TIME College Basketball

UMass Guard Derrick Gordon Comes Out As Gay

UMass guard Derrick Gordon dribbles the ball during a game against the Fordham Rams at the Mullin Center in Amherst, Mass., Jan. 26, 2014.
UMass guard Derrick Gordon dribbles the ball during a game against the Fordham Rams at the Mullin Center in Amherst, Mass., Jan. 26, 2014. Eric Canha—Cal Sport Media/AP

Sophomore starter Derrick Gordon on Wednesday became the first player in the NCAA's Division I Men's Basketball league to come out as gay. 'It's like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders,' Gordon told ESPN after revealing his orientation

Derrick Gordon, a sophomore starter on the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team, revealed that he was gay in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday, becoming the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player in the NCAA.

“I just didn’t want to hide anymore, in any way,” Gordon said. “I didn’t want to have to lie or sneak. I’ve been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, ‘Why not me?'” Gordon said he came out to his teammates on April 2, shortly after his team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Tennessee on March 21.

Teammates met Gordon’s announcement with support and understanding, and the 6’3″ player says he can now be himself. “Before, I usually just kept to myself because I didn’t want to lie or be fake,” Gordon said. “But not anymore. I feel so good right now. It’s like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

“From speaking with Derrick, I realized the pressure he had, the weight that was on his shoulders,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “You can already see in his demeanor that he is so much happier. I actually think this is something that brings our team closer together and helps Derrick play more freely.”

Gordon tweeted shortly after the news broke:

Gordon said he was inspired to publicly come out by veteran NBA player Jason Collins, who came out as gay in Sports Illustrated in April 2013. He signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets in February, making him the first openly gay NBA player. “That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn’t matter, that the NBA was OK with it,” Gordon said.

Collins also took to Twitter to support Gordon on Wednesday:

The University of Massachusetts also voiced support for the student athlete, who averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season. “UMass is proud to have Derrick Gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete,” athletic director John McCutcheon said in a written statement. “UMass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals.”

[ESPN]

TIME Business of Sports

Sports TV Broadcasting Hits New Highs … in Annoying Fans

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Jetta Productions—Getty Images

Lately, many sports fans who have tried to watch the Winter Olympics, or NCAA Final Four basketball, or the Atlanta Braves, or the Los Angeles Dodgers have been frustrated for a very basic reason.

They can’t find the !?#&*!? sporting event on TV.

On Saturday night, countless college basketball fans tuned in to CBS, hoping to watch the men’s Final Four March Madness tournament matchups of Wisconsin-vs.-Kentucky and Florida-vs.-Connecticut. Instead of basketball, viewers were treated to reruns of CBS dramas “Person of Interest” and “Criminal Minds.”

After some confusion, and perhaps some cursing and throwing of remotes, shoes, and cheese dip, previously unaware viewers discovered that for the first time since March Madness has been televised, the national semifinals weren’t shown on network TV. The back-to-back games, played on what’s often thought of the best night of the year for college basketball, were only broadcast on cable. On several cable channels, in fact, thanks to a curious arrangement with Turner Sports, in which TBS hosted the main broadcast, and sister channels TNT and TruTV showed the same game but with different local play-by-play announcers to cater to each team’s fan base.

In any event, the games weren’t on network TV. That was enough to ruin the night for cord cutters, i.e., folks who don’t have pay TV, who have also missed out on the tournament’s many other games shown only on TBS, TNT, or TruTV rather than CBS.

(MORE: Why Las Vegas Loves March Madness Way More Than the Super Bowl)

The arrangement did more than alienate the fairly sizeable portion of fans too cheap to have a pay TV package. Despite an onslaught of coverage telling folks that they games were on cable for the first time ever— according to Adweek, the campaign included digital billboards in subways, ads shown before films in theaters, promos on radio and TV, and a takeover of USAToday.com’s home page—the move to cable did some serious damage to TV ratings as well. Yes, when combined the trio of Turner Sports channels achieved a record high number of viewers for a non-football sporting event on cable, but the shift away from network broadcast also resulted in a multi-year low in ratings overall. The Associated Press reported that an average of 14 million viewers watched the games on Saturday night, down 11% from a year ago when they were shown on CBS. (TBS is in 14% fewer American homes than CBS.)

