March Madness 2016: Texas A&M 92, Northern Iowa 88 — Anatomy of a Collapse

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I will admit up front, this was all set to be a standard Monday wrap-up post about the first weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in my usual "4 Winners, 4 Losers" format. I had it pretty much ready to go with the standard mix of analysis, humor and viral videos like this VCU administrator adjusting his junk...

...or this Notre Dame basketball player creeping on CBS's Allie LaForce...

Hell, I even had one of the winners and one of the losers all picked out and ready to go as time was winding down in what looked like a massive upset by Northern Iowa over the Texas A&M Aggies — WINNER: The state of Iowa, and LOSER: The state of Texas. After all, once UNI finished off the Aggies, the state of Iowa would have two teams and Texas would be out of entries, in a year when the Final Four is actually in our state, in Houston in two weeks!

Up 69-57 with 44 seconds to go in regulation (yes, as it turns out, we would need to point out "in regulation"; this would matter), all Northern Iowa had to do was run the clock down, inbound a few balls, make a few foul shots and then head to the Sweet 16 to play Oklahoma. 

Hell, there were some smart basketball people who had already chalked this baby up as a Panther win!

Instead, this happened...

Speechless. I am without speech. Still. 

If you go back and watch how those final moments of the game unfolded, a 44-second period in which the Panthers spent nearly the entire footprint with a greater than 99 percent chance of victory, if any of these things go the other way, A&M loses this game in regulation:

34.0 — A&M freshman Admon Gilder secures an offensive rebound on an Alex Caruso miss and lays it in. If Northern Iowa secures this rebound, they're shooting free throws, up 12 with 34 seconds left in the game, and if they make one, you might even be in "call off the dogs" territory if A&M missed the next trip down the floor. Instead, UNI 69, A&M 59.

31.1 — If Northern Iowa can inbound the basketball, they're likely fouled and shooting free throws, up 10 with less than 30 seconds remaining.  Instead, turnover, A&M uncontested layup...UNI 69, A&M 61.

25.8 — If Northern Iowa can inbound the basketball cleanly (sense a theme?), they're likely fouled and shooting free throws up 8 with around 22 seconds remaining. Instead, they inbound it, Paul Jesperson frantically tries to throw the ball off of A&M's Jalen Jones, who catches it and dunks it...UNI 69, A&M 63.

22.0 — Northern Iowa couldn't inbound the ball again, turning it over to A&M on a dead ball turnover. 

22.0 — Danuel House hits a three pointer, and there is lava flowing on the court at this point...UNI 69, A&M 66.

18.5 — Even after the constant flow of urine rolling down their legs, UNI still managed to get free for a breakaway dunk to go up 71-66 with 18.5 seconds left in regulation. 

11.8 — Caruso drives to the hoop for a layup and gets fouled by Jesperson. Again, just let him score and make your free throws, and you win, UNI. Instead, UNI 71, A&M 69.

1.9 — After inbounding to Wes Washpun in the corner, he gets trapped, tries to throw it off an Aggie, and instead it's a perfect pass to Gildon, who walks right past Jesperson, who chooses to imitate a matador after the previous foul on Caruso, and the game is tied .. UNI 71, A&M 71.

A&M somehow managed to tie up a game down 12 with 45 seconds remaining without sending the other team to the line to miss free throws a single time. Instead, Northern Iowa accommodated the Aggies with four turnovers in 30 seconds. 

These are the types of games that never, ever go away — if you win a game like this, you will be talking about it with classmates and teammates until you're doddering old men, and if you lose, you won't mention it ever again. For the next 60  years. 

The catchphrase this time of year is "survive and advance." The Aggies were dead on Sunday to everyone except themselves. Gig ’em, indeed. 

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.                  

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