Earlier this year, Ohio State and Illinois conspired to kill college basketball. In a titanic 48-39 struggle both teams combined to shoot 33% from the floor, make 8 of 29 threeballs, and allow one Aaron Craft to be the leading scorer for both teams with a grand total of 14 points.
Maybe you look at that box score and go "Well hey now Johnny. I like defensive games, and maybe you've heard of this little thing called FUNDAMENTALS." Well, you're wrong. It was a real, real bad game of basketball from any possible standard, but especially from the perspective of someone who likes to watch and attempt to enjoy collegiate basketball. Trying to wring out entertainment from OSU/Illinois on that deary February 15th evening was like getting blood from a stone.
This is an epidemic that faces all of college basketball, and the NCAA knows it. Their first response to this crisis of buckets was to instruct their referees to call more fouls, which would in theory lead to more points, and let's be real, nothing entertains like a dude standing in one place, dribbling the ball a few times, and then slooooooowly launching a shot towards a rim while nine other dudes stand around bored.
But guess what? It worked! Kinda.
Get this: Compared to scoring average from 2012-13, every single week of 2013-14 had a higher per-game scoring average, sometimes by as many as as a seven-point difference. ...
-- The 2013 NCAA Tournament saw teams averaged 65.8 points. In the 2014 NCAA Tourney, the average was up to 68.4.
-- The 2014 tourney had fewer possessions per game (64.3 to 2013's 65.1) but better scoring rate (1.064 PPP to 1.011).
Hooray? I don't think that this actually made college basketball more fun to watch, but it sure made it more infuriating, which to sports fans that feed on anger, is kind of the same thing.
Anyway, as mentioned in the Buckshots this weekend, the ACC is trying a different track and installing a 30 second shot clock for some exhibition games before the season starts and seeing how that works out. Five seconds may not seem like a big change, but in the course of a game that might mean another 10-12 possessions per game (in which a team like Ohio State might throw up 8-10 very exciting bricks). It's an interesting step forward for people managing a game that clearly needs some tweaking.
But that's not enough, and that's where I step in.
I have some further suggestions, some obvious, others not as obvious, to improve college basketball, and allow it to retake the mantle of "sport that I tolerate for a few months because I need some joy in my life after the Buckeyes lost their bowl game."
People have been suggesting this for ages, and with good reason. There is no point in a coach being able to stop the clock four or five times in the last minute of play, other than to draw up potentially game-saving plays that people make highlight clips of and then post to YouTube later.
And you know what? Screw that, I'm not even sure how often that happens anyway. Remember that crazy comeback against Notre Dame at the beginning of the past season? You know, the one that hilariously fooled you into thinking that the Buckeyes were a competent basketball team?
In the final five minutes, Thad Matta called timeout precisely once. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey called three, and his team still lost. Specious reasoning maybe, but after watching so many dumb endings in 2013-2014, I refuse to believe that college basketball coaches are some kind of demigods that can draw up even the most basic of strategies at the end of games. Give them three timeouts per half, four in non-TV games, and leave it at that. No carryover.
Defensive Minded Players Are Taunted And Ostracized
Sorry Aaron Craft. You can't shoot? You're terrible and we hate you. Yes, you're adorable and have a billion steals and can solve a Rubik's Cube. Doesn't matter: if you can't shoot a three after four years in college, you are literally Hitler and will the taunted and booed until we are physically unable to taunt and boo you.
Players who chuck up shots with zero appreciation for the consequences will be gods among men. Praise be to Deshaun Thomas, circa 2012.
Let 'Em Play
This is a little counterintuitive given that increased calls led to increased points, but I mean to apply this in a very narrow sense, in that I have no idea anymore what constitutes a charge call anymore and am now at the point where I'm not sure that it should even be a call anymore.
If a defensive player takes a hack at an offensive player shooting the basketball toward the hoop (and thereby trying to save our precious game), then by all means blow the whistle. Get right in his ear when you do it too, just to make sure that he knows how badly he screwed up and what a jackass he is for trying to interfere with our mission of buckets.
But really, is an offensive player even really capable of fouling? Here's what I think: in this workaday world of ours, if you deliberately get in someone's way while they're doing their job, that's reason enough to get run over from time to time. We're teaching future generations a bad lesson with every charge, push off, and "illegal screen" that our refs call. When will the madness stop?
Hell, it worked for baseball.
So that's all I've got. Hopefully the Big Ten adopts my ideas ASAP, because the last thing we want is for the freaking ACC to take all the credit of saving America's fifth or sixth place pastime. If you have any of your own, go ahead and add 'em to the till in the comments section and I'll ship those over to Jim Delany post haste.