Rush The Court on… Rushing The CourtPosted by jstevrtc on December 30th, 2008
John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC. His columns appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.
In college basketball terms, the arrival of January means that it’s time to, as Zack de la Rocha said, “rally ‘round the family.”
(Photo credit: stereogum.com)
Ah, yes…it’s time for conference play.
The importance of conference play doesn’t have to be explained to anyone reading a college basketball blog. My personal favorite aspect of conference play is that any given team’s biggest rival is often found in their conference, but within a conference, you can make any game a rivalry game. The ACC, for example, doesn’t necessarily have to be defined by the Duke-UNC hatred. Sure, that’s the biggest ACC example but I guarantee you that Wake Forest and Clemson can find enough reasons in their history to hate each other, and when it’s time to play, those reasons will definitely be remembered. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a BCS conference, mid-major, or bottom-dweller. Take two teams from any conference in the land, put them in a gym, and it’s like putting two young blonde up-and-coming Hollywood starlets in front of a camera. The competition is fierce and ruthless. They can always find a reason to scratch each other’s eyes out.
It seems to have abated in the past couple of seasons, perhaps due to tighter security, more restraint among fans (I doubt that one), whatever; but floor-rushing has been a practice that college basketball fans have made their very own through the years. Yeah, I know fans often take over the field after a big college football win but it’s just not the same. Most fans storming a college football field have one goal in mind, and that’s bum-rushing the goal posts, or to be near the goal posts as they are upended. These days, football stadiums have the “retractable” goal posts that can be intentionally lowered by event staff if they are threatened. College basketball has no such equivalent. Plus, at a football game, it’s several THOUSAND students/fans against, at most, a few hundred security guards who aren’t about to (except for a few documented extreme cases) resort to any real physical force to keep the storm from happening. Look at a basketball arena when there’s a pending rush; there are true stare-downs happening between fans and security. None of us here at Rush The Court would ever advocate putting anyone in real danger in the name of a floor-rush, but the point is – it’s just harder to take over a basketball court. And watch it when it happens; it’s much more dramatic than that of a football game. In a football stadium, for the most part, there is an initial rush of fans and then the rest come slowly funneling out, and the whole of the field is almost never even covered. On a basketball court, it looks almost viral. The fans absorb the playing surface within seconds. It’s just cooler.
(Photo credit: mediabistro.com)
The question is begged, then. When is it appropriate? Since this site is called Rush The Court it only seems sensible that we have an opinion on this, and it only seems sensible that we force that opinion on others in the manner of any self-appointed authority. In this case, however, I feel that the definitive work on the subject was written by ESPN.com’s Pat Forde in the beginning of this article from 2006. It’s a great set of provisions, and there’s almost nothing I’d change about it except to add Kansas to the list of schools that have at least three national titles (not the case at the time of the original article), and therefore put them under Forde’s Old Money Principle. Here’s a quick summary of Forde’s rules:
I. Old Money Principle. If your program has 3 or more titles, you should never rush a court. The only allowable exceptions apply ONLY if your team has fallen on hard times AND 1) you beat a #1-ranked and/or undefeated opponent at least halfway through the year, 2) you defeat a top-5 team at the buzzer with a shot measuring 25 feet or more, 3) you’re hammered and can’t recall how many titles your program has or your opponent’s rank, or 4) you see Ashley Judd in the stands and you’re taking the shortest route to her. Rush The Court (and probably Pat Forde) understands – but advises even MORE caution – if there is some overlap between items 3 and 4, there.
II. Upper-Middle-Class Principle. If your program has multiple national titles you may only rush the court if you defeat one of the above leviathans and only with a buzzer-beater. Exceptions: if your titles predate Texas Western’s title (1966), you can rush if you beat a top-5 team (Ancient History Exception), or if your titles came before the 3-pointer was introduced, you can only rush after a “dramatic win over a top-ranked team.” (Semi-ancient History Exception)
III. Middle Class Principle. If your major-conference program has had SOME basketball chops and “takes itself seriously,” then you can only rush after defeating a top-5; beating a truly hated, unbeaten, in-conference rival; ending a period of extended futility/frustration against a rival; or clinching a conference championship.
IV. Lower Class Principle. If you play in a mid-major or low-major conference and you beat a BCS conference team, you may rush. Exceptions are Gonzaga, Memphis, or “any other school whose program is [bigger] than its conference profile.”
V. Bottom Feeder Principle. A case of true gigantic discrepancy between programs; Forde cites an example of South Dakota State beating Wisconsin as being a permitted rush.
So far this year we are aware of two major examples where a court has been rushed. Using the Forde Protocol, we will evaluate them now.
Case 1: #4 Duke at Michigan, 6 December 2008.
Michigan does not qualify for evaluation by rules I and II because they only have that 1989 national title (note that rule II necessitates “multiple” titles), but without question is subject to rule III (Middle Class Principle). Because they defeated a top-5 opponent, we feel that Michigan’s exuberance was not in excess, and the rush was warranted. Michigan’s 12/6/08 rush is approved.
Case 2: Arkansas at Missouri State, 22 November 2008.
Missouri State is a Missouri Valley Conference team, currently ranked 8th in conference RPI at RealTimeRPI.com, only two spots below the SEC. It certainly qualifies as at least a mid-major conference and therefore puts Missouri State subject to evaluation under rule IV (Lower Class) even though I think the names of these Principles might need adjusting. We know Arkansas’ status as an SEC school, so in this regard, Missouri State’s enthusiasm was in no way overdone, and therefore Missouri State’s 11/22/08 rush is approved.
Another reason I like the Forde Protocol is that not only does it leave just enough room for discussion in some areas, but it also respects the importance of conference play in that it does not leave much room for the approval of a court-rush on a non-conference opponent. But as much as I think Syracuse should be feared this year (especially now that Devendorf has been reinstated), I HAVE to show you this video of a court rush from last season that would NEVER have been approved by the Forde Protocol or even the most liberal criteria…
This happened on February 16, 2008. It was a normal conference game against Georgetown, ranked #8 at the time, a team who already had four losses. And this was a ‘Cuse team that would go on to win 21 games. Given the chance, we would have stomped that court-rushing into a whimpering, bloody submission. This brings up another important aspect about taking over the floor – if you do it, despite the fact that you just won a game, are you not acknowledging that you are somehow subordinate to the team you’re rushing? This should definitely keep teams in the major conferences from rushing the court except in the most extreme circumstances. I have friends on both sides of the Duke-UNC rivalry who say that they would NEVER consider rushing the court after a win over the other side because they want to show that it just “isn’t a big deal” to beat the other program. Even if Georgetown were ranked 5th in the game referenced above and therefore Syracuse’s court rush should have been approved by rule III, if you’re a Syracuse fan, would you want to send that message to Georgetowners? Keep in mind, the Forde Protocol isn’t there to tell you WHEN to rush…only when it is permitted. You don’t HAVE to do it. Upon further review, perhaps rule II should include teams that have won at least a single national title.
This is the time of year when we’re more likely to see fans and students come down out of the stands in celebration, because the teams they support are fighting against their family members and the emotions run high. So enjoy conference play, and if you decide to rush your home court after a big victory in the next few months, be ready, because we’ll be watching — and more than ready to pass judgment.
(All videos: www.youtube.com. And if those first two don’t already make you fired up for March, then you have problems I can’t fix. –JS)