Thrill of Victory

Four non-radical changes that would greatly improve college basketball

Last week, I asked various college basketball experts about what they felt could be improved in college basketball. Today, I offer some suggestions for some specific things the NCAA could do that would improve the college game.

Work with the one-and-done rule
Don’t get me wrong — I have no problems with the players who attend college for one year before turning pro. Even if a player attends college, but has no interest in being there, I don’t blame him for going — he’s only playing by the rules that someone else created. What else is he supposed to do to better his shot at a professional career?

Okay, technically-speaking, the player could go overseas and play for a year, but how many 18-year-olds are ready for the challenges of learning a new language and culture?

Here’s the problem: the rule banning players from entering the NBA straight from high school was a creation of the NBA back in 2005, and the NCAA can do nothing to change it. Now, the NBA could easily solve this problem by rescinding its own rule and even lengthening the draft, using the Developmental League to create a farm system much like Major League Baseball has.

But as its commissioner, David Stern, said last spring, the league has no interest in changing anything, so it’s up to the NCAA to deal with it and keep its academic integrity as much as it possibly can.

The NCAA, however, has created its own problem with a set of rules that only requires a player to pass six hours in the fall to be eligible for the spring. As former Southern Cal coach Kevin O’Neil said a couple of years ago, “What are those classes? Bowling? Ceramics?” As for the spring semester, the season’s over before the semester is, so there’s little to stop players from ditching classes during their second semesters. And honestly, it’s often more in a player’s best long-term interest to have more time to prepare for the draft.

If the NCAA is truly worried about protecting the academic integrity of its own product, here’s a simple solution: make players pass at least 12 hours in the fall of their freshman seasons to be eligible for the spring. It might not be the perfect solution to the current conundrum, but I’m not sure one exists. At least the NCAA can say with a straight face, “Hey, we required them to be students as long as we had some control.:

Call the game by the book when it comes to fouling
The rules state that any contact that creates an advantage is supposed to be a foul. There will always be unavoidable, incidental contact in basketball, but too much of what is currently allowed is done precisely by defenders because it will create an advantage. Why else would players hand-check, or practically wrestle one another in the post, if those actions lacked some sort of benefit???

As I said last week, I don’t think that the modern problems with scoring have much to do with the fact that players can’t shoot well. I think they have more to do with the fact that too much contact is allowed, maybe not always on the shots themselves, but certainly as players try to dribble, cut to the basket, or do other things to create open looks.

Cut down the ridiculous amount of fouls that aren’t called, and I think you’ll see offenses improve again.

Cut down on the number of media time outs
There’s no reason that in addition to all the time outs that teams already get, that we need built-in breaks of two-and-a-half minutes at the 16-, 12-, eight- and four-minute marks. As much as I would like to see media time-outs eliminated almost altogether, I know this isn’t happening because there’s too much TV revenue at stake, and the NCAA likes passing on revenue almost as much as most of us enjoy sitting in rush-hour traffic jams.

But how about some small compromises, say, limiting TV time outs to the 15-, 10- and five-minute marks, and shorten the breaks to two minutes? Advertisers should be able to adjust by charging more for those spots — and hey, you might actually get more viewers watching those spots as the quality of play improves.

Cut five seconds off the shot clock
Inferior teams try to shorten games by limiting the number of possessions, and it seems that you’re seeing a lot of teams taking this strategy these days. What that does in turn is create a lot of idle dribbling and holding the ball as teams often don’t really initiate an offense until the last dozen seconds or so of the shot clock. I don’t know about you, but when I turn on a game, that’s not the part I look forward to watching.

I’m usually not for making drastic rule changes because they can often cause unforeseen consequences. Therefore, I wouldn’t propose the NBA’s 24-second shot clock. But I see no harm in cutting five seconds off the clock; it would create more possessions and likely cut down on some of the more monotonous parts of the games.