As the NCAA basketball tournament approaches, college basketball comes to the foreground in the sporting landscape. I really love college basketball; there was a year in my undergraduate days at the University of Pennsylvania where I was known as The Baron of the Palestra. Back in those days, all of the Big Five schools in Philly played all of their home games at the Palestra; none of the other schools had on-campus gyms that seated more than a few folks and teams could pack the Palestra regularly. There were double-headers at least 3 times a week. In four years at Penn, I missed the grand total of 8 games – four double-headers – and in my junior and senior years, I did not miss a single game.
Today, it is much more difficult to get as excited about college basketball for the duration of the season. Some have said that the sport is held hostage by the overwhelming success of March Madness and that success has made the regular season games somewhat inconsequential. I guess there has to be some validity in that but I think that the root of the problem is over-exposure. When I followed college basketball faithfully from December until tournament time, I might get to see a couple of games a week on television. A big weekend would have one “national game” on Saturday afternoon and a “local/regional game” on Saturday night. Today, on any random weeknight, I can find at least 8 if not 12 different college basketball games on my cable system. And it is true; many of those games are inconsequential because they are played by teams that too are inconsequential.
We are now in conference tournament time and many of these games are well above the level of inconsequential. However, Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot pointed out a consequence of conference realignments:
“Far away: Conference USA couldn’t have found a more out-of-the-way location for its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and still remained in the continental U.S. Never mind how far ODU teams have to fly to reach El Paso, Texas; even the closest out-of-town C-USA school – Texas-San Antonio – is located 550 miles from the site of the games.”
But soon, we shall come to “Tournament Time” and all will be well… Except that, even the tournament could be better. College basketball games have become far too long and it would not take a lot for the NCAA rules committee to make a couple of changes to resolve that problem. Consider:
Teams have too many timeouts; they save them so that they can use all of them in the final 2 or 3 minutes of the game taking the rhythm of the game down to something way below a lethargic pace. In the tournament – and in other televised games – teams get 8 TV timeouts. In those cases, each team does not need another 5 timeouts per team. In fact, if each team only had 2 timeouts per game, that would make a total of a dozen in 40 minutes of playing time. That ought to be enough; it is not as if these players have never done any of this before.
The double bonus rule was supposed to discourage teams from “intentionally fouling” in the final couple of minutes of a game with a 10-point spread making those final couple of minutes into an eternity. Empirical evidence demonstrates that this is not a sufficient deterrent; every team down by less than 15 points will go into “fouling mode” in every game. I suggest a simple solution; create a “triple bonus” where after the 12th foul by a team in a half, the opponent gets two free throws AND it gets possession of the ball at half-court. In that case, coaches might have to spend more time teaching defense that will create turnovers and not defense that makes an intentional foul look sufficiently unintentional that the referee will pretend it was an accident.
Then there is the matter of replacing a player who has fouled out. The current rule gives the coach 30 seconds to get the new player in the game; in actuality, it turns into a de facto timeout for the team with all the players huddled around the coach while he takes a full minute to make his decision. Meanwhile, the pace of the game grinds to a halt. The solution here is simple; give the coach 10 seconds to replace the fouled out player – set a time clock to go off. If the new player is not in the game and on the court, then he will have to play 4 against 5 until the next clock stoppage. Oh, add one more wrinkle to this… None of the remaining four players on the court can be on the same side of half-court as the bench. That will stop the “huddling up” and the “excessive coaching”.
Similarly, substitutions during foul shots slow the game down. If you eliminate the ability to substitute after the second foul shot, the game will go a lot faster. Coaches would need to make a decision who they want on the floor before they know the outcome of that second foul shot. Oh the horror…
I read another report that took me back to my youthful days in the Philly area. A 13-year old boy in Chicago was arrested for throwing snowballs at a police officer; the kid is being charged with felony assault on a police officer and someone suggested that they might ask the court to try the kid as an adult. Philadelphia Eagles fans who pelted Santa Claus with snowballs read that report and immediately lawyered up.
A civic group in Oregon named NFL to Oregon has petitioned the Governor of Oregon to join them in their attempt to bring the Oakland Raiders to Portland. Good luck with that; pro football does not have a rich history in Portland. In the late 90s, there was an Arena League team there; it left to play in Oklahoma City and while in Portland it drew well under 10,000 fans per game. Now there is a new Arena League team there – the Portland Thunder; they will play their first game next week. In USFL days, Portland had the Breakers for a year or two but the team folded under a load of red ink. Portland also had the Storm back in the days of the World Football League; as I recall that franchise came and went in a flash.
Finally, Brad Dickson had this observation in the Omaha World-Herald:
“The Anaheim Angels signed outfielder Mike Trout to a one-year, $1 million extension. That’s just in case anybody missed the 200,000 ‘Angels Reel Trout In’ headlines.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………