Category Archives: college basketball

30-Second Shot Clock a Good First Step in Men’s College B-Ball

ncaaIn the midst of the hoopla that are the NBA Playoffs and #DeflateGate, the NCAA took what I thought was a good, bold first step in improving men’s college basketball: reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30.

A lot of fans and media members bemoaned the flow of an average game.  The last two minutes of a game could take up to 20 minutes.  The offense generally leaves a lot to be desired – especially if you are watching a Virginia Cavaliers or Big Ten (14) game.

I will say that while reducing the shot clock would not fix all what ails men’s college basketball, it will go a long way in fixing the flow of the game.  More offensive possessions will typically lead to more points – again, unless you are watching Cavalier and Big Ten (14) basketball.

Plus, who wouldn’t like a more up-tempo, up and down game?  That’s the way basketball was meant to be played.

Since I mentioned that a 30-second shot clock is a good first step in making men’s college ball more easy on the eyes, here are some of my other suggested fixes:

Eliminate the number of timeouts each team has in a game.  In a men’s college basketball game that is broadcasted (television, radio, or the internet), each team has one 60-second timeout and four 30-second timeouts – in addition to the media timeouts (at the first dead ball under 16, 12, 8 and 4 minutes remaining in each half).

I don’t know about you, but that’s too many damn timeouts.  Since there are the media timeouts (which is to help broadcast partners pay for the rights for those games), half the number of 30-second timeouts.

After all, the viewing public should not have to suffer through coaches calling timeouts because their teams suck.  That’s what PRACTICE is for.  Otherwise, a coach should suck it up and take his ass-whupping like a man.

Push back the three-point line.  The move would force players to become more well-rounded and encourage more movement on offense.  If the 3-point line gets moved in a bit further, there would be power forwards and centers looking to jack up threes.  Let the shooters shoot and leave the big uglies down low.

Speaking of shooters, a deeper 3-point line would allow those young men to improve their mid-range games and learn to create their own shots.  How would that be so bad for the college game?

By the way, the three-point line does not have to be as far back as the NBA game, just a bit further from what it is now.

Gotta Give it Up to Coach K

duke_blue_devilsThis is going to be a hard rant for me to type up.

Growing up in Winston-Salem, NC and later becoming an alumnus of North Carolina State University (class of 1997), I have learned two important things: hating the University of North Carolina and despising Duke.  And my loathing for Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Kryzysewski has increased over time.

So pardon me when I say that I found myself between a rock in a hard place: pulling for the Atlantic Coast Conference to land the national title while having to stomach watching Duke represent the ACC in doing so.

Speaking of Coach K, it’s time to give credit where credit is due.  He is the greatest college coach of all time.  Period.

Now I’m sure there are several old-school – REALLY old-school – UCLA fans who would say I am full of shit and would argue that the late John Wooden is the mack daddy of all college basketball coaches.

Here is where I would defeat that argument.

Wooden’s Bruins was dominant over a decade (from 1964-1975).  Wooden also had the benefit in not only playing in a much weaker Pac-8 (now Pac-12) conference, the field was not but so deep as well.  Not trying to poo-poo Wooden’s legacy, but let’s call it for what it is: he won with mostly dominant players (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich) during a time where college basketball was not as strong and popular as it has been since the 1980s.

Coach K’s road to the top, on the other hand, was much rougher.

People forget that Coach K was almost fired after his third season.  His records during his first three seasons were 17-13, 10-17, and 11-17 respectively.

And while Wooden wasn’t but so success during his early years as well, Coach K had the misfortune of getting lost in the shuffle in an ACC that included Dean Smith (UNC), Terry Holland (Virginia), Jim Valvano (NC State), Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech) and Lefty Drisell (Maryland).  The ACC was (and arguably still is) the best college basketball conference in the land and Duke fans and boosters were not having it.

Then 1984 happened.

Led by the likes of Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas, Dave Henderson, and Mark Alarie, Coach K took Duke to the first NCAA tournament for the first time in his career.  That started a run of 11 straight NCAA tournament berths, during with Coach K won two national titles and five Finals Fours.

