 73 points in a game since early December. This is like the old Tim McCarver line about how Bob Gibson was the luckiest pitcher ever because every time he pitched, the other team didn’t score any runs.
Position, overprotection, all that is missing is a poisoned pawn. Note the slow diffusion of the idea through the tournament. Michigan State, where Tom Izzo has already won a national title after getting past Dick Bennett, the father's, Badgers in a semifinal game the commentariat mischaracterized as a "throwback", are still playing, as are Washington State, coached by Tony Bennett, the son; and are Tennessee, with Wisconsin transplant Bruce Pearl demonstrating the praxis of his system. Meanwhile, scratch Marquette, scratch Duke, scratch Georgetown.

No comments: