Odd things were happening Thursday morning on our television set.
It started with the odd camera angle from Boise’s Taco Bell Arena. It continued with some odd calls, or noncalls, during Gonzaga’s 68-64 NCAA first-round win over UNC Greensboro. It continued through a second half, which saw the fourth-seeded Bulldogs trail the 13 seed with less than 2 minutes remaining.
And it ended with Zach Norvell – struggling all game shooting the ball – hitting a clutch 3-pointer with 23 seconds left.
Wait. That last one isn’t odd. It’s the new normal.
What they saw …
Here’s another oddity that occurred on TNT’s broadcast: The play-by-play voice, Brian Anderson, consistently gave viewers more insight than his analyst, former Michigan and NBA star Chris Webber.
Anderson did his homework on the eighth-ranked Zags (31-4) and it really helped down the stretch.
His day job consists of handling the play-by-play of Milwaukee Brewers baseball games, which probably is good training for the slow slog the upset-focused Spartans (27-8) turned this game into – a game that featured the teams combining to miss 37 of their 45 3-point attempts.
And it helped when Norvell connected on a long ball right in front of coach Mark Few.
Earlier in the game Anderson had mentioned Norvell’s Chicago roots, his high school’s pedigree – and his penchant for making the big shot. In other words, he introduced the March Madness fan to Gonzaga’s clutch shotmaker.
And then, after Norvell came through to give Gonzaga a 67-64 lead, he let the moment breathe.
“The freshman,” Anderson exclaimed. “Cold-blooded 3. And Gonzaga’s on top.”
Then he quieted for a few seconds as TNT showed the replay.
The picture cut to Marcy Few – coach Mark’s wife – in the stands as the shot went up. It was Anderson’s cue to return – with a rare mistake.
“From a high school gym a year ago to the NCAA Tournament,” Anderson said, forgetting Norvell redshirted at Gonzaga last season – a mistake he rightfully rectified after Norvell’s postgame interview.
But at this point the viewers saw Marcy Few throw her hands skyward and close her eyes in reaction to the shot going through.
Anderson framed it, saying, “The coach’s wife says, ‘That’s my guy.’ ”
The Few family served that role for the director as there were multiple shots of Marcy – as well as other members of Mark Few’s family, including his dad Norm. They seemed to be in place of the obligatory John Stockton shots we usually see.
There were no reaction shots from the stands just seconds later when Francis Alonso, who kept Greensboro close with 11 second-half points, was caught by referee Tommy Nunez Jr., pushing off against Silas Melson. But there was the right tone from Anderson.
“And now UNCG is in trouble,” he said as the replay rolled. “That’s a good call. Alonso has gotten away with a couple of push-offs earlier.”
What we saw …
The first answer to that question was not as much as we would have liked. In Gonzaga’s previous 34 games, none had the main camera angle this one did.
It was high enough up to feel as if we were watching from the top of the state capitol building or something.
The disconcerting view was made up some by the abundance of floor-level replays, something CBS and TBS are more than willing to give us.
Another thing the networks offer is unparalleled access to the participants, which is fitting when you are coughing up more than a billion dollars to be the NCAA’s broadcaster partner.
That access was on display just after the final horn, after the Zags had finished the game on a 6-0 run and after they survived missing 4 of 5 late free throws. It came in the form of a long interview with Few in which he sang Norvell’s praises to reporter Lisa Byington and the viewers.
“I knew right when he sized it up, it was going in,” Few said of Norvell’s tiebreaking shot, before alluding to the freshman’s 1 of 7 from beyond the arc previously. “Some of the other ones earlier, I knew weren’t going in.
“He’s made a bunch of them like that all year. … He’s got a little magic in him.”
Unlike the game, which opened with lots of banging, few whistles – in the first 4 minutes, 54 seconds, only Ray Mutilli called a foul and he called just four – and some shaky play.
It stayed like that throughout with UNC Greensboro, which trailed by nine at half, battling from behind before taking a 64-62 lead with 1:49 left.
Josh Perkins hit a jumper to tie it, Alonso missed on the other end and Norvell came through.
Webber summed it up for the Zags.
“They toughed out a good win.”
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