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Those pesky last 2 minutes…

Above are a couple of screengrabs (bad ones taken with my phone) of two of the bigger games of the weekend with exactly two minutes left. Looking at the game details in the graphics, how long do you think each game took to wrap up?

The correct answer for both games is nearly 16 minutes. In both instances, the modest sized lead got shaved down to a margin where both trailing teams had possessions to win or tie in the final seconds. Exciting basketball right?

For fans of Duke and Michigan, I am sure it was a long, unenjoyable heart attack. For Miami and Michigan State fans, an unfulfilling tease that ended in heartbreak.

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For a lot of unaffiliated fans though, the often glacial speed of final minutes in basketball games can be unbearable. Worse yet, the elongated ending can delay CBS or ESPN switching to a game you're more interested in because games are usually stacked one right after each other in 2 hour windows. 

If you think about it, the final minutes in basketball are somewhat of a novelty of the sport.

Soccer has its added time, but the pace of the action never stops and you know roughly when the final whistle will happen. Football has the two minute warning and a late score and timeouts can certainly stretch out the final 120 seconds to a similarly painful-to-endure pace. Still though, normal football is being played for the most part. Hockey and baseball can also slow down in the final moments with visits to the mound and timeout usage.

In the end though, basketball is the only sport that really becomes something else entirely in the final minutes. 

Other sports just slow down, but the game is still fundamentally the same which is not true for basketball

Dozens of free throws, possessions of under 8 seconds for both teams, timeouts, inbound plays galore, commercials, live look ins, promos, game resets, and plenty of shots of teams coming in and out of timeouts. Meanwhile the announcers are tasked with the challenge of massaging a disjointed 16 minute stretch, or in some cases longer, where there is very little actual basketball to show the audience.

In some cases, hitting the breaks in terms of the flow of the game works out into a memorable ending. All too often though, after 10-15 minutes of extending the game, the white flag goes up with not much accomplished except for a lot of players padding their stats. If you think the most annoying thing in sports is a college team intentionally fouling down 8 with 30 seconds left in a game, trust me, you're not alone.

While I don't think there should be any rule changes or broadcast changes, I merely point out the strain late game tactics have on the announcers and game production. If you get a good announcing team who can dabble in other subjects and have good chemistry,  then sticking around for the ending isn't too much to ask. With a bad pairing, it can be like intensely considering walking out of a movie with 15 minutes left.

A good game and a rooting interest can really mask a deficient announcing pair. However, an elongated ending can expose any pair and maybe that is why the end of games can be so painful to watch. Food for thought as we sink our teeth into what is one of the more fun months to observe in the broadcast booth for March Madness.

Ben Koo

About Ben Koo

Copying and pasting my Twitter bio. I'm also refusing (for now) to write this in the third person. This is me - CEO of @Bloguin, GM at @AwfulAnnouncing, world's greatest chinese jew, proud Buckeye, funny dude, and sports and digital media zealot.

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