The worst part of college hoops
Posted February 27, 2013
I've never been the alarmist when it comes to the state of college basketball. The so-called "scourge" of the one-and-done player is, generally speaking, bad for universities, but it's better to have those uber-talented athletes for one year than none at all.
The fact that almost every NBA-worthy player leaves before their junior season has forced the game to skew younger – and, by nature, less polished – but I don't think the college game has necessarily suffered as a result.
The greater impact has been felt at the top of the sport, as even the best teams have wild inconsistencies and are vulnerable to a loss no matter where and to whom. It makes for a March roll of the dice, and that doesn't hurt the college game at all. Not saying that it helps, because super teams are always good for any sport. However, the college game isn't injured by that player attrition.
Unfortunately, the way the game is currently being played, and taught, is doing far more damage.
The college game has morphed into a defensive strategy whereby he who gets in the way the most plays the best defense. That's awful. Drawing charges has become all the rage, and flopping to do so, is a plight on the sport. Three incidents in the last four days highlight exactly what I mean.
Early in the first half of Sunday's Duke's home game against Boston College, Eagles freshman guard Olivier Hanlon drove past his defender towards the basket. Duke's junior charge-taker, Tyler Thornton rotated over and probably beat Hanlon to the spot and was awarded with drawing the offensive foul from his opponent. Never mind that Hanlon wasn't even thinking about shooting at that point, he was still in the midst of his drive. But, the way the game is played, and taught, that's solid defense and out came the whistle.
The following evening, Iowa State was seconds away from an upset of highly ranked Kansas when Jayhawks guard Elijah Johnson drove the ball to the basket from outside the 3-point line. Waiting for him -- in front of the semi circle and for a considerable amount of time -- was Cyclones forward Georges Niang. He stood his ground, absorbed some contact, and crumpled to the court thinking that he was going to be rewarded as Thornton was at Duke. Sorry. The officials let them play on, and when Johnson missed the lay-in, Niang was called for a hold when both players were on the floor flailing for the loose ball. Johnson hit the two free throws, tying the game, and Kansas prevailed in overtime.
For it's part, the Big XII reviewed the game and admitted to "some mistakes were made by the officials", though they failed to specify which ones. Sorry, ISU. Of course, the end of the game isn't being replayed, so what's the point.
Then last night, as Indiana was feverishly trying to rally to beat Minnesota, IU forward Will Sheehey was hounding the Gophers Andre Hollins in the back court with just a few seconds left in a 3-point game. As Hollins was attempting to wriggle out of the Hoosiers defensive trap, Sheehey was obviously hit by a poisoned dart from high atop Williams Arena. Well, it was either that or Hollins caught him with an elbow. As is the case now in college hoops, the officials can go to the monitor to determine if a player hits an opponent with an elbow or some other dangerous part of his body and they have the power to call a technical foul whether the contact is intentional or not.
In this case there was no contact whatsoever, and Sheehey was simply making the "heady" play in trying to draw the whistle. I wonder if when the referees viewed the replays on the monitor they burst out laughing as to the obvious academy award performance by Sheehey. He laid face down on the court, holding the side of his head for a few seconds, and even got up with a grimace as though he was in pain.
It brought to mind a scene from the recent European Cup in which one nation's best player was writhing on the pitch in so much pain that, after a few minutes on the ground, he was carried off on a stretcher. Moments later, that same player came sprinting back into the action.
This is what college basketball is becoming.
Tyler Thornton and Georges Niang were playing defense by today's standards, but it's bush league in my opinion. The block-charge call is obviously very difficult for the referees, as it's the one they get wrong most often. Let's make it easier. Unless you are making a play on the ball, the foul is on you. Feel free, contest the shot, defend the rim, not a 4' X 4' section of the court. As for what happened with Sheehey….nothing. See, it's not a crime to fake an injury to draw a foul, but it should be. In fact, it should be a technical foul.
But, here's what was worse. It was fairly clear that during a time out in the final moments of Minnesota's upset of Indiana, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean was instructing his players to either try to get hit with an elbow, or make it look as if they did. Either way, shame on him. Meanwhile, the ESPN broadcast team of Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich were both advocating that IU should try Sheehey's ploy again, that it was good strategy.
I guess the way the game is played, and taught, today it was. And, that must change if the sport has any chance of increasing in popularity.