Let's Make College Basketball Fun Again

By Johnny Ginter on May 20, 2014 at 11:00a

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."

Fewer Timeouts

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.


Comments Show All Comments

Johnny Ginter's picture

im going to preemptively say that i am well aware that it's called blernsball but the joke is that baseball evolved into blernsball so saying that it worked for blernsball didn't feel like the right way to make the joke. these are the things that keep me up at night

BrooklynBuckeye's picture

Teams should be allowed to choose whether or not to shoot bonus free throws until the final minute. Which would kill possibilities for Hack-A-Mc(donald) Actually, screw that, make freethrows into the 1-on-1 aerial duels from Slamball.

30 Second shot clock would have actually helped OSU last year. Their offense would have been the same (do nothing until there's 6 seconds left on the shot clock then dribble into the lane, leave your feet to pass a kickout to guarded man, throw out of bounds) but opponent's offenses would have scored even less because they needed all 35 ticks to score on that D.

Do they have a clear-path rule yet? They've desperately needed one in the past. Nothing worse than someone stopping an inevitable Slam Thompson Spinning Pile Driver by fouling him from behind at half-court. Also inbounds alley oops should be awarded with 2-5 points based on judges scores. Best play in basketball.

And obviously we need a 4 point line jockjam-style.

+1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

Dude, I love the free throw idea - BRING IT ON!


"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

I_Run_The_Dave's picture

Multi-ball would be pretty sweet, but the logistics would be awkward.  For example, Craft and Scott each have a ball.  Scott passes to Q as Craft throws the lob to Sam Thompson.  Q takes the three and bricks it badly as Sam slams it home.  LSJ gets Q's rebound as Illinois inbounds the ball from the Sam Thompson jam.  Craft, Scott and Thompson are back defending as Q walks slowly back and LSJ repeatedly tries to dunk alone by himself and fails over and over again.  OSU then plays defense 5 on 4 until Aaron Craft gets his 13th steal of the game.  He attempts to lay it in on the fast break but LSJ runs over him trying to dunk again and both balls go out of bounds, Illinois ball.  Craft suffers a concussion and misses the next 3 games.  LSJ breaks his leg, but Matta, refusing to have more than 1 of Craft/Scott/LSJ on the bench at a time, forces him to stay in the game.  LSJ continues to miss dunks on his broken leg as the game continues 5 on 4.  Illinois wins the nail-biter 38 to 33.

+2 HS
kmp10's picture

College basketball blows. I agree completely. Too many T.O.'s, WAY too much involvement from the refs… as if we come to the arenas to watch them blow their whistles… and a regular season that is the polar opposite of the college football season. I have no idea whatsoever why there is a top 25 basketball poll. It's pointless. As soon as football season is over I go to Hockey. Basketball, save for two weeks in March, has lost me, and when the Buckeyes are out of the tournament I could care less about that as well. 

-2 HS
Buckeye in Illini country's picture

NBA is worse than college basketball with all the whistles.  CBB >= NHL >>>>> NBA for me.  .I do agree though that they need to do something to make November/ December basketball more worthwhile and more important.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

+1 HS
bux_booster's picture

Get a technical?  Treat it like hockey, you play a man short for two minutes.  

+4 HS
Buckeye in Illini country's picture

That's not a half bad idea.  Two minutes might be too long, but it would be interesting nonetheless.  

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

+1 HS
BlockO's picture

I think the shot clock should be taken down to 28 seconds

"faith seeking understanding” (fides quaerens intellectum)

+1 HS
Bugsyk's picture

I'm in favor of any rule that turns the trend away from the "and-1" style of basketball, and points it toward a team game.  As stated above, something where the players actually have to be able to shoot vs. red carpet rules entitling their way to the hoop.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Make it, take it.  Works in street ball, why not college basketball (although I am not a fan of the 1-on-1 nature of street ball).  Teams with great balance could do very well in this scenario.  If your defense sucks, look out.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

OSU_ALUM_05's picture

Each quarter is worth 1 point.

If one team wins the first 3 quarters in a row the game is over.

A tie goes to overtime.

Each quarter alternates which game is being played.

Quarter 1 is regular basketball (start normal).

Quarter 2 is a game of HORSE (slow white kids that can shoot from anywhere are glorified).

Quarter 3 is an elaborate-relay style sack race up and down the court (unusually athletic kids are really valuable, even if they can't play basketball).

Quarter 4 is a hot dog eating contest staged at center court (don't tell the fat kid he can't be on the team).

Overtime is the home team's choice of contest (home court advantage).

Institute that plan and then promptly sign me up for season tickets.

Yeti's have feelings too.

+2 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

The size, speed, and leaping ability of players keeps improving, but the fundamentals aren't good.  That's not necessarily college coaches' fault, but it is their problem.  If you have kids who can get by on superior athletic ability and win a state championship in HS, then there doesn't seem to be the motivation to learn the fine points of the game.

