Monday, March 25, 2013

March Madness: Where time stops

I love the intense competition of the NCAA basketball tournament, but I'm often frustrated by the way otherwise exciting, fast-paced games slow to a slog at the end.

With the game entering its final minutes, just as you're getting to the edge of your seat, the action is abruptly halted by a logjam of commercials, timeouts and repeated fouling. Then there are the referees who stop everything to review the slightest detail. "Should the clock be at 18.3 seconds or 18.4?" they wonder, as if the fate of humanity rests on the decision.

How much time are we really wasting at this point?  To find out, I timed the end of five games on March 23-24. Here's what I found.

Butler-Marquette: The last 3 minutes of the game took 14 minutes and 54 seconds, nearly five times the actual playing time.
Gonzaga-Wichita St.: The last 2 minutes took 15:04 that's 7.5 times actual playing time.
California-Syracuse: The last 3 minutes took 16.46, five and a half times actual playing time.
Indiana-Temple: The last 3 minutes took 9:49, just over three times actual playing time.
Kansas-North Carolina: The last 2 minutes took 9:04, four and a half times actual playing time.

I had figured the approximate ratio would be in the range of three to four times playing time, so I was surprised that it took longer than that to finish four of these five games.

Why was the end of the Indiana-Temple game so "fast"? Possibly because it was just a one- or two-point game down the stretch, so neither team felt so desperate they had to foul. Also, by luck, there were no referee reviews in the last three minutes.

The lesson here, as you might have guessed, is to use your DVR.  Pause the game early go walk the dog, sort the laundry, whatever so when you get near the end you can skip through the inevitable delays and enjoy the game more.

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