I just saw an article on ESPN where Mark Cuban went on a rant saying that college basketball is hurting the NBA. While I don’t agree with his sentiment and feel his take is a bit self-serving given his position as an NBA owner, I do agree that college hoops needs change. This past season, on the whole, was not very exciting. Even an exciting, suspenseful, and drama filled NCAA Tournament was not enough to rescue the regular season.
Scoring on the whole was down. Games lacked action. There were far too many controversial calls. The officiating was variable and inconsistent. Game times were up.
To illustrate how slow and painful the games have gotten, an AAC tournament game between UConn and Tulsa played in March had a final score of 47-42. UConn’s games this past season were so slow that 80 points was scored by a team in only 2 of their 35 games. This year’s ACC regular season champ, UVa had only 2 games out of 34 where a team broke 80. Contrast this with teams playing a more up tempo style like Duke and Notre Dame where 80 was broken in 19 and 20 of their games respectively. I’m not saying that points scored is the sole indicator of game quality, but it is a significant factor.
If I were able to influence the rules committee, here are the changes I would recommend they implement to improve the game.
- Implement the 30-second shot clock
This is a no-brainer. It’s a great compromise between 24 seconds and 35 seconds. It will still allow teams to play different styles, but it will also speed things up a bit, increase possessions, and favor teams that are more efficient offensively.
- Increase the charge circle under the basket to 4 feet
I’d almost recommend that they go to 5 feet, but moving it to four is a good start. This change is critical to make it easier on the refs to differentiate between charges and blocks – the less judgement involved the better. Plus, it will force more people to defend the rim rather than stand and take contact. The fans get more excitement with more plays at the rim, and player safety increases with fewer collisions.
- Take away a timeout
The end of the game needs to move quicker. It’s time to go to 4 timeouts, with only 3 allowed in the second half. Since there are already four media timeouts per half, the team timeouts should all be 30-second versions. Part of me would like to see the number of timeouts reduced to three per game, but one step at a time.
- Stop the flop
Coaches are teaching the flop as an art form. The acting on a basketball court is better than what’s in this year’s Academy Award winning movies. How can players who are 6-8, 200 pounds look like they been hit by a freight train or shot when barely touched? The flop needs to turn into an automatic no-call or defensive foul. Let’s make the players defend, not act. Just like officials can see an offensive player hook for position (well, sometimes they do), they can call the charge when a player initiates excessive contact by lowering their shoulder or creating separation with a forearm or elbow to the chest. A player shouldn’t need to audition for Broadway to get the call.
- Eliminate one and done
It’s time to stop this charade of one-and-done players. Once someone turns 18, they should be able to turn pro and not be forced into college. When a player signs a scholarship intent to play, they should be ineligible for the NBA draft for three years. It will create more continuity in the college game resulting in a better distribution of talent since rosters won’t turn over as fast. Plus, players will mature and get better since they’ll spend more than one year in a system.
A couple of other rule changes that are being floated around, according to a Sports Illustrated article on proposed changes, include moving to quarters and an 8-second timeline to cross mid-court. I don’t see the particular benefit of either of these rules, particularly the change to quarters. I’m not sure how that will speed up or change how the game is played.
So yes, the game does need change, but not because it is hurting the NBA. If Cuban really wants to improve player preparation for the NBA, he will work with the owners to develop a true NBA feeder system, aka a minor league for basketball. Basketball players who aspire to become professional players should be placed in an environment where they can receive coaching and work on their skills full-time without being burdened by the charade of classes. They need to be provided mentors that will teach them how to deal with finances, publicity, and fame. They need mentoring and coaching off the court on making good choices and avoiding questionable situations. It’s hypocritical for the NBA to pass this responsibility to the college system and then complain that players are not being prepared properly. It’s time for the NBA to step up and take ownership of player preparation and development.
Well, enough of my rant. Here’s hoping that meaningful rule changes are made this off-season that will make next year’s college basketball season more enjoyable, and not just for three weeks in March.