March Madness Spawns Inflategate | God's World News

March Madness Spawns Inflategate

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    Creighton University and San Diego State team members play in an Elite 8 college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament on March 26, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky. (AP/John Bazemore)


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Upsets, Cinderella teams, broken brackets—the madness of March Madness is going strong. Heading into the NCAA Tournament Final Four games on April 1, players and coaches debate a new controversy: Inflategate.

Low shooting percentages from three-point range during the event’s first and second-round games started the murmurs. Pundits began wondering whether slick or overinflated basketballs may have been the culprit. Even players and coaches from the tourney’s top overall seed, Alabama, have discussed the situation in the locker room.

“We’ve kind of had the discussion as a staff,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats says. Final Four-bound San Diego State eliminated his team last weekend. “You can pump up any ball to be too hard. It would be great if the referees actually made sure it was within the guidelines of how hard it’s supposed to be because, obviously, if you pump it up to where it’s a rock, you’re not going to shoot as well.”

It’s certainly not the first time balls or air pressure have been questioned in the sports world.

Home run rates increased following the 2016 Major League Baseball season. That led some pitchers to complain the baseballs didn’t feel right. Pitcher Justin Verlander even contended the balls were juiced. In 2021, MLB responded by announcing it had decided to make balls lighter and less bouncy.

In January 2015, some people accused seven-time Super Bowl champion and three-time NFL MVP Tom Brady of using deflated footballs in a championship game. The league eventually suspended Brady for four games, fined the New England Patriots $1 million, and forced them to forfeit two draft picks.

So far, nobody is all that pumped up about the NCAA’s basketballs. But the topic has come up in conversation.

“I just feel like sometimes the balls are a little too bouncy,” Crimson Tide guard Jahvon Quinerly says. “I don’t think it’s affected me personally this tournament, but you know, it’s been something the guys talk about in the locker room.”

Alabama’s team equipment manager collects balls from different manufacturers. Oats says the team practices with whatever brand is expected to be used in its next game. One solution, Oats believes, would be for the NCAA to establish a standardized ball for all Division I games.

“[Assistant coach] Charlie Henry was in the NBA and [he says,] ‘I have no idea why college doesn’t have a uniform ball, like I couldn’t imagine. [When] you’re in the NBA, everybody plays with the same ball every night,’” Oats says. “I do think it would be a lot better if the NCAA mandated a particular ball.”

This weekend, uber-bouncy balls or not, four teams will travel to Houston to play for the national title. Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, and Miami will make their first appearances. It’s the first time since 1970 that three first-timers all showed up in the same year. Rounding out the quartet is UConn (University of Connecticut), a fourth seed in its conference.

At the end of the day, Oats believes the shooting woes in this year’s tourney have nothing to do with basketballs, air pressure, or shoes.

“I think defenses get better,” he says. “You look at the teams that are still winning, most of them have pretty good defenses. When the defenses get better, the shooting percentages go down.”

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. — Proverbs 11:1

(Creighton University and San Diego State team members play in an Elite 8 college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament on March 26, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky. AP/John Bazemore)