The year after the season where he took off due to health reasons (back surgery and recovery from exhaustion during the 1994-1995 season), he got the Blue Devil Machine going again in leading them back to the NCAA tournament.

The most important part of Coach K’s legacy is that while Wooden had his decade of dominance, it was just that – a decade.  Coach K has been exerting his dominance for three decades and counting.  And the competition – not to mention recruiting – in college basketball has been a helluva lot more tougher than it was during the Wooden era.

All and all, Coach K’s accomplishments are the following:

  • Five-time NCAA Champion – 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015
  • Four-time Olympic Gold Medal winner – 1984, 1992 (assistant coach); 2008, 2012 (head coach)
  • Two-time FIBA World Championship Gold Medal winner – 2010, 2014
  • Three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year – 1989, 1992, 1999
  • 13-time ACC  tournament champion
  • 12-time ACC regular season champion
  • Five-time ACC Coach of the Year – 1984, 1986, 1997, 1999, 2000
  • 12 trips to the Final Four
  • Nine NCAA championship games

Again it pains me to say this (as I have before), Coach K is the greatest college coach of all time and second place is not even close.  Time for me to throw up in my mouth.

Believe It or Not, Geno Auriemma Has a Point

ncaaUConn’s women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is a lot of things to a lot of people – most of them not so good.

He comes off as an egotistical blowhard, always seemingly bloviating over how great the women’s game is (and his team, of course), as well as other topics he may seemingly no idea of what he is talking about.  And he did not improve that perception when he said that the men’s college game was “a joke”.

Here’s his quote:

“I think the game is a joke. It really is. I don’t coach it. I don’t play it, so I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator, forget that I’m a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it’s a joke. There’s only like ten teams, you know, out of 25, that actually play the kind of game of basketball that you’d like to watch. Every coach will tell you that there’s 90 million reasons for it.”

The first thing that popped in my mind (and most people’s) was the following: “Who in the hell does he think HE is?  Didn’t Auriemma watch the NCAA tournament?”

I (and most people) also thought that of all the things that are a joke and unwatchable, women’s college basketball takes the cake.  I mean nothing says interesting more that one team (UConn) blowing the hell out of the rest of the field year in and year out.  Having women’s tournament games in the Sweet 16 drawing less than 3,000 spectators helps Auriemma’s cause too.

HOWEVER, if you listened more to what this blowhard had to say, you’d see that Auriemma actually has a point – and you may end up agreeing with him.  Here ya go:

“And the bottom line is that nobody can score, and they’ll tell you it’s because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense. College men’s basketball is so far behind the times it’s unbelievable. I mean women’s basketball is behind the times. Men’s basketball is even further behind the times.”

Let’s dissect Auriemma’s last quote.

First of all, scoring IS down and some games in the regular season are hard to watch.  Has anyone tried watching any Virginia Cavaliers games or almost all Big Ten (14) games?  Scoring points are at a premium, and watching those games are like paradise at the dentist’s office.

There are many ways scoring could be increased.

I believe the 3-point line should be moved further out.  That would help open up the court and encourage movement on offense.  Move movement = more scoring opportunities.

I think the shot clock should be lowered to 30 seconds.  Less time to take a shot means more offensive possessions.  And more offensive possessions increase the chances of more points being scored, unless that team’s offense flat-out sucks.

I also think that they should take decrease the number of timeouts: coaches and TV.  The college game is, unlike the NBA, a coach’s game.  Coaches get five timeouts (four 30-seconds and one 60-seconds), and if the game is broadcast on TV, radio and over the internet, four media timeouts PER HALF (at the first dead ball under 16, 12, 8 and 4 minutes remaining in each half).  Why in the hell do we have four media timeouts per half?  Do announcers need to take a piss at those moments?  I don’t see a damn port-a-potty chilling behind the baskets.

As a result of all those timeouts, coaches usually save their own timeouts to use at the end of competitive games, rendering the last 90 seconds of such games unbearable to watch.

So, as much as I loathe Auriemma from time to time, I have to say that I agree with dude 1,000%.

Again, people may hate on Auriemma for calling the men’s game “a joke”.  He may come off as a bit of a pompous-ass because of that.  But you can’t hate on the man for being on point.

