What’s Wrong with College Basketball?

Yesterday’s Final Four games have motivated me to write a post concerning my perception of the state of college basketball in general. I stray from the beaten path a bit in that I’m both white and unabashedly pro-NBA. I love the National Basketball Association with all my heart, and I will defend it to the day I die. I understand (and disagree with) all the reasons why people hate it and why many prefer the NCAA; however, after watching a heavy amount of college basketball for the greater part of the past decade, I feel reasonably qualified to make the claim that college basketball is in a pretty bad spot. The game itself is regressing, despite its immense popularity. I think that the college rulebook is fatally flawed. There are easily eight to ten rules that need heavy reform, if not elimination, and in this post, I’m going to highlight the most egregious of these.

  • The replay rules really grind things to a screeching halt. Essentially every possible replay scenario has occured within the last two minutes of nearly every televised tournament game. Ironically, the instance in which replay is most needed (out-of-bounds calls) isn’t even replay-eligible. The integrity of the game is compromised when replays interrupt the flow of the game so often; teams that have run out of timeouts get free 20-seconds, and teams that want to push the pace of play are forced to allow their opponents to set up defenses.
  • Please, can we get rid of the after-basket timeout? If you’ve just made a shot, you no longer have possession of the basketball. Why in the world are we allowing coaches to snap off a timeout in the two-second span between the swish of the net and the inbounds pass? Do you really need to talk your defense over that frequently? This is totally counter-intuitive, and again, it interrupts the flow of the game.
  • College basketball is wayyy too defensive-minded. I love me some solid fundamentals on defense, but the rules favor defenses to a laughable extent. Charges and blocks are fairly difficult to judge on the fly, and I think the officials are doing a decent job on their end, but again, the rulebook is to blame here. In tonight’s Syracuse-Michigan game, Brandon Triche was whistled for a charge with nineteen seconds remaining in the game. He carried the ball over halfcourt, beat his man, and dove straight to the basket, where a Michigan defender was sliding out of the restricted arc to establish position in between Triche and the basket. Triche met him in the air, and despite the fact that the Michigan player’s upper body was initiating contact, the referee saw that his feet were set and promptly rewarded him for it. Triche had made a perfectly acceptable basketball play, under complete control, but because officials are forced to watch the players’ feet in these scenarios, they’re unable to sufficiently assess the situation. Sliding under another player to establish lower-body position is dangerous to the guy soaring through the air to lay the ball in, much moreso than any potential danger to the defender himself, and the offense should get the benefit of the doubt here. We’re seeing unprecedented levels of charging calls over the past few years, and a change needs to be made.
  • Shorten the shot clock. Thirty-five seconds is forever. Players aren’t as talented at the collegiate level, so they need more time to run their offenses, but I’d be much more interested in the gameplay itself if the clock were cut to thirty seconds. It would make an enormous difference. Tangentially, the backcourt rule could be changed to eight seconds, mirroring the NBA. (Another one that bugs me is the fact that coaches can call timeouts in the backcourt at nine seconds, and they get the ball back afterwards in the backcourt with a fresh clock. What??)
  • Eliminate as many TV timeouts as possible. They are currently taken at the first dead ball after the 16, 12, 8, and 4 minute-marks in the second half. Coaches take their own timeouts within close proximities to the media timeouts, everyone falls asleep waiting for basketball to happen again, blowouts become even more insufferable, and close games lose their pulse, all casualties of the moneygrubbing networks. Zero media stoppages after the ten-minute mark and I’d be satisfied.

To recap: fewer timeouts of all flavors, fewer charges, shorter shot clock. You’re welcome.

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