There’s no mystery as to why any of the parties involved would risk aggravating fans by showing the games on cable rather than CBS: Like so many things, it’s all about money.

CBS and Turner Sports are a few years into a 14-year, $10.8 billion partnership with the NCAA to air the March Madness tournament. One reason that TBS and its siblings agreed to the deal—thereby helping CBS from losing the tournament to ESPN and ABC—is that they were guaranteed the right to air some of the tournament’s premier high-ratings games, rather than just the earlier rounds.

More importantly, these networks, and the powers than be in general in sports and TV, are well aware that live sports is the largest reason many Americans continue to cut a check for a monthly pay TV bill. Time Warner, which owns TBS, TNT, TruTV, CNN, and many other cable networks (and, for a little while longer, Time Inc. and Time.com), obviously has great interest in keeping levels of cable-paying households high. They want cord cutting to hurt, or at least be difficult and impractical for sports fans to circumvent, and moving the Final Four to cable does just that.

(MORE: YouTube Is Going to Use TV to Destroy TV)

The Final Four broadcast is hardly the only example of how larger battles over money and TV rights are frustrating the lives and viewing habits of sports fans—perhaps turning some into former fans in the process. Four years ago, NBC Universal angered hockey fans and the hockey world in general by its decision to air some premier Olympic hockey games on cable rather than the main network. Likewise, fans were only able to view many events from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi by watching them on cable (or streaming them online, only possible with a pay TV account). Of course, Comcast, the biggest player in pay TV, owns NBC Universal, so it makes a lot of sense to strategically broadcast in-demand sporting events in ways that push people to feel the monthly cable bill is still unavoidable, if not exactly well worth the money.

At 162 regular season games plus playoffs, Major League Baseball plays the most games of any pro sport, and therefore it has the most games aired on TV. But thanks to a trend kicked off largely by the advent of the Yankees-focused YES Network more than ten years ago, fans are increasingly likely to be forced to jump through hoops, or at least cough up extra cash, in order to tune in. For instance, an ongoing dispute between Fox Sports and Dish TV in Atlanta will result in some Braves fans being unable to watch nearly one-third of the team’s games this season.

Over in southern California, a huge brawl over Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts pits the Dodgers-owed SportsNET LA network and its distributor, Time Warner Cable, on one side, and on the other, a range of pay TV providers such as Cox, Charter, and DirecTV, which so far are refusing to pay the high fees being demanded to include the channel in customer packages. Caught in the middle, of course, are the many fans who use other TV providers, and who often don’t live in areas where they could get SportsNET LA even if they wanted to pay for it.

(MORE: Hank Aaron Would Have Faced More Racism Today)

The result is an absurd scenario epitomized by a recent column from the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, who on Dodgers opening day hit a handful of bars, as well as a taco shop, bowling alley, and a Burger King, trying—and failing—to find the game on TV. The deal the Dodgers cut for the rights to broadcast games is incredibly lucrative for the club. But as Plaschke warned the Dodgers, the money may come at the cost of quite a few fans. “Dodgers, ask your fans if they are willing to sacrifice watching the games on television for the sake of having the league’s richest team,” he wrote. “They would say no.”

Plaschke ran into one sports bar patron, who noted the irony of seeing Dodgers jerseys posted to the tavern’s wall and yet “they can’t even get the games,” he said. “At least everyone can still watch the Angels.”

For the time being anyway.

TIME FInal Four

The Shabazz Show Wins Title for UConn

Connecticut celebrates with the championship trophy after beating Kentucky 60-54 at the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game on April 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas.
Connecticut celebrates with the championship trophy after beating Kentucky 60-54 at the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game on April 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. David J. Phillip—AP

Senior shooting guard Shabazz Napier's 22 points helped lift the seventh-seeded Connecticut Huskies to a 60-54 victory over the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, bringing the team its fourth national championship since 1999

Thousands of basketball-obsessed kids, in schoolyards and backyards and barnyards around the country, may be trying a new kind of shot come Tuesday morning. It’s a deep one, and comes with a kick, literally: release, and kick your right foot out, like you’re also whacking an invisible soccer ball. Call it the Shabazz Shot. It just won UConn a national championship.

