NCAA Basketball Tournament 2011 Primer: The Ryan Spencer Rule

If there’s anything I’ve learned that’s worth passing on to others, it’s that there’s never a bad time to watch the NCAA basketball tournament. More encouraging, is that there are in fact some great times to watch the tournament and one of those is while you are actually attending college. Maybe your school’s team is playing, maybe you know one of the players, whatever. Most of all, odds are you have a large groups of friends with similar interests, classes that don’t necessarily need to be attended, an enormous capacity for inhaling junk food and an ability to spend days on end in front of a television without losing interest. It’s the perfect time to watch the college basketball tournament.

During my college years, a group of 10-15 of my friends and I would spend the first four days of action in front of a huge flatscreen tvs, brackets in hand (everyone was in the same pool, of course), cheering for our favorite competitor, our own picks. This happened every year all 4 years of my undergrad education. There isn’t a lesson from that, watch the game however you want to, just cheer for my picks.

"Don't miss free throws at the end of the game or I will punish you - God."

The real story is that my friend Ryan Spencer (named for this particular rule) shared with the rest of us his thoughts on an interesting coincidence in the way the college basketball endgame plays out. In summary, the Ryan Spencer rule has two parts:

1) When a team has a player at the free throw line with a chance to tie the game and/or take the lead, that player must make those shots or else his team will be punished in subsequent possessions.

2) When a player is shooting free throws to ice the game in the final seconds, and misses those free throws, the opposing team will always make the tying/go-ahead shot attempt on the following possession.

And here’s the funny thing: watch the games, and you’ll see that he’s right. It always happens like this.

Think about it right now, how many times have you seen this event occur? It happened just last Saturday. Louisville- UConn. Big East championship game. Under a minute left. Louisville has a player at the line shooting to tie the game. He misses. UConn gets the ball and makes the two free throws that follow. Louisville has one last chance to tie it with a three-pointer, but misses. The Ryan Spencer Rule consumes another team.

This year, when you watch the NCAA action, keep an eye open for the Ryan Spencer rule and you’ll see. Don’t thank me. Thank the tablets that the Lord sent down with the specifics of the Ryan Spencer rule engraved in them.