Thoughts on the 2015 NCAA Tournament’s Opening Weekend

ncaaThere were lots to love about the first weekend of the 2015 NCAA Tournament‬: a few upsets here, a couple of shockers there (sorry Kansas).  And my bracket has officially been shot to hell (gee thanks Michigan State for eliminating my Final Four pick).

Meanwhile, I think what stands out the most is the following:

The Big 12 Conference may have been a bit overrated.

Save me the rhetoric over the conference’s high RPI rating as a whole (it’s the best).  And yeah seven of those teams made the tournament, and rightfully so based on the regular season.

But no conference worth its weight would have only two of its seven teams make it to the Sweet 16.  I mean, let’s count the ways – shall we…

  1. Kansas getting smacked by 7th seeded Wichita State in the second round*.
  2. Oklahoma State (whose presence was a bit debatable) losing to Oregon.
  3. Baylor and Iowa State being upset by two double-digit seeds (Georgia State and UAB, respectively).
  4. Texas getting spanked by Butler.

I mean after all, such a MIGHTY conference shouldn’t be losing to such teams – especially in the first round*.  Speaking of Kansas, think Bill Self and company are still looking down their noses at Wichita State?  Then again, the Jayhawks would probably be more afraid to schedule the Shockers.

The Atlantic Coast Conference may have been a bit underrated.

All I have been hearing all season is how the ACC is so damn top-heavy, that outside of the conference’s top five teams (Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, UNC and Louisville).  In fact, some of those same “experts” claimed that the sorry-ass Big Ten was more “balanced” (really?).

But as my alma mater NC State would demonstrate, teams in the second-tier of the ACC are not exactly chopped liver.  Just ask Villanova.

Besides, there is a reason why the ACC is 11-1 in the tournament, with five of its six teams in the Sweet 16.  The Big 12 nor Big 10 could make the same claim.

The so-called mid-majors represented yet again.

As with the case of prior years, the mid-majors made some noise in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.  UAB beating Big 12 tournament champ Iowa State.  Georgia State beating Baylor (sorry Big 12 fans).  My alma mater NC State beating top-seeded Villanova.  UCLA beating SMU on a “turrible” goaltending call.

While Gonzaga was not that big of a surprise per se, seeing Xavier and Wichita State in the Sweet 16 was cool to see.  The latter doing it had to be especially sweet to fans of the Shockers (see my clowning of Kansas above).

The Pac-12 Conference acquitted itself pretty well.

Three of the four teams from the Pac-12 are in the Sweet 16, which is one fewer than the so-called “tougher” Big 12 and Big 10 conferences combined.  Arizona, Utah, and UCLA are playing good basketball right now.

Speaking of UCLA, it had been intriguing to see the Bruins advance to the Sweet 16 – bad goaltending call notwithstanding.  While it is probably going to get curb-stomped by Gonzaga in their Sweet 16 matchup, UCLA is having a good tournament run nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Arizona might have something to say about Kentucky’s unbeaten streak.  It is playing in LA for the Sweet 16, which is not only a Pac-12 hotbed, but it will be a HUGE homecourt advantage for the Wildcats.  I’d be shocked if Wisconsin beats them in the Elite Eight, should both advance that far.

Never bet against Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.

Another year, another year Coach Izzo has his Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16.  This year has been more impressive because this year’s squad is nowhere near his best.

His Spartans beat a #2-seed Virginia team that on paper is light years better than this #7-seeded Michigan State.  The Cavaliers do what his Spartans do best, and do it better.  However, the Spartans were in control of the game from start to finish in winning what was essentially a road game in the second round*.

Once again, Izzo proved to be one of the best coaches in college basketball.  Tom Izzo is the man.  Period.

*- I do not believe the play-in games in Dayton are part of the tournament.  All four games feature mediocre teams who may have no business in the tournament, let alone advancing very far.  They do call them “play-in games” for a reason…

2015 NCAA Tournament Preview

ncaaThe 2015 NCAA Tournament is here (whoo-hoo!!!).

