Wally Szczerbiak has had the opportunity to experience March Madness as both a player, when he made a Sweet 16 run with Miami (OH) in 1999, and now, as an analyst for CBS Sports and Turner Sports, so his opinion that this year’s tournament is “hands down” the best he’s ever seen should carry a lot of weight.
Szczerbiak joined The Jim Rome Show on Monday and said the Texas A&M comeback against Northern Iowa completed what was already an incredible weekend of basketball. “Just when you feel like you’ve seen it all in this tournament then a game like Northern Iowa [vs. Texas A&M] happens last night. There’s the Northern Iowa team that hit the buzzer beater [vs. Texas] to advance out of the first round from half court, and then they turn around last night and give up a 12-point lead in 40 seconds. Just absolute craziness.”
Northern Iowa’s meltdown became the biggest collapse in tournament history, a feat Szczerbiak tried to put into words.
“I just can’t believe how many things had to go wrong for that to happen,” Szczerbiak said. “The kid [Wyatt] Lohaus is taking the ball out under the basket, the fact that the turnovers when they were trying to knock the ball off the other team went right into their hands for a layup. If those turnovers, at least if it’s a travel, or if it at least it goes out of bounds you can set your defense. And it was just an avalanche that those kids couldn’t stop, the fact that the coach didn’t have a timeout, I felt so bad for them, because they were so confused.”
Szczerbiak hinted at just how difficult it became in that moment for Northern Iowa to reverse the course of the game.
“At that point, momentum takes over, the crowd takes over, your brain just locked up as a player and they just weren’t thinking. They weren’t using their instincts that they’ve had their whole entire life’s playing basketball. When you catch the ball in an inbound, you can’t just hold it and expect the other team to foul, you got to use an escape dribble. You got to try to dribble away from trouble and force them to chase you and foul you. So it was unfortunate because they lost their in-bounder in [Matt] Bohannon, but boy Texas A&M, how fortunate are they?”
Szczerbiak left Northern Iowa with some advice, burn the final minute of game tape.
“If I was them I’d never watch the last 44 seconds. I got to be honest.”
Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield has been undoubtedly one of the nation’s top players this season, and Szczerbiak adamantly believes he should be the top choice to win National Player of the Year honors.
“If he doesn’t get it, it will be the biggest disgrace in my opinion ever for a National Player of The Year,” Szczerbiak said. “I’ve had this debate with a couple of my buddies, a couple coaches, a couple writers, and they’re not voting for him, and I could not be more disappointed. The display he has put on this year has been absolutely incredible. He has put his team on his shoulders.
“Everyone says, well Denzel Valentine rebounds and assists, what Buddy has done? People don’t realize how hard it is when you’re the number one guy to stop on the scouting report every single night, and you get eleven 30-point games in the Big 12. You have a 46-point game at Phog Allen [Fieldhouse], and he has completely captivated the whole country with his flat out shooting ability. I hope he gets it. I know the results are coming out, and if he doesn’t, it would absolutely be a shame because what he has done is special in my mind.”
This post brought to you by Jim Rome.