Arizona's Daily Wildcat offered significant coverage of its team's first-round game Thursday.
Arizona’s Daily Wildcat offered significant coverage of its team’s first-round game Thursday.

The Arizona Daily Wildcat offered the most comprehensive coverage among schools whose teams played in the opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament on Thursday.  The Wildcat posted a game story, a column and a notes package while most schools offered a single game story, which was certainly a challenge for staffs covering late-night games. Several school staffs relied solely on social media for its coverage – but that’s not substantial enough for today’s multimedia fan/reader.

Social media offers immediacy, enabling fans to follow along as the game is played. Twitter, in particular, serves as a tag-along friend whom you converse with during the game, offering analysis, commentary, emotional outbursts and quirky/witty comments (if you have a good friend, that is).

But afterward, you’ll want more – comments from coaches, players and analysts. That’s where Facebook steps in socially, offering short takes, videos and photos. Facebook is an excellent source for all social media, but I suspect most fans would be upset by too many posts in their feeds.

Afterward, news media then need to put everything into context in stories that build on social media, post-game interviews and research for stories that are posted both online and print editions. Because of time constraints, I have addressed almost exclusively online coverage. I will focus on social media coverage at some point during this tournament. (But you can get commentary from me on my own Twitter account, @joegisondi, at any time.)

A few general comments:

Game story coverage has improved a great deal during the past 10 years . Today’s student-reporters offer far more context, analysis and key moments than ever. Leads do not simply state team names and final scores; instead, student writers offer far more vivid descriptions in reference to events both on and off the court to introduce stories. At the same time, writers are avoiding cliches like, well, a bad cold. Ridiculously worn and awesomely bad catchphrases still slip into copy (seriously, dropping a dime is NOT a proper replacement for assist), but at least they have diminished – as has the finely polished and overly used terms “Big Dance” and “Cinderella” team. So far.

Besides the Daily Wildcat, I’m not sure if any other student media cited comments from opposing players and coaches. Access to these sources can be more difficult at larger events such as the NCAA basketball tournament, yet at least one reporter found a way. Regardless, these alternative points of view reveal perspectives and comparisons that help readers make better sense of sports events.

Today’s sports writers are to be commended for their work in covering Thursday’s games. I offer some comment and examples below, followed by a listing of game stories by student media. Enjoy.

There were several excellent leads by college sportswriters across the country, including this one by The Exponent’s Logan Cordes following Purdue’s overtime loss to Cincinnati.

LOUISVILLE — The ball spun around the rim for what felt like a lifetime, but when it fell through the hoop, Cincinnati’s bench exploded and Purdue’s let out a collective sigh.
        Cincinnati’s Troy Caupain drove into Vince Edwards and hit a game-tying layup as time expired in regulation to send the game into overtime. Cincinnati would go on to win, 66-65.
         A.J. Hammons acknowledged that he should have helped Edwards on Caupain’s buzzer beater even though he had four fouls.
        When asked about the ball hanging on the rim, Hammons’ voice cracked as he said, “I was hoping it was going to fall off, but it never did. I should have just came over and helped.” 

Iowa State Daily’s Max Dible focuses on a post-game moment in a lead for an analysis piece. (Dible had previously written a game story.) Here’s the intro to the folo:

               Louisville, Ky.—Georges Niang sits in a cramped, painfully well-lit locker room in the bowels of the KFC Yum! Center with a towel draped over his head. He stares at the floor, shifting occasionally in his seat. He mentally plods through the confusion and despair toward coherence as questions are lobbed at him in hushed, somber tones.
          “It’s just tough to just sit here and have this be a reality,” Niang said. “I really, I’m sorry. I’m just at a loss for words. I wish things would have been different.”
           But things aren’t different. Reality has descended upon the ISU locker room, and that reality is 60-59. That reality is the ISU season, packed full of 12 conference wins and a Big 12 tournament title, has just been lost by a single point to the 14th-seeded University of Alabama at Birmingham.
           It is the first time all season that Iowa State has failed to score 60 points.
          “It’s just straight pitiful,” said a stoic Monte Morris.

Insert an event’s name and location at the end of leads (see deleted material that follows). At the Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Georgia State men’s basketball closed the game on a 13-0 run, upsetting the Baylor Bears by a final score of 57-56.

Vivid descriptions like the one below enabled readers to better visualize key moments in the Notre Dame-Northeastern game:

Notre Dame lifted its lead to 11 with 6:24 remaining in the second half. Northeastern junior guard David Walker stole a Grant pass and drove the other way but couldn’t finish — missing twice. Two Huskies belly-flopped on top one another, diving for the loose ball, which Jackson scooped up. The sophomore buzzed downcourt, dazzling with his dribble before weaving a no-look feed to Auguste for a two-handed slam. (The Spectrum)

Love the stat below offered by this Baylor writer, which puts the pivotal moment in perspective.

Senior guard Kenny Chery stepped up for a one-and-one opportunity, 15 seconds remaining, his Baylor career on the line. As he had done 186 times before in his Baylor career, he went through his motions and shot a free throw. It ricocheted off the back iron. (The Lariat)

Further, here’s how The Lariat’s Shehan Jeyarajah focused on the stretch leading to the pivotal moment cited above. Very well done.

Baylor had several chances to put the game away earlier. Junior forward Rico Gathers hit two free throws to give Baylor a 12-point lead with only 2:39 remaining. After that point, Baylor had eight possessions the rest of the game. The Bears couldn’t muster a point over that stretch.

