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NCAA teams have extra time in tournament

Monday, March 12, 2012 | 8:29 p.m. CDT

Cincinnati power forward Yancy Gates didn't even notice that he had a lot more time to catch his breath during his first NCAA Tournament appearance last season.

Halftime? Longer than normal. Timeouts? Those too.

"They're longer?" Gates said. "I didn't even know."

Sure are. And for smaller schools that don't get to play on network television very often, they're a lot longer than the norm, forcing coaches and players to adjust during the biggest games they'll play all season.

"It's definitely different," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.

During the regular season, the lengths of halftimes and timeouts differ by conference and network. In the NCAA tournament, they're both longer. Halftime lasts 20 minutes — 5 minutes longer than most regular-season breaks.

That part's not such a big adjustment. Often, teams have to go farther to get to their locker rooms at the tournament sites, with so many teams sharing an arena.

"In the NCAA tournament, you have like 10 minutes to walk to your locker room," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "Some of it is that. You need more time."

The timeouts are a different matter entirely.

During tournament games this season, the media timeouts after each 4 minutes of play will last 2 minutes, 30 seconds, the NCAA's David Worlock said. Add in the time it takes for players to get back in place on court, and it's roughly a 3-minute break.

In addition, each team gets five timeouts — same as the regular season. Four of them are full timeouts that last 60 seconds. One of them is a 30-second timeout that must be used during the first half. The first team-called timeout of each half expands to 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

Confusing? Consider the teams from smaller conferences that get only a fraction of time to talk things over during their regular-season games.

"I don't mind the (longer halftime) as much," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "In some of these arenas, you've got to go a long way. So I don't mind that as much as the length of the timeouts."

During the regular season, Byrd's team has only 75 seconds during a full timeout for non-TV games — half the length of one in the NCAA tournament — and 1 minute, 45 seconds during televised league games.

When Belmont reached the final of the Atlantic Sun tournament, which had longer TV timeouts as part of an ESPN network show, he found himself with too much time to talk.

"With the normal media timeouts in our conference, sometimes you don't feel you have enough time to get across what you need to say," Byrd said, in a phone interview. "I'd finish talking, send them out and they were standing around for 15 or 20 seconds. So it's not our normal procedure.

"It seems like a mini-halftime, the length of those timeouts."

The big schools that play a lot of network games have less of an adjustment. Regular-season games on CBS have TV timeouts of 2 minutes, 15 seconds — not all that different.

"We've had so many TV games," Syracuse's Jim Boeheim said. "Everything's a little bit longer in TV games anyway in terms of timeouts during the game, so you're pretty much prepared. It's not a big shock."

Even those who are accustomed to having plenty of time to talk can run out of things to say during the tournament. They huddle their teams around them in those folding chairs, make their points ... and wait.

"There's sometimes you talk and get done and realize you've got another minute left and nothing to say," Michigan State's Tom Izzo said.

Some coaches take the opportunity to talk to their assistants in more depth as they consider adjustments during timeouts. Even then, there's usually time to kill.

"You've got so, so much time," Matta said. "It's unlike anything. So you take your time a little bit, you relax — 'Let's refocus, let's recharge,' and then you kind of re-hit the points again in the third minute of the timeout, if you will."

The longer timeouts leave players standing around and tend to get fans who were worked up over their team's comeback sitting quietly in their seats. If a team calls a timeout shortly before a scheduled TV timeout, there can be a 5-minute break around a few seconds of play.

"It crushes momentum," Matta said. "Plus, it gives teams who only play five, six or seven guys a lot of time to rest."

There are differing schools of thought when it comes to how the longer timeouts affect the players. Some coaches think it allows them to use their starters more because they get more rest. Others say it's not that much of a difference, especially for schools accustomed to the longer breaks.

"I think too much is made of it," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin. "It's still game-minutes played, that's what makes players tired. Thirty extra seconds of rest is not going to help. It just makes the tournament more valuable. And CBS pays more money."

Everyone recognizes the reason for the longer breaks, so there's no real complaining about what's become standard tournament time.

"With all the money generated, I guess it's hard to say if you or I were in charge, we wouldn't do the same thing," Byrd said.


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