West Virginia adds to the NCAA tournament of terrible final possessions

The 2017 NCAA tournament hasn’t yet given us a memorable buzzer-beater. Part of that is just randomness. High-arching 3-pointers have rimmed off. Late defensive lapses haven’t occurred. In many cases, games haven’t come down to final possessions — only a handful in the first and second round did.

Another reason, however, is that when teams have had opportunities, their decision-making and/or execution has been terrible.

The latest and perhaps greatest example of this occurred in Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup between West Virginia and Gonzaga.

West Virginia started its doomed possession down three. With 37.9 seconds left on the clock, the Mountaineers had plenty of time to tie the game. But they also didn’t have any timeouts left to draw up a decent play, a handicap that would soon become apparent as Jevon Carter dribbled the equivalent of a 5K before taking two contested threes — one was an airball, the second barely drew the front of the rim.

Despite an offensive rebound by Nathan Adrian that gave West Virginia one last chance, the Mountaineers were disorganized at the top of the arc and couldn’t get a final shot off.

Final score: Gonzaga 61, West Virginia 58

Here’s the whole ugly scene sped up for your consideration:


West Virginia’s last possession continued a trend from last weekend when four teams had the ball, down one, with a chance to win the game: Princeton trailed Notre Dame 59-58; Vanderbilt trailed Northwestern 67-66; SMU trailed USC 66-65; Wichita State trailed Kentucky 63-62. All four lost, in part because all four had sub-optimal final (or penultimate) possessions.

Three of the four took especially sub-optimal shots. Princeton, Vanderbilt and Wichita State all pulled up for contested 3-pointers despite a 3 being no better, or only marginally better, than a 2 in the situation.

First there were the Tigers, who got a decent look, but a contested 25-footer nonetheless. They had four more seconds to try to get to the rim, or at least work for an open shot closer to the rim, but settled for a long-range bomb:


Then there was Vanderbilt. The most discussed play of the final minute was Matthew Fisher-Davis’ foul, but that overshadowed Riley LaChance pulling up from 27 feet away one possession later:


At least those two teams got shots off, though. Wichita State pranced around the perimeter, but never got separation from Kentucky’s defenders. Markis McDuffie had his 3-pointer blocked:


Wichita State got the ball back, down three points, with a chance to tie the game, but again, Landry Shamet probed, never opened up space for himself or others, and had his shot turned back:

Finally, we have SMU, which dallied on the perimeter, and didn’t realize until there were three seconds remaining that it might be a good idea to attack the basket. Shake Milton eventually did, but settled for a contested floater over one of the better shot blockers in college basketball:


The shots that these four teams have gotten aren’t just low percentage shots; they remove the possibility of getting to the free throw line from the equation.

Better movement, or more organized possessions, wouldn’t automatically have yielded buzzer-beaters. But at least they likely would have yielded better shots, and better opportunities for late-game drama.

More March Madness coverage from Yahoo Sports:

Protesters fly Confederate flag next to NCAA tournament arena in Greenville
Michigan keeps memorable March run alive, advances to Sweet 16
John Beilein comes equipped with super soaker for Michigan’s postgame celebration
‘Northwestern crying kid on a roller coaster of emotions during loss to Gonzaga

What to Read Next