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