Ballin’ Live co-host Brett Grant, takes another interesting look at College basketball:
A little historical perspective is needed as I get started, so let’s go back 25 years, to the 1990 National Champions, where the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels lived up to their name. UNLV ran Duke right out of the gym in the National Title game, 103-70, led by perhaps the best college basketball team ever featuring Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon & Anderson Hunt. All were great college players and NBA stars as well, with the exception of Hunt.
Compare that to the 2014 National Championship game where UCONN bored me almost to death in a 60-54 victory over Kentucky. Yes, UCONN was a deserving champion as the Huskies beat #1, #2, #3 and #4 seeded teams, all prior to beating Kentucky, but the title game was poorly played and boring. If you don’t believe me, look at the box score: UCONN shot 41% in the game and won without much trouble, which that tells you all you need to know about how well Kentucky played…
This current season, there are only five, that’s right five teams that shoot better than 50% from the floor and dozens upon dozens that shoot below 40%.
The point here is that in 1990, with no shot clock, teams actually scored points and played basketball. They didn’t milk the clock and slow the game down. Now, 25 years later, highly paid college coaches are micromanaging each possession for fear of losing their high paying jobs. Money is the root of all evil — I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.
These coaches are sucking the life out of the game. No offense to John Calipari of Kentucky and Tony Bennett of Virginia, who are both great coaches, but I’d rather have a root canal procedure than watch the ‘Cats or ‘Hoos play basketball. I use Kentucky and Virginia as examples because they are the best teams this season, at this point. Each team plays terrific defense, as evidenced by them holding teams to ridiculous low point totals, like Virginia’s dismantling of Georgia Tech, holding them to 28 points in a game earlier this season. But PLEASE…you’re killing the game! It’s becoming unwatchable and when fans tune out, it’s over.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and college coaches like to steal what works, which means other coaches will start to consider milking the shot clock as a good idea. There was a high school boys game this week in Alabama where the winning score was 2-0. The losing team held the ball for each quarter until the end and each time missed a buzzer beater. For the Love of the game, make it stop! North Carolina HC Roy Williams told me on “Ballin’ Live” that he would much rather win (or lose) a game 90-80, then 50-40.
Multiple games this year in college hoops have been won by teams failing to score 50 points in the game. I thank the basketball gods for the Big Sky & MAAC Conferences so I can see a ball go through the hoop. If you want to watch scoring, I suggest you watch teams like Eastern Washington, Iona, BYU, Notre Dame, Iowa State, Davidson, Gonzaga & Duke. Otherwise, you won’t recognize the game we all love.
Let’s compare NCAA Tournament scores from 1990 to 2014, just for fun.
Here are some 1990 scores, including the numerous games that had the winner scoring over 100 points.
Texas 100 Georgia 88
Texas 102 Xavier 89
Georgia Tech 99 E. Tenn St. 83
Georgia Tech 94 LSU 91
Georgia Tech 93 Minnesota 91
UNLV 102 Ark-Little Rock 72
Loyola Marymount 111 New Mexico St. 92
Loyola Marymount 149 Michigan 115
UNLV 131 Loyola Marymount 101
UNLV 103 Duke 70
The LOWEST scoring game in the 1990 Tourney was Clemson beating BYU 49-47, in fact there were only TWO winning teams that scored 60 points or less. Compare that to 2014 and the results are alarming. Last year, SEVEN teams won by scoring 60 points or less - that’s a significant increase.
In 2014 we were treated to such gems as:
Kentucky 56 Kansas St. 49
Michigan 57 Wofford 40
Dayton 55 Syracuse 53
Stanford 58 New Mexico 53
Sure, a tightly played low-scoring game can provide plenty of drama, but as a FAN of the game, I’d rather watch competent offense vs. suffocating defense. Give me Duke vs. Kentucky in 1992’s NCAA Tournament any day of the week over a 55-53 game. Who wants to watch each team shoot 38% from the floor? They only enjoyable thing about that game is the long nap I got to enjoy while pretending to watch the game…and people say golf is boring. Try watching Virginia for two hours — I promise, you’ll have a hard time staying awake.
Fans remember the magical moments that produce championships, like Keith Smart’s shot to beat Syracuse in 1987 and Michael Jordan’s shot to beat Georgetown in 1982. The Madness of March is about the unexpected moments and that “One Shining Moment” is never a ball clanging off the iron.
The quickest solution to this problem is to change the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds to create more possessions. Coach Williams is avid proponent of reducing the shot clock to at least 30 seconds and moving the 3 point line back to at least the International distance. In fact, Williams would love to see the shot clock at 24 seconds, just like the NBA.
By moving the 3 point line back, you bring back the mid-range game, which has disappeared in the last twenty years. Williams calls the game, physical, meaning, there is just not a lot of space to maneuver on the offensive end of the floor. How many kids can shoot a 15 foot jump-shot and make it consistently? Not many, I guess, because those shots don’t make the highlight reel. There is just not enough room on the floor to create the space needed to open up the mid-range game.
Coaches need to stop micromanaging each possession, let the kids create some flow, push the ball, and play the game the way it was meant to be played. There is nothing wrong with playing great defense, but if your team can’t play offense and this is the only way you can win, then recruit some kids that can shoot! Because you are killing the game….remember sports are supposed to be entertaining, not boring. Football changed their rules to make 10-7 football games obsolete, and it’s time for basketball to do the same. Oh btw, time to hire a Commissioner also…who is in charge of the college game? Currently, it’s nobody…