Shabazz Napier, the UConn senior shooting guard, scored 22 points, and hit four key three pointers — most with that signature kick — to lead the seventh-seeded Huskies to a 60-54 victory over eighth-seeded Kentucky in Monday night’s NCAA title game. His backcourt mate, junior Ryan Boatright, also had a fabulous game, shooting 5 for 6 from the field and finishing with 14 points. Napier and Boatright outscored Kentucky’s backcourt, twin freshman Aaron and Andrew Harrison, 36-15.

Just as important, Napier and Boatright used their size disadvantage to their advantage. The Harrison brothers are both 6-ft, 6-in. Napier is 6-ft, 1-in., and Boatright is listed at a generous 6-ft. Big guys don’t like being pestered by smaller, quicker players. UConn’s Kevin Ollie, a national champ in his first NCAA tournament as head coach, scripted a smart game plan: unleash the quickness of Napier and Boatright on Kentucky’s taller guards. The Harrisons turned the ball over 7 times. Both Napier and Boatright finished with three steals.

The game wasn’t a classic. But it was a chess match. In the first half, when Kentucky clearly couldn’t stop the quickness of UConn’s backcourt, Wildcats coach John Calipari switched to a zone. The move stalled UConn, which dominated Kentucky in the first half, but only had a 35-31 lead at halftime. Calipari admitted his team should have been down 20 points. The play got a bit sloppier in the second half: combined, both teams turned the ball over 23 times. Ollie made his moves in the second-half: almost all game, his team played man-to-man, but when he threw in the occasional zone, Kentucky got flustered. Kentucky’s James Young kept slithering into the lane, keeping the Wildcats in the game almost by himself. The freshman—all five of Kentucky’s starters are freshmen—finished with 20 points.

The game was also decided at the foul line: Connecticut, money from the line all tournament, shot a perfect 10-for-10. Kentucky missed nine shots, finishing 13-24. Calipari screwed up in the final minute, ordering a foul with 54 seconds left, with Kentucky down 58-54. All that did was give UConn a fresh 35-second shot clock, enabling the Huskies to run the time down the rest of the game.

No matter: the game was still the Shabazz show. Napier, who hails from Roxbury, Mass., returned to UConn this season instead of entering the NBA draft, and is on track to graduate with a sociology degree. He’s developed a social conscience: after telling reporters that he sometimes goes to bed hungry because his scholarship does not cover the full cost of attending college, Connecticut lawmakers started chirping about allowing UConn athletes to unionize. A bit of political pandering by the statehouse reps? Maybe. But at least he started a discussion. And after the game, Napier grabbed the CBS mike to deliver a message to the NCAA. “I want to get everybody’s attention right quick,” Napier told a national television audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at the hungry Huskies. This is what happens when you ban us last year.” The NCAA kept UConn out of last year’s tournament because of poor academic performance by prior players. Napier used the national championship platform to publicly express his disgust with that policy.

You may not agree with Napier. But it’s still refreshing to see college athletes like him lifting their voices. And their feet. Start kicking, kids.

TIME NCAA Tournament

March Sadness: One Shining Moment Fades Away

Every year, only one team in the NCAA Tournament can walk away with the National Championship, leaving 67 losing squads in its wake. See the pain of a season-ending loss

TIME NCAA Tournament

Moments of Madness: Weird Photos From the NCAA Tournament

College basketball's chaotic tournament produces some strange moments. These are 10 of the best

TIME College Basketball

4 Things to Know About The Final Four

Marcus Lee of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball against the Michigan Wolverines during the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana Andy Lyons—Reuters

The last chapters of the 2014 NCAA Tournament promise more madness than all of March after Kentucky's win over Michigan on Sunday night

It’s the homestretch of March Madness, with the Final Four finally set after Kentucky’s thrilling win over Michigan on Sunday night. The last rounds of the Big Dance start Saturday at AT&T Stadium—yes, the $1 billion spaceship Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built that has no business hosting a basketball game, save for the gazillions in cash all those extra seats bring in.

When looking at the teams left standing, what first pops out is the seeding. A No. 1 seed (Florida) and a No. 2 seed (Wisconsin) made it out out of the South and West regions, respectively. But two lower-seeded teams made it to Texas, too: a seventh-seed out of the East, and a No. 8 seed out of the Midwest. But those two teams, UConn and Kentucky, aren’t exactly Cinderellas. Not when they’ve won two of the last three national championships (UConn took the title in 2011, and Kentucky won it all in 2012).

