Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Is College Hoops Broken?

hoopgaz3Among the collegiate basketball cognoscenti, it is the fashion these days, to decry what they call the deplorable state of the game.

No scoring. No skills. No fundamentals. Too many timeouts. Too many fouls. Or, not enough fouls. Recruiting chicanery.

Etc, etc.

Leading the charge is the new poet laureate of basketball announcers, Jay Bilas. Having supplanted Dickie V as ESPN’s majordomo, he’s turned his status into a bully pulpit. Always astute, and formerly understated with little penchant to proselytize, he now feels compelled to pontificate about, oh, whatever college basketball subject he wants to.

(Though Dickie V won this year’s Most Absurd Commentary Award for the 32d consecutive season, with his absolutely absurd and indefensible defense of Jim Boeheim, which he foisted on those watching the U of L/ UVa game, for at least five minutes of game action.)

While Bilas, whose Blue Devil arrogance is more apparent than ever with his new status, is the prime mover, he’s not the only one, weighing in on the sorry state of the game.

In a recent Sports Illustrated, there was an extended, reasonably stat filled essay by Seth Davis, essentially making the same points as Bilas, with a bit more evidence to back it up. Lowest per game scoring since ’52, or something like that.

In a companion piece, Luke Winn, a numbers guy of Bill Jamesian proportions, traces the trend rather astutely to the mid 1970s.

John Wooden, whose teams were relatively freewheeling, were also high scoring, fast breaking, and, need I say it, very very successful. Then Wooden, after besting U of L, then UK, in the ’75 Final Four retired.

The following season, as we’re now well aware because there is a challenge afoot to the accomplishment, Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers went undefeated and won the crown.

Knight’s teams were defense über alles. So successful were they, so powerful was Knight’s bombastic personality, so strong was his opinion that his way was the only way, the paradigm shifted from offense first over defense to the vice versa.

There were other Pied Pipers. Like Dick Bennett, whose son Tony is now a firm believer at Virginia.

There have obviously been exceptions. Like Paul Westhead’s Loyola Marymount teams.1 VMI. The Mayor Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State Cyclones.

And, yeah, I have to agree to an extent with Bilas et al, but I’m such a college hoops fan that it hasn’t bothered me.

I would posit that U of L’s W over UVa, a two point affair with but 116 total points scored, was as intense, exciting and engaging as any I’ve seen this year.

But, again, yeah, a back and forth battle with threes dropping and drives to the hoop every ten or fifteen seconds is more of a joy to behold.

So, the question becomes, what, if anything, to do about it?

You’ve read and heard the usual suggestions.

Twenty four second clock. Fewer timeouts. Stop the mugging of guys cutting through the lane. Move the no blocking lane further from the bucket. Extend the three point arc to pro distance.2

Frankly I love the funky idea, described in another SI article. This one by Alex Wolff, a scribe, who also ventured into pro team ownership in the ABA. Not the old Kentucky Colonels ABA, but an early 80 minor league.

He owned the Vermont Frost Heaves.

Great nickname, that.

The rule that made those games ever competitive, rarely over until the final horn, is, to be honest, cockamamie. A gimmick really. But one I’d love to see experimented with.

In those ABA games, if a team forced a back court turnover, and scored from the field on the subsequent gained offensive possession, that score would get an extra point. In other words, any normal deuce would be a trey. Threeballs would become quatros. Get fouled on a made quatro, make the FT, you’re talking a five point possession. No leads were be safe. Nor would they be, if the college game adopted the rule.

Every team would have the inclination to press more, which would open up the game further, even when a backcourt turnover doesn’t occur.

So, if one believes the game we love needs to be tweaked, that’s my suggestion.

What I have observed is an increased number of overtime tilts the last couple of weeks. Whether the scores of such extra minutes encounters are in the 40s, 50s or more, they’re always exciting. As are the upcoming tournament games during Championship Week, as well as The Big Dance.

Here in Hoopsylvania, we’d be all enamored with March Madness, if they returned to peach baskets, a guy on a ladder retrieving made shots, center jumps after every hoop, a cage around the court and guys named Iba roaming the sidelines.

So, I’m fine if they do nothing.

I’m fine if the muckety mucks in charge make some tweaks.

If they do, banning Bobby Knight from the announcer’s booth would be a great way to start.

— Seedy K


5 thoughts on “Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Is College Hoops Broken?

  1. ok, as long as we are tinkering with the game as it is how about letting the team that is fouled in a non- in the act of shooting foul have the opportunity to decide if they want to shoot a one-and one (potential turnover as a reward for fouling and then the extra pseudo timeout while players are gathered up before they line up for the FT, and then reducing the # of personal fouls to 4 before elimination. That would clean up a lot of the more physical play and allow for more pure basketball skills if the players found it was worth learning how to defend, and dribble, pass and box out rather than being able to rely on bulling into the lane or mugging opponents.
    I hypothesize that an unacknowledged factor to the success of Calipari’s platoon system is that the players through most of the season knew that they had 20 minutes at best and could play as hard/physically as they pleased in that limited time to accumulate 4 fouls, rather than trying to conserve allotted fouls over 3-37 minutes. Green light to go hard and fast with nothing to be kept in reserve.
    Most players (ok not out hero Mango) are very aware of not losing playing time by getting in foul trouble, and the game would be cleaned up and there would be more opportunities for cutters to get through the lane without forearm shivers, and there would be more scoring in the paint, and I would think fewer overlooked walking violations when all the bumping and shoving gets eliminated by shot blockers wanting to stay in the game.
    In summary, eliminate the Jimmy V “let’s see if they can hit FT’s strategy” and lets reward players who don’t foul.

  2. Me personally, I think the three point line should at least be moved out to the international distance, if not the NBA. It’s a joke of a shot in today’s game. The charge line should also be moved out. These a large people playing in a tight space so anything to space out the floor is a plus in my opinion.
    And let’s be honest here. The refs seriously need to call the bumping of cutters through the lane, it’s damn near assault at times( watch UVA next time in their pack line stance) also, there are way to many moving screens allowed as well. While I’m ranting, let me also say that I absolutely despise the fact that a defensive player(usually a big man) seems to no longer be entitled to his space, getting called for a foul when the offensive player jumps into him creating the contact.
    Most likely though, the only thing that will change is the shot clock, which I see as only speeding up an already ugly game.

  3. Seedy, I am with you and your suggestion. The VA win was as intense and exciting as any basketball game I have watched; it was fabulous entertainment. One big difference today is the plethora of games available curtesy of the national media. I am grateful that I can see so many games. With more televised games comes the major game changer, media timeouts. How do you “take their legs out” and force fatigue mistakes with so many game stoppers. There are media timeouts at under 16, 12, 8, & 4 minutes of each half and the 5 timeouts for each team.The game today is ten 4 minute periods, not two 20 minute halves. Each game will stop 19 times. Watch a Larry Bird college game tape if you can find one. Larry ran through umpteen picks until he got a shot on offense. On defense he and his man rested in the corner. Team timeouts were precious and used judiciously. Most players found a way to pace themselves during the game. That won’t happen today. Coaches and scouting are too good. Opportunities and adjustments are addressed within 2 minutes at the next game stoppage, before too many points are scored. I expect the game will continue to evolve. I wouldn’t worry too much about the changes. ESPN will think of something. After all, they are paying for the programming. Besides, if you are watching the game live in the Yum! Center you have plenty of time to grab cold beer during a media timeout.
    Go Cards.

  4. Way too many timeouts. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes to play the last two minutes of the game.

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