Conversely, Hunter posted one of his best stretches of the season. The NBA prospect hit four straight shots, including a pair of three-pointers as he scored 12 points out of 13 unanswered for Georgia State.

“The thing I’m disappointed with is all year long we’ve executed down the stretch,” head coach Scott Drew said. “We’ve been a tough team and I feel bad the way that the last five minutes went.”

Offer examples to illustrate analyses so readers can more clearly understand (and believe) these assessments. For example, one writer offered this: “The Rebels did not seem aggressive enough driving to the hoop and settled for jump shots the majority of the game.” After this statement, the writer should have then show this by addressing specific plays.

Avoid writing melodramatically by saying some team was bloodied – unless, of course, a player is actually dropping platelets on the gym floor. The Lantern’s Tim Moody noticed just that when he chronicled the Buckeyes’ overtime victory over Virginia Commonwealth.

The Buckeyes were bloodied, but avoided the knockout punch in overtime in their first game of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite suffering a cut next to his eye, Ohio State freshman guard D’Angelo Russell scored 28 points to lead 10th-seeded Ohio State (24-11) to a 75-72 win against seventh-seed Virginia Commonwealth University (26-10) on Thursday in Portland, Ore. The win sends the Buckeyes to the round of 32, where they are scheduled to face two-seed Arizona on Saturday.

The Daily Campus’s Demetrio Teniente breaks down the final 12 seconds in Southern Methodist’s one-point loss to UCLA in a creative manner.

Stats support this analysis by a Villanova sportswriter:

In typical ‘Nova fashion, it was a complete team effort. No one player took over. In fact, the ‘Cats did not have a scorer in double figures until junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono made a layup to give them a 60-30 lead. ’Nova did end up with six double-figure scorers by the end, paced by junior guard Dylan Ennis’ 16 points and five assists. (Villanovan) ….

Georgia State then began forcing turnovers and converting Baylor miscues into offense as three turnovers turned into Crider, R.J. Hunter, and Isaiah Dennis layups. (The Signal) …

Here’s a key stat whose importance is supported by a quote from a Notre Dame player after the team’s victory over Northeastern:

The Irish forced 16 Northeastern turnovers and converted them into 17 points.

“We’ve been known for offense,” senior guard/forward and captain Pat Connaughton said. “We have guys that can score. But our defense is gonna help us win games and win championships, to be quite honest.”

Below are links to student media coverage of every game played Thursday in the NCAA basketball tournament’s opening round.

  • UK rolls past Hampton in first game of NCAA Tournament (Kentucky Kernel)
  • Top-seeded Wildcats blast Leopards in tournament opener (The Villanovan)
  • Purdue Basketball: Missed free throws, poor defense doom Purdue in OT loss to Cincinnati (The Exponent) plus, the staff offered this video of Purdue coach Matt Painter talking about the game.
  • Texas’ season comes to an end in 56–48 loss to Butler (Daily Texan)
  • Iowa State comes up one point short against Alabama-Birmingham (Iowa State Daily)
  • Recap: Arizona dominates Texas Southern to advance in NCAA tournament (Arizona Daily Wildcat)
  • Panthers upset Baylor in NCAA (The Signal)
  • 3-seed Bears fall to 14-seed GSU in first round of NCAA Tournament (The Lariat)
  • LSU men’s basketball squanders double-digit lead in tournament loss to NC State (Reveille)
  • Ohio State comes back to top VCU, 75-72, in overtime (The Lantern)
  • Rams, senior class’ run ends in Portland (The Commonwealth Times)
  • Rebels NCAA Tournament run ends with 76-57 loss to Xavier (Daily Mississippian)
  • Notre Dame survives Northeastern, 69-65, advances in NCAA Tournament (The Spectrum)
  • A close call with Crimson (Daily Tarheel)
  • Right On Their Heels: Men’s Basketball Falls to North Carolina, 67-65, in Final Minute (Daily Crimson)
  • Guard Bryce Alford plays pivotal role in 60-59 win against SMU (Daily Bruin)
  • Just as quickly as it began, SMU’s dance is over (Daily Campus)
  • Qualls’ 20 Pushes Arkansas Past 12-Seed Wofford (Arkansas Traveler)
  • It’s difficult to discern whether UAB’s student media has relied on a sports information story, Associated Press or student media since the story does not include a byline besides UAB Sports Services.
  • Hampton’s student-run newspaper, The Hilltop, had not posted anything on its website as of 9:18 a.m. CST. Nor had The Lafayette (following the team’s loss to Villanova), The Hoya or The Easterner (after Georgetown’s late-night win over Eastern Washington), The News Record (after Cincinnati edged Purdue), The TSU Herald after the team’s loss to Arizona, The Pine Log after Stephen Austin’s defeat to Arizona), The Xavier Newswire (after its team’s easy win over Ole Miss), Wofford’s Old Gold & Black (following a close loss to Arkansas)
  • The Butler Collegian produced a terrific pre-game package but it did not have a game story posted of its victory over Texas as of 10:43 a.m. CST.  North Carolina State’s Technician, meanwhile, offered a photo gallery did not include a story on the team’s victory over LSU.
  • The Huntington, Northeastern’s student-run newspaper, tweeted the game against Notre Dame, but they did not post a fleshed out game story as well – an essential part of the total coverage necessary. The stories put games into perspective , sometimes using tweeted comments to do so.