No Butlers, no VCUs, no George Masons, no Wichita States this season: In 2014, the Final Four belongs to basketball royalty. Except for Wisconsin, really. The Badgers last made the Final Four in 2000, and despite its 1941 national basketball championship, Wisconsin is still primarily known as a football school. But that can all change this year. The Badgers, who face Kentucky in one national semifinal game, are deep, fast, and for the first time in forever, actually kind of fun to watch. If we’re making predictions—and why not?—we see Wisconsin cutting down the nets next Monday night. As you prepare to make your own Final Four calls, here are four things worth considering.

Gators Chomping

Florida, which won back-t0-back national titles under coach Billy Donovan in 2006-2007, has won 30 straight games going into this year’s Final Four. That’s a remarkable streak, given that Florida doesn’t seem to have NBA-ready players like Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer—standouts on those title teams—on this year’s roster. However, Florida plays an inside-out style that’s given teams fits all year. Inside, senior Patric Young, a 6’9″, 240 pound center, makes clever moves around the hoop with both hands. On defense, he finished third in the SEC in block percentage, and swatted away four shots against Dayton in Saturday’s regional final. Outside, senior Scottie Wilbekin was the SEC Player of the Year, and few players in college hoops are more creative off the dribble.

The last time Florida lost was on Dec. 2, to UConn, who the Gators will face in the other national semifinal.

The Shabazz Show

If there’s one team in the this year’s Final Four that represents that chaos of college sports, it’s UConn. The Huskies play in the American Athletic Conference, which in the first year of its existence is sending a team to the Final Four. Pretty heady stuff for a rookie league. The AAC was born after the basketball-centric schools from the old Big East, in which UConn used to play, decided to form their own conference, which is still called the Big East. The AAC has a football, and basketball, imprint that will weaken next year, when Louisville flees to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Rutgers decamps to the Big Ten.

Whatever: What’s important here is that UConn beat Michigan St. at Madison Square Garden on Sunday in what was essentially a home game. For years, UConn fans flocked to New York to support the Huskies in the Big East tournament, and the UConn fans gave the building a similar electricity on Sunday. So a team no longer in the Big East is going to the Final Four, in part because it was playing in the friendly confines of its former conference.

UConn is also coming off of academic probation. The Huskies were ineligible for the 2013 tournament because of poor academic performance. Meanwhile, the University of Central Florida released a report last week, detailing the Graduation Success Rates (GSR) of the Sweet 16 hoops teams. UConn’s graduation rate: eight percent. So how in the world is a school with an eight percent graduation rate coming off of academic probation? Because the NCAA has designed another metric, the Academic Progress Rate (APR), which measures whether current students are remaining academically eligible. So while a past cohort of UConn students failed to graduate at alarming rates, the current UConn students are maintaining sufficient enough grades to compete, according to the NCAA. But are these UConn players actually going to graduate? Is the APR a true measure of academic achievement?

Such debates, often involving mind-numbing acronyms like APR and GSR and AAC, always lurk in the shadows of college sports. For Final Four purposes, however, just know this about UConn: The team’s leading scorer, Shabazz Napier, has an uncanny ability to make shots with defenders draped all over him. Back in 2011, another UConn scorer, Kemba Walker—who now plays for the Charlotte Bobcats—carried the Huskies to a championship. Napier, who was a freshman on that title-winning team, seems to be having his Kemba Walker moment. That’s pretty terrible news for Florida.

The One-and-Doners Do It Again

Kentucky starts five freshmen. Of the three players who came off the bench during the Wildcats’ thrilling 75-72 win over Michigan in the Midwest regional final, two were freshmen. The other was a sophomore. Kentucky coach John Calipari, as he seems to do every year, assembled what’s called one of the greatest recruiting classes in college basketball history. In 2012, led by future NBA standout Anthony Davis, the Wildcats won the whole thing. Then poof, everyone went pro. This crop of freshman didn’t gel during the regular season—thus, Kentucky’s 8-seed. But the Wildcats peaked when they had to. Now, Calipari can test his one-and-done formula at another Final Four. Calipari’s sales pitch is simple: Come to Kentucky for a year, play with some fellow future NBA players, maybe win some games, and, most importantly, move on to the pros as quickly as possible. Million-dollar contracts, not diplomas, dominate the discussion.

