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Adam Gold

The worst part of college hoops

Posted February 27, 2013

James Michael McAdoo (43) goes up for a shot during the North Carolina Tar Heels vs. NC State Wolfpack NCAA basketball game, Saturday, February 23, 2013 in Chapel Hill, NC.

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.

76 Comments

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  • citylefty Feb 28, 11:43 a.m.

    The worst part of any college sport is that players are allowed to leave before their class graduates. College is not the minor leagues but is to give kids an education. I realize that there is big money being thrown around and the best athletes really can't turn it down. However, a degree will protct them in case they get hurt during their career and also after their career. Athletes leaving also hurts the fans who get up for their school getting the chance to be good only to have half the team leave and abandon them. At least make it mandatory for athletes to play for 3 years, if not 4.

  • Objective Scientist Feb 28, 9:25 a.m.

    Quote from Gold's article: " 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."

    I disagree with what follows the "comma" in his statement. I do NOT agree that it is better to have the "one-and-done" player than not to have him at all. The NBA needs to set up AND PAY FOR a "Developmental League" that will allow the proverbial "uber-talented" players to move into following high school... or middle school even (somewhat but not totally "tongue in cheek"). The one-and-done players, almost all - perhaps ALL - do not care about attending classes or doing anything else a true student does at the college level - he wants to "play ball". Such one-and-dones are "done" as a student sometime in high school and care not about sitting in a classroom. Such so-called students actually hurt the UNIVERSITY. The hell with the one-and-dones... give me ~12 guys that may not be the "uber-talented", to use Gold's term, but who are in college for the "right reasons". The only thing lost may be one or two items on a "high-light" video over the year... we would still see good, competitive basketball by skilled players... and see less of the taunting, show-boating .

  • readme Feb 28, 8:31 a.m.

    It's hard to respect a player that flops. But at least college hoops has less of it going on than professional soccer anywhere in the world.

  • ncstateforever Feb 28, 8:07 a.m.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-cSZFgjZ84
    This says it all about what's wrong with college... View More

    — Posted by ncstateforever

    .........But....but I thought Duke got all the calls and the refs just loved them some coach K.
    View More

    — Posted by MoDuke v2 is gone

    Actually it has nothing to do with Duke, but that was the only example where Dookie V, the crowd and an irate coach were all in one video I could find. It's about bad behavior, mainly by coaches. I guess instant replay can be thrown in as another cause of the problems with "calls." Here's another example of what I think is the problem with college basketball.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qxu5cvW-ds
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVC9vtqgmXc
    It always fires the fans and fan bases up. They somehow think the refs are cheating them out of a win. Coaches should be held accountable for their actions. The should receive more than just a technical foul. The more violent the coaches, the more violent the fans. We're starting to look more like a South American Soccer game.

  • Gunnstigator Feb 28, 7:10 a.m.

    all good thoughts and ideas. One thing that I would like to see the the press box, the... View More

    — Posted by BeastOfTheHill

    So true! I've seen that a lot this year - players running at full throttle down court, only to end up crashing into reporters and cameramen like a human cannonball. Dangerous for players and media.

  • Gunnstigator Feb 28, 7:04 a.m.

    The worst part of college hoops is twenty timeouts. Absolutely ridiculous. Cater more to television.

    — Posted by kdawg

    You should love Roy then.

  • MoDuke v2 is gone Feb 28, 1:15 a.m.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-cSZFgjZ84
    This says it all about what's wrong with college... View More

    — Posted by ncstateforever

    .........But....but I thought Duke got all the calls and the refs just loved them some coach K.

    Show me a similar sequence of bias officiating against kerliner.

  • rsadcox2 Feb 27, 11:24 p.m.

    College basketball needs some updates to the rules to get rid of some of these hideous ball control games.
    1. Move the shot clock down to thirty seconds.
    2. Eliminate the five second call.
    3. Eliminate the alternate possesion. Go back to jump balls.
    4. Eliminate the 10 second rule from the back court.
    5. Eliminate the one and one.
    6. Call more technical fouls on coaches who can't keep their mouths shut. 7. Do a better job on the block/charge call.

  • Icedevil Feb 27, 9:07 p.m.

    I don't listen to Adam Gold and have no interest in his Duke-hating opinions. But clearly, the worst part of college basketball this year is the hideous uniforms Nike has made teams (including Duke and UNC) wear (with just the NC or D on the front). Awful. No regard for tradition.

  • shepherdofwolves Feb 27, 7:37 p.m.

    Yep, K has managed to destroy the game of basketball with flopping. Even the NBA had to react... View More

    — Posted by DooksucksV3

    There's no doubt the defensive tactics in the game today are destroying it. And there's no doubt Coach K's success implementing this system at Duke is part of the reason. Sorry Duke fans. The truth might hurt, but it's still the truth.

    There was a time when teams played defense straight up. But this flopping development was inevitable. When teams aren't quick enough to stay in front of their man on D they're still gonna find a way to compete. If the other team's roster is loaded with athletic marvels, and you can't keep up, it's only natural to devise some scheme to prevent them from attacking the basket aggressively. That's where this whole "taking a charge" concept came from.

    Used to be the only reason the "charge" foul was ever called was if a defensive player was just minding his own business and got bowled over by an offensive player. It wasn't put in the rule book to encourage defensive players to try and guess the movement of an offensive player and then cut him off at the last second and cause a collision. Not only does that sort of thing disrupt the flow/spirit of the game (putting a ball in a hoop), it's incredibly dangerous.

    But if you find that your team is no longer as athletic as your competition, then you're going to bend the rules of the game as much as allowed to compete. Especially if the only reason you're not as athletic as your competition anymore in the first place is because they bent the rules to become more athletic.

    So long story short,

    basically we have flopping in college ball because some schools (say, Notre Dame, Stanford, UVA, Duke et al) still care that their players can read, and, well, some schools don't. You want to blame someone for all the flopping in college basketball? Don't blame the teams who get away with bending the rules of basketball, blame the schools who get away with breaking the rules of college. Sorry UNC fans. The truth might hurt, but it's still the truth.

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