And while I won’t use this time to bitch over undeserving teams getting in the tournament (Indiana and Purdue I am looking right at your asses), I will use this space to give the people what they want: a comprehensive NCAA preview that is second-to-none.  Well, maybe second to A FEW…

At any rate, here is how I see the 2015 NCAA tournament turning out:

(By the way, join my NCAA Tourney Pick’em challenge NOW…)

Midwest Region

Top four seeds

  1. Kentucky
  2. Kansas
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Maryland

Dark horse: Wichita State

Analysis:  Kentucky is the prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA title, and I do not see any squad in this region that will challenge them.

However, there are some intriguing matchups.  I am looking forward to the possibility of Wichita State and Kansas getting it on in the second round (Bill Self and the Jayhawks can’t run from the Shockers much longer).  Maryland had its best season ever, and Notre Dame is looking to build off its ACC tournament title.

Having said all that, this region is nothing more than a bunch of sacrificial lambs for Kentucky.

Region Winner: Kentucky

East Region

Top four seeds

  1. Villanova
  2. Virginia
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Louisville

Dark horse: Northern Iowa

Analysis:  I know Villanova had a gaudy record this season, and the Big East is not a bad conference on paper, but I don’t think the Wildcats are #1-seed material.  Let’s be honest here, the Big East is not the Big East from my childhood.  Butler and Creighton, as well as watered down Marquette and a so-so St. John’s?  Pul-leeze.

I think this region will come down to Virginia and Louisville.  Both teams are tough as nails, and hails from the ACC: one of the strongest conferences in college basketball.

Northern Iowa poses a credible threat of preventing an all-ACC regional final from happening, and a Louisville-No. Iowa Sweet 16 matchup would be epic.

Region Winner: Virginia

West Region

Top four seeds

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Arizona
  3. Baylor
  4. North Carolina

Dark horse: VCU

Analysis:  Wisconsin is one of a few teams that could take out Kentucky.  It is long, big  and fundamentally sound.  Unfortunately it is in what is arguably the most difficult region seeded with the likes of UNC, Arizona, Baylor, Oregon, Arkansas and VCU.

As we all know, the tournament is all about matchups, and I do not see the Badgers matching up well with the likes of UNC, Baylor and Arizona.  I wouldn’t be surprised if UNC takes out Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.  In fact, I expect the Tar Heels to do just that.

I will be keeping my eyes on VCU.  Led by head coach/soul brotha #1 Shaka Smart, the Rams can’t be counted out and are riding high after winning the Atlantic-10 tournament.

This should be an entertaining region to watch.

Region winner: UNC (I just threw up in my mouth)

South Region

Top four seeds

  1. Duke
  2. Gonzaga
  3. Iowa State
  4. Georgetown

Dark horse: SMU

Analysis:  Outside of Iowa State – and MAYBE Gonzaga – I do not see any team challenging Duke in this region.  Sure the Blue Devils wet the bed in Raleigh last season, falling to Mercer (Mercer?!) in the opening round.  I just do not see any team who could counter Jahlil Okafor in the post and backcourt tandem of Tyus Jones and Quin Cook.  And Duke has the depth to put together a nice run.

If picking UNC to go far is bad enough, thinking Duke will go deep into the tournament nauseates the hell out of me.

Region winner: Duke

My Damn Final: Kentucky 80, Duke 75

Syracuse Hoops Got Lucky

syracuseAt first blush, I thought that the NCAA dropped the hammer on Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse basketball program. Boeheim was suspended for nine ACC games (including the one this past Saturday) and his basketball program will be losing 12 scholarships over a four-year period. Syracuse was placed on a five-year probation.

And last, but certainly not least, the NCAA vacated 108 of Boeheim’s wins.

That led me to opine on Facebook that I feared that not only Boeheim’s legacy would take a huge hit, but the suspension could very well be his swan song.

After revisiting it though, things could have gone MUCH worse for Boeheim and the Orange.

Look at the charges the NCAA levied against Syracuse:

“Over the course of a decade, Syracuse University did not control and monitor its athletics programs. And its head men’s basketball coach failed to monitor his program.”

There’s more.