To many moralists, Calipari’s act is despicable. But all he’s done is play the system. The NBA set the age-limit rule, disallowing players to jump straight to the pros, like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant had done in the past. Calipari has a history of mass-producing NBA players, assembling like-minded stars for their temporary campus stay, and melding them into a competitive team. If you’re a Julius Randle, the NBA-bound Kentucky forward, why not spend your only college season at the Final Four? It’s the Calipari way. Coach K wins the gold medals. But his one-and-done star, Jabari Parker, won’t be in Dallas. Duke couldn’t hang with Mercer.

Badgers Have Bite

Kentucky won’t roll over Wisconsin. Under coach Bo Ryan, the Badgers have always had a reputation for being one of those tough, grind-it-out Big Ten teams that will always finish high in the polls. But they just aren’t dynamic enough to win the whole thing. In other words, they’re kinda boring. No more: Wisconsin is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country, and the Badgers can pick up the pace. Against Kentucky, Wisconsin may try to slow things down a bit. Racing future first-round picks up and down the floor probably isn’t wise.

And if things go wrong for the Badgers, Ryan will scowl. You can do worse things on a Saturday night than watch Bo Ryan scowl.

This Final Four just has the right vibe. Now, let’s hope it lives up to expectations.

Another zany prediction: It will.

TIME College Basketball

This is Who A Math Professor Thinks Will Win the NCAA Tournament

Stephen F. Austin v UCLA
From left: Nick Kazemi, Aubrey Williams and Noah Allen of the UCLA Bruins celebrate their 77 to 60 win over the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament on March 23, 2014. Donald Miralle—Getty Images

We asked a mathematician to run the numbers one more time, and everything came up blue and gold

In case it weren’t already clear from the astronomical odds (9.2. quintillion-to-1 if you were to pick entirely randomly), filling out the perfect March Madness bracket is an exercise in futility. And once that first game begins, everyone’s brackets are locked and all anyone with skin in the game can do is cross their fingers and hope their pick pays off.

With the money already on the table, it’s rare that prognosticators crunch the numbers again after the tournament’s opening weekend. But there’s no reason you can’t. So as the games resume, we put the question to Tim Chartier, a mathematics professor at Davidson College. Since 2009, Chartier has taught a course that instructs students in the art and science of bracketology. Last year, one of his students, Jane Gribble, a math major and member of Davidson’s cheerleading squad, used what’s known as the Massey method, which incorporates point differential as well as wins and losses into the algorithm, to finish in the 96th percentile of ESPN’s bracket challenge. The formula also correctly predicted that Louisville would win it all.

Not bad. So we asked Chartier to run the numbers again — this time incorporating the results of the tournament’s early rounds — to try and gauge who will emerge from the Sweet 16 to win it all. His verdict: The UCLA Bruins are most likely to win the April 7 National Championship game.

Turns out incorporating the tournament games was crucial. “You massively down-weight home wins,” Chartier says, explaining why UCLA emerged ahead of higher-seeded teams with better regular season records. “At this point, your ability to win at home isn’t as important.” Though the statistical methods for picking winners is virtually limitless (and you can even explore some of your own), UCLA came up as the eventual winner for several of Chartier’s models.

If UCLA’s title hopes still seem like a long-shot, it’s understandable. The Bruins will need to claw their way through top-seeded Florida (currently on a 28-game winning streak) and either Virginia or Michigan St. (Chartier’s data says Virginia) before reaching Arizona or Louisville (the professor’s numbers have the Wildcats by a hair) in the final. But the Bruins have been on a tear lately, edging out Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game and handily winning their first two tournament games thanks to stifling defense and the strong play of sophomores Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, who have averaged a combined 32 ppg this season.

And even the best algorithms, as Chartier is the first to note, are no substitute for a crystal ball. Very slim margins separate the tournament’s top teams and crazy things are known to happen. But sports fans are naturally inclined to hope. And the data offers plenty of reasons for UCLA to feel good about their chances.

