March 3 – March Madness Begins – A Basketball Primer
On Feb. 28, 1940, the first televised college basketball games were broadcast by New York City station W2XBS as Pittsburgh defeated Fordham, 57-37, and New York University beat Georgetown, 50-27, at Madison Square Garden. Get ready there are about to be a lot more broadcast as March Madness begins.
So to guide through this cultural phenomena, I give you: Basketball 101 or A Basketball Primer by Me
As in college football, I only write about teams I like and teams that play teams that I like. Oh yes, this is only about Division I schools. There are two more divisions that do March Madness. Are you ready to tip off?
Another exciting season of March Madness approaches welcoming another college sport into the commercialization and marketing by ESPN and its sister networks. I wonder if Larry Culpepper from Dr.. Pepper will appear.
March Madness, also known as The Big Dance or The Final Four, is a series of basketball games played by NCAA basketball teams during the time frame between the end of college football and The Master’s Golf Tournament. Let’s assume you know nothing about the game or just landed from outer space. I know people who can fit into either category.
History of the Game
In early December 1891, the chairman of the physical education department at the School for Christian Workers (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, instructed physical education teacher James Naismith, known to many as the inventor of basketball, to invent a new game to entertain the school’s athletes in the winter season.
In Texas we think the game of basketball was invented to give people something to do when there was no football. The fact that it offered the PE teachers something to teach while it was cold as a witch in brass brassiere outside was also helpful.
Originally a player would try to toss an inflated, round ball into a wooden peach basket suspended from a hoop mounted to a pole about 10 feet off of the ground. When this task was accomplished, the school janitor would bring a ladder, climb up, retrieve the ball, return it to the player and remove the ladder until he was needed again. I am not certain if there was a janitorial union intervention and this task was beyond his contractual responsibilities or what. But soon some brainiac thought to cut a hole in the bottom of the peach basket and the janitor was no longer needed.
The game is played with a large, inflated, round, brown ball. In the men’s college game, the ball is 29.5 inches in diameter. In the women’s game the ball is 28.5 inches in diameter. One advances the ball by bouncing it down a flat, rectangular flat surface called a court. This bouncing of the ball is called dribbling. One may also pass the ball to a team mate to advance the ball. The passing of the ball is called passing.
At either end of this court is a hoop that is 18 inches in diameter. This hoop is 10 feet off of the ground and mounted to a backboard.
The player must dribble the ball using only one hand and without stopping and then throw this big round ball through that 18 inch hoop on the pole.
The game can be played by men or women. Sometimes, in the women’s game it is difficult to determine gender however. The game is played by two teams. There are five players on each team. Each player has a number based on the position he or she plays. Actually, the position played is usually based on level of skill sets and body types.
Point guard (often called the “1“): usually the fastest player on the team organizes the team’s offense by controlling the ball and making sure that it gets to the right player at the right time.
Shooting guard (the “2“): creates a high volume of shots on offense, mainly long-ranged; and guards the opponent’s best perimeter player on defense.
Small forward (the “3“): often primarily responsible for scoring points via cuts to the basket and dribble penetration; on defense seeks rebounds and steals, but sometimes plays more actively.
Power forward (the “4“): plays offensively often with their back to the basket; on defense, plays under the basket (in a zone defense) or against the opposing power forward (in man-to-man defense).
Center (the “5“): uses height and size to score (on offense), to protect the basket closely (on defense), or to rebound.
Now this sounds like a simple fun sport now, doesn’t it? I failed to mention at each position there is a seven foot giant, with an arm wing span like a small airplane, who has a vertical jump of 30 inches from a standing position, and is quicker than a New York pick pocket who trying to prevent you from putting the round ball into the hoop. It adds a bit more challenge to just tossing the ball into the modern peach bucket.
Go study for the assessment. Tomorrow we look at What to Watch in a Basketball Game.