(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Problem with College Basketball

Much has been spoken, and some things have been done, but over the past several years, the game has become, well, unwatchable.

Some point to the 35-second shot clock as being the villain, but teams took an average of 18.5 seconds to get their shots off.

Others argue that the referees call too many fouls, but if they only called three more per game than in the prior season, it's hard to contend that this is the issue.

Even others argue that the "one and done" rule robs the colleges of their best players for more than a season, even if not all that many players take advantage of the rule.  How many, about ten?  I also would argue that to compel players to stay longer, the way they must in college football, smacks of a paternalism that is hypocritical at its best and arguably racist at its worst.  Tennis players can go pro when they are fourteen, and there have been teenage golfers in the LPGA and PGA.  Atop that, there are many teenagers in the elite soccer leagues in the world.  No, the lament about the stars leaving perhaps derives from the networks who can demand less for advertisements, this after they ponied up huge dollars to get the broadcast rights.

I would contend it's the timeouts.

There are just way too many of them.  It seems like there is a stoppage every four minutes for a TV timeout and then the teams get x number per half, and when you look at the NCAA rule book it offers well over four condensed pages of rules that rival a bill in the legislature in terms of complexity.  It seems like the NCAA has reduced the number of timeouts and has indicated that if a team calls a timeout close to the timeout intervals for television (read:  at the four, eight, twelve and sixteen minute marks) that timeout will count as the TV timeout so that you won't have two timeouts, say, within thirty seconds of one another.  It's hard to get a sense of the before and after picture, but suffice it to say that college basketball has a problem akin to that of Major League Baseball -- the games get so slow that they are unwatchable.

Here's the thing -- let the players play.  Let them move the ball down the court, give the teams a reasonable amount of timeouts and let the game flow.  The glut of timeouts has devolved the game into a chess match between coaches, almost a defensive war of attrition that seems to risk causing the fans to migrate to another form of sports entertainment.  The powers that be should study what worked well during the glory years (and there were many) and try to reprise them.  I'm all for change and innovation, but the changes that have been made over the past couple of decades have not made the game better.

I am sure that others who study the game more closely can point to other items that contribute to the problem.  But the crux of the issue is to put the ball back into the hands of the players -- without too much interruption.


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