TIME March Madness

Blowing the Whistle on the End of Iowa State–UNC

Iowa State v North Carolina
Kennedy Meeks of the North Carolina Tar Heels, center, reacts as DeAndre Kane of the Iowa State Cyclones falls underneath the basket at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on March 23, 2014 Ronald Martinez—Getty Images

Iowa State (3) had the lead after a shot with 1.6 seconds left on the game clock. North Carolina (6) played the ball and sought a time-out, which it got, but the refs said after a video review that the arena's clock wasn't accurate and the game was over

There was a lot to like from Sunday’s NCAA-tournament slate, with Stanford’s upset of Kansas leading into the nail-biter between Wichita State’s undefeated veterans and Kentucky’s heretofore underwhelming upstarts. Third on the docket was Iowa State against North Carolina, with young Fred Hoiberg and his surprisingly successful Cyclones favored to beat the esteemed Roy Williams and his erratic Tar Heels squad to land in the Sweet 16. That game didn’t disappoint, either, until it did, with an ending that ought to go down as an officiating debacle and a blow against instant replay’s credibility.

The two teams nipped at each other throughout, with North Carolina falling behind early and Iowa State down as much as eight points late. With a little more than two seconds left on the clock and the score tied, Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane, taking on two powder blue defenders, hoisted a shot off the glass. The ball fell through the hoop for the final two of his 24 points, and the Cyclones had the lead, 85 to 83. The clock temporarily froze — as it does after any made basket in the last minute of the second half — at 1.6 seconds remaining.

North Carolina’s Jackson Simmons grabbed the bouncing ball and heaved it to Nate Britt, who sprinted down the court, past the centerline and called timeout, as Williams had requested from the sidelines. The clock, once Britt had grabbed the referee’s attention and earned his whistle, showed 0.3 seconds left.

After the whistle, the officials went to the monitor to check the situation out. Had there indeed been 0.3 seconds left on the clock? Could there have been more? Or maybe even less? After a protracted huddle, they emerged with a wretched decision, which should make sense only to those who watch the games with their own stopwatches and reject the decisions of the oh-so-fallible in-arena timers. The game, the officials told both coaches, was over.

Their reasoning, as deduced by CBS’s Steve Kerr, was that the clock had started far too long after Britt received the inbounds pass. And it had: Deadspin’s Tim Burke counted that 1.73 seconds elapsed between Britt’s touch and the referee’s whistle, which means the timer’s trigger finger was about four-tenths slow, at best. Kerr said the refs made the right decision.

Perhaps they had — in a world where the clocks on the court should be expected to signal precisely nothing to players, where the numbers on the clock at which Britt stared were in fact indecipherable hieroglyphs. But no: they were numbers, meant to tell the players playing in the game how much time was left in it.

This is not to blame the particular officials working on Sunday evening in San Antonio; they followed their sport’s code to the letter. This is only to ask in what possible way a technology purportedly implemented to increase precision can get away with an unprovable assertion in response to an in-fact unanswerable question.

Would Britt have called time-out had the clock started on time? There’s no way of knowing. Under instant replay’s presumptuous pedantry, there can be only guesswork.

TIME March Madness

Stanford Slays Kansas, Kentucky Stuns Shockers

Stanford v Kansas
Chasson Randle of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 60 to 57 during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 23, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. Dilip Vishwanat—Getty Images

Yet another upset in the NCAA men's basketball tournament as the 10th-seeded Stanford Cardinals defeated the second-seeded Kansas Jayhawks 60-57. They'll make their first trip to the Sweet 16 in five years to face another Cinderella story, 11th-seeded Dayton

The madness never ends: 10th-seeded Stanford upset second seed Kansas 60-57 while Kentucky took down the first-seed Wichita State Shockers on Sunday.

Stanford beat seventh-seeded New Mexico on Friday in order to play the Jayhawks Sunday. Dwight Powell scored 15 points to put the Cardinals ahead of powerhouse Kansas. Even though superstar Andrew Wiggins played 24 minutes for Kansas, he had only four points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison (20 points) led the Wildcats to their shocking 78-76 win over the previously unbeaten Shockers. Their win advances the team to the Sweet 16, where they’ll play the defending champs, Louisville. Louisville dispatched the St. Louis Billikens 66-51 Saturday.

