A Seat in the Bleachers: Saints put excitement into week

The whole idea of a 360-degree turn is that, when all is said and done, you wind up facing the same

The whole idea of a 360-degree turn is that, when all is said and done, you wind up facing the same way.

All kinds of crazy stuff can happen in between, head-spinning, dizzying things, but once the circle is complete, you’re still looking at the same thing, in the same direction, maybe even more closely.

I’ll paraphrase what went through my head when Siena’s Edwin Ubiles stole the ball against Fairfield in the MAAC championship on Monday and broke in alone:

“Judging from past behavior, Edwin will establish a vector that targets the rim, but he will not proceed on this path in an orderly fashion, instead choosing to contort his body in such a manner as to reject any facile method of delivery. He will willfully introduce entropy to what could have been an unembellished action. The ball he possesses may or may not pass through the rim with the desired effect.

“In sum, there will be mustard on this hot dog.”

Good call on my part.

By now, Ubiles’ 360-degree dunk has gone national.

Predictably, ESPN picked up on it, making it No. 2 on their nightly highlight list, behind a soccer player who scored on a bicycle kick, leading to a Pardon The Interruption debate between Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon about which play was more athletically impressive.

(I’m leaning toward the soccer play, only because the ball is moving. And no, I can’t do a 360 dunk. Or any kind of dunk, crullers notwithstanding.).

A picture of Ubiles celebrating after Siena had won the title made the Friday New York Post, accompanying a column by Phil Mushnick deriding ESPN and Ubiles, but mostly ESPN, Mushnick’s constant foil.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Ubiles’ twisting, balletic dunk started a whirlwind week of spell-binding achievements in the Cap­ital Region and beyond.

Before we get to that, though, as much a fan as I am of spontaneity, I can’t say I believe the 360 was a great idea by Ubiles.

What if he misses?

Well, Siena, which had trailed by as many as 15 near the end of the first half, was still down by 47-41 at the time, with 13:56 left in the game.

You could argue that the extra showmanship was worth the risk, since it nudged a crowd of over 10,000 from rolling boil to furious boil in a heartbeat, which was bad news for the Stags. To say nothing of what it did for the Saints themselves.

In fact, the Saints made that arg­ument this week.

Head coach Fran McCaffery, who can appear misleadingly staid with his eyeglasses and neatly combed hair, refuted commentary by TV analyst Tim Welsh that McCaffery was mad about Ubiles’ embroidery.

“Timmy Welsh has no idea what he’s talking about. And I love Timmy Welsh,” McCaffery said on Wednesday. “He kept saying I was upset about it . . . I wanted him [Ubiles] to do it. And by the way, it really didn’t matter what I wanted, he was going to do it anyway.

“I mean, when he came by me, I could’ve said, ‘Lay it in,’ and it was either going to be a windmill, a 360 or a reverse. One of those three things was coming. I was just hoping it went in. It was good for him. It was good for our press, it was good for the crowd. He’s always been able to do stuff like that to get everybody fired up. More than anything, it really gets him energized. He was phenomenal.”

Point guard Ronald Moore knew better than to merely spectate.

“I followed him up. I was def­initely right behind him,” he said with a chuckle. “I know how he likes to make highlight plays, and that’s the last thing we needed, was for him to try a spectacular dunk and miss it and having Fairfield get the ball back.

“I think it was the Ohio State game, he tried a nice dunk and it hit back iron, which hurt a little bit. We bounced back then, but I definitely made sure I followed up this time just in case he did miss.”

“I think it’s worth the risk,” sen­ior teammate Alex Franklin said. “Coming from a dunker, it’s def­initely worth the risk. You don’t want to miss it. But it does a lot for the crowd and gets us energized, too.”

So it might be a reasonable trade­off.

It just seemed a little curious to hear support for Ubiles’ showboating, coming as it did just two days after Rico Pickett and Darryl Crawford of Manhattan pulled similar stunts against Siena.

I know the Saints were miffed at Manhattan more for some over-the-line fouling and contact that was going on than they were about the hot-dogging. But Moore said after that quarterfinal game that Pickett and Crawford “motivated” the Saints, so couldn’t the same be said for Ubiles’ dunk. Sure, Ubiles didn’t openly taunt Fairfield, but couldn’t the Stags have used the 360 for their own motivation?

Is that worth the risk?

Well, the tide was turned. And Siena went on to win in overtime in what was their most entertaining game of the season. If anyone thinks Ubiles’ dunk was tinged with look-at-me selfishness, they need to at least know that he’s actually one of the most unselfish players on the team, even if he has a history of attempting to turn the mundane into the wince-inducing sublime.

Many highlights

It started a week of “Did-you-see? Did-you-hear?” moments.

Glens Falls High graduate Jimmer Fredette made 23 of 24 free throws and scored 45 points for BYU on Thursday, before the Cougars were bounced from the MWC tourn­ament by UNLV on Friday.

Siena’s old buddy, Evan Turner of Ohio State, calmly made a three-pointer from not far inside halfcourt to beat Michigan in the Big Ten tournament on Friday.

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ basketball team shot 2-for-24 in the first half . . . and won, beating Massena in the state Class A tournament on Friday. Of course, one of the makes was a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the half. Of course.

This is the same team that won a Section II quarterfinal game by the unsightly score of 28-27 . . . on a buzzer-beating three by Phil Neumann at the end of the game. Of course.

The Union hockey team played halfway through a fifth overtime against Quinnipiac before losing, 3-2, at 1:04 a.m. Saturday, the longest game in NCAA history.

It’s exhausting to keep up with all this craziness, which is why I like the sobering quote from Shenendehowa girls’ basketball coach Ken Strube, to sort of spin everything back to reality: “At this stage, all I care about is getting one more point than the other team at the end.”

Ultimately, under the circumstances, I still don’t like Ubiles’ dunk, the idea of it, the context of it.

But that sure was fun to watch.

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