The NCAA mentioned that the violations included academic misconduct, extra benefits, failure to follow the drug-testing policy and impermissible booster activity. Add to that Boeheim’s failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff, and the school’s lack of institutional control.

That is ONE STEP closer to the dreaded “lack of institutional control” charge.

I don’t know about you, but those charges normally carry more than just a probationary period and loss of a few scholarships.

Speaking of the latter, 12 scholarships seemed harsh at first blush until you divide it by the aforementioned four years. Given that an average roster for a men’s basketball team is 12-14 players, three lost scholarships per year only hurts the Orange’s depth if anything.

The fact that Syracuse did not receive any postseason bans (other than its own self-imposed ban this season) should give Orange fans a huge sigh of relief.

As for Boeheim himself, I still think he is one of the best coaches in college basketball. The fact that he molded Syracuse into a perennial college basketball powerhouse should be commended.

Sure the nine-game suspension and vacated wins will leave some egg on his face, but a postseason ban would have created a major stain on his legacy.

So rest easy Orange fans, your beloved Syracuse is out of the woods.

Dean Smith: a College Basketball Icon

deansmithBefore I share my thoughts on the passing of Dean Smith, let me first start by disclosing the following.

I am an alumnus of North Carolina State University (Class of 1997). Growing up in Winston-Salem, NC (ok, actually Kernersville), I was a big fan of Wake Forest basketball. And finally, I thought that only Satan smiled up the University of North Carolina basketball program.

So as you all can plainly see, I hate all things UNC – and it intensified with Smith.

I always crowed about how much preferential treatment his Tar Heel teams in the 80s and 90s received from the officials (in my mind, of course). I also thought that Smith made a pact with the devil so his teams could beat up on my Deacons and other ACC schools (another reference to Satan).

But even from my biased anti-UNC eyes, I knew what Smith meant to UNC and college basketball as a whole.

To understand Smith’s legacy, one has to realize that his legacy was bigger than what he did on the court.

That is not to say that his career was devoid of any achievements during his 36-year career at UNC. Let us count the ways…

  • He had 879 wins, which is good for 4th all-time (he was the winningest coach when he retired)
  • He had 30 20-plus win seasons, which is 2nd all-time
  • He had 23 consecutive NCAA appearances – the most all-time
  • He had 27 straight 20-plus win seasons – the most all-time
  • He had 65 NCAA tournament wins, which is 2nd all-time
  • He had 11 Final Four appearances, which is tied for 2nd all-time
  • He won 13 ACC tournament championships
  • He won 2 national championships
  • He won the Olympic gold medal in 1976

On the court, Smith’s UNC teams exhibited the importance of unselfish play. Dean’s most lasting invention: when a basket was made, the scorer pointed to the player who threw the pass. His teams were the first to huddle at the free throw line before a foul shot was attempted. Bench players on Smith’s teams would stand up and applaud players coming to the bench. Smith taught his team, and fans alike, that everyone is connected.

Another Smith invention was the infamous Four Corners offense, the delay game that iced Carolina wins. It was only after opposing coaches – and probably bored TV executives – that led the way to the shot clock in college ball.

As great as Smith’s on-court achievements are, I’d argue that his biggest achievements came OFF the court.

There was a reason why Smith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor. Ninety-six percent of his lettermen graduated. Dean was active in politics. He fought for a nuclear freeze and against the death penalty. Smith also was a supporter of LGBT rights.

As honorable as those things were, Smith’s biggest impact was when it came to race.

Smith, after meeting with his pastor, recruited Charlie Scott – the first scholarship black player at UNC (and second one in the Atlantic Coast Conference) – in 1966. He became the ACC’s first black star. There was story where the angriest anybody remembers seeing Smith was a night at South Carolina when a fan called Scott a “black baboon.” Smith headed into the stands to confront the fan before a coach pulled him back.

There are some who call Smith one of the biggest underachievers in college sports (two championships in 11 Final Fours).  There are others who think that Smith was an overrated coach because of the talent he had accumulated over his coaching career.

Calling both of those opinions ignorant is a HUGE understatement.

Nevertheless, Smith will go down not only as a great basketball coach – but as a greater person.  RIP, Dean Smith.

 

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