My son and daughter played for HS programs that are known state-wide for having a lot of success,  and teaching how to play in a proper defensive stance, shoot with form, the right kind of pass for the situation, dribbling well left and right,  right choices on fast breaks, etc.  Watching games with my son this past season, he would just about lose his mind about stupid stuff that you see in the college game, even from PG's.

And poor FT shooting plays in, especially if the game is going to get called tighter.  There are a ton of guys out there who shoot below 50% - some well below.  It's a FREE throw.  It takes good mechanics, concentration, and practice, but there seems to be a large number of players who can't quite pull it off.

BDobina's picture

I agree with lowering the shot clock (although this may make it worse because I can see team throwing up worse looking bricks/ prayer shots). Unfortunately the only way to speed the game up and increase the scoring consistently is by making it more like the NBA. The biggest factor is defensive of 3 seconds. Having 7 footers, who should not even be on the court (Amir Williams), sit in the middle of lane to take up a lot of space greatly reduces what 18 year old kids can do.

We have to remember that for the most part the best players in college basketball are freak athletes who have not spent much time working on a jump shot (because why would you rather do that in high school when you can/ and are probably one of the only people on the court who can dunk the ball every time down court?). So, unless they get a wide open uncontested shot for the most part, shooting percentages will be way down. So if you brought in defensive 3 seconds to the NCAA you would see a lot less zone being run forcing teams to play man to man. This will lead to more open (and easier) shots, and seems for players to take advantage of.

I can't stand watching the NBA but if we want college basketball to be more entertaining like the NBA then it's rules have to be more NBA like.

IGotAWoody's picture

I guess I'll be the lone voice on here that loves college basketball. I like the suggestion of moving the shot clock to 30 seconds, and a few other tweaks to make it easier for the refs to consistently call the games (for me, that's what blows - college refs are horribly inconsistent!). But I'm not alone on here during basketball season, posting and talking about what I'm watching, and ultimately enjoying the hell out of it. College basketball, to me, is second only to college football, I watch as much as I can, and I root hard for the Bucks to do well.

Which is why the last 10 years has been so great to be a Buckeye fan, with Tressel/Urban and Matta recruiting and coaching our teams to consistently high levels of performance.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+1 HS
Jastot's picture

Move the 3 point line back to the pro distance.  It will chase marginal shooters off the 3 point line and contribute to more varied offenses.q

+2 HS
BHT's picture

Our game against Illinois was not as bad as the Wisconsin v. Penn State game a few years ago. It was painful to watch (and I watched barely half of it). I see your point though.

Nick's picture


I think with the issues football is having with injuries etc, basketball is in prime position to take over the #1 sport in the USA within the next 50 years. I think something that would help this along is to have universal rules for all levels of basketball.

I would like:

  • 24 second shot clock
  • 8 seconds to cross half court
  • Once advanced to front court cannot throw inbounds to back half of the court
  • Jump ball for tie ups 
  • NBA 3 point line (23 ft 9 in)
  • 4 twelve minute quarters
  • 6 foul limit
  • 4 timeouts for whole game (1 expires at end of the 1st half)
  • FIBA restricted area 
  • Make court 1 foot wider
  • Can touch the ball over the cylinder 

Anything else???



BeijingBucks's picture

Full contact free throw rebounding.

I want to see a planned block out slam Thompson alley oop off an and 1 rim shot

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Gametime's picture

Actually Nick, I'd roll with just FIBA rules in general. If the kids who play pro ball in Europe at this age can work with them, then so can our college boys. So basically ALL that you said, but with the FIBA 3pt line - yes, make it shorter than the NBA line for higher opportunities to score for less polished shooters in a game that needs it.

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

sb97's picture

Oh please lets not try and make College Basketball like the NBA. 

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Agree.  The best season that NBA ever  had...was the one shortened by the strike or walk-out.

College basketball is starting to look ...not like the NBA...but MLB.  Major League Baseball is like watching paint dry, especially with a strike zone the size of a G-spot.... and now, with the dreaded instant replay.  No sport gives viewers the chance to multi-task at home like MLB...which I am sure their advertisers would be happy to know.  College B-ball, as written in this article, is headed in the same direction.

IMHO....college b-ball would be better off telling the refs to swallow their whistles more often; limit T/Os in the last 5 minutes of the game...and re-thinking the "one and done" rule as described in the piece. The advent of 1 and dones has created a cottage industry of role players to support guys like DT, Sully and others.  When you don't have a legit one and done offensive player, you find yourself with role players who can't score and never could in the first place...aka, this year's OSU Basketball team...and others like them.  The only thing that kept peeps glued to their TV sets this winter...was the fact that it was too fucking cold outside to do anything else.