Stanford will head to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008, where they will play 11th-seeded Dayton, who took an improbable trip to the Sweet 16 themselves. The Flyers upset sixth-seeded Ohio State in the first round of the tournament before upsetting third-seeded Syracuse on Saturday.

TIME

What Mercer Beating Duke Says About March Madness

Jakob Gollon of the Mercer Bears celebrates with teammates after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 78-71
Jakob Gollon of the Mercer Bears celebrates with teammates after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 78-71 during the Second Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 21, 2014 in Raleigh, N.C. Streeter Lecka—Getty Images

Fourteenth-seeded Mercer pulled off the biggest upset in the NCAA tournament so far by knocking off 3rd-seeded Duke 78-71. Here's what that says about March Madness

Of course 14th-seeded Mercer beat 3rd-seeded Duke on Friday afternoon, 78-71, during the first round of this year’s NCAA tournament. The Bears, you see, are a college basketball team. As in, the players stay in college, and play basketball. Mercer, located in Macon, Ga., has five senior starters. Duke has one senior, three sophomores, and a one-and-done freshman in the starting lineup. The Blue Devils, at this point, are just another basketball factory, where insanely-hyped stars buy time, before buying much more with their NBA paychecks.

In 2011, Kyrie Irving left Duke after an injury-plagued freshman season. In 2012, Austin Rivers—son of Doc, the Clippers coach—was one-and-done. And now Jabari Parker, a bona-fide NBA star prospect, likely just played his final college game, despite some whispers he may stay one more season. He’ll beat the Knicks next year. But he lost to Mercer.

For Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, there’s another problem with this NBA assembly line model. He hasn’t proven he can run it very well. Krzyzewski, you are no John Calipari.

Lehigh bounced Coach K out of the tournament two years ago, and now Mercer busted the bracket. This isn’t a way a Hall-of-Famer ends his legendary career. Krzyzewski is 67, and won’t leave the college sideline. He’s still got the Olympics gig—he’s coaching through Rio, in 2016. John Wooden won a title in his final year. Krzyzewski won’t leave the game as the guy who loses to the Lehighs and Mercers.

Here’s a fair question: is Coach K too stretched? Are the Olympics, and World Championships, and Team USA camps distracting him from his Duke day job? Probably not. After all, Duke did win the 2010 national title—are we positive Gordon Hayward’s heave didn’t fall?—after Coach K won his first gold medal, in Beijing. They’ve been a fine regular season team.

For the tournament, however, he’s the wrong coach for the wrong era. In a win-or-go-home scenario, who do you want on the court? The heavily-recruited freshman and sophomores, cobbled together, or the upperclassmen with telepathic tendencies that can only come with time. My eyes move this way: boom, you know where to go. The Mercers, the Butler teams that made the Final Four—they have this rare basketball gift.

The Mercer win says even more about coaching. Mercer’s Bob Hoffman coached the pants of Krzyzewski. Down the stretch, he made chess moves on defense that gave Duke shooters fits. Mike Krzyzewski is a Hall-of-Famer, winner of four national titles, two gold medals, and pulling in $7 million a year, at least. Hoffman is well, a guy named Bob Hoffman, not making nearly as much. The best basketball coaches are often the ones who make the least. They’re scattered across the country, in high schools, junior colleges, Division III institutions. If Coach K has humility, and I think he does, he’d be the first to admit: “Big-name” coaches, like himself, are most often ridiculously overrated, and overpaid.

For the Duke haters, today is more manna: enjoy. (I’m not among them. Not a rabid fan or anything, but I admire the winning, respect Coach K’s accomplishments, and really like some of players who have come out of the program. Forget Christian Laettner. Don’t forget Grant Hill, or Bobby Hurley, or Shane Battier or Jay Williams). But instead of celebrating Duke’s loss, let’s go nutso over Mercer’s win. Yes, a 2014 Cinderella is locked in. Maybe Mercer is another Florida Gulf Coast—the Bears play in the same conference as those darlings of Dunk City, the Atlantic Sun. The players did goofy dances afterwards, just like Florida Gulf Coast. “I don’t know who’s beating us?!” a delirious Hoffman screamed afterwards.

Good luck to anyone trying. You’ll need it. Because Mercer is today’s March Madness.

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