By Kevin Luo
This past week, UConn women’s basketball coach, Geno Auriemma, generated a lot of buzz when he called the game of college men’s basketball “a joke.”
Although I feel that was a little harsh and inaccurate, I must admit that there is a lot of substance behind what Auriemma said.
Obviously the media focused mainly on the headline-worthy quote, so the sports world looked at Auriemma as a hater of the men’s game in an attempt to promote the women’s game. However, if you look past that one line and look at the rest of what he said, it’s hard to argue with some of the things he says.
The reason he was speaking so lowly of the men’s game centered around the fact that he just feels it’s not that entertaining. He says that there’s simply not enough scoring. This is where Auriemma is talking as a fan of basketball and not as one of the faces of women’s basketball (he said the women’s game is lagging behind as well). And it’s really hard to argue with some of the points he made.
I’ll preface my argument by saying that I absolutely love men’s college basketball, but I’m a fan of basketball as a whole and will watch any relatively high-quality basketball game. I follow the game all season and watch a lot of games throughout the year. Obviously, I feel March Madness is arguably the best sporting event in all of sports.
That being said, Geno is right. The game is not as entertaining as it can be. There’s not enough scoring. I’ve seen too many men’s college games with scores in the ’40s and ’50s. As much as I appreciate high quality defense, that’s just not good for the advancement of the game as well as the entertainment factor for fans.
Part of this is due to the fact that the players are just not as skilled anymore. The most talented players in college basketball are often freshmen since many elite talents leave for the NBA draft each season after only their freshman year. Many of these elite talents can run, jump, drive, dunk and make a lot of fancy plays. But college basketball is not as fundamentally sound as it used to be. The quality of team basketball is not there. The quality of passing, ball movement, player movement, screens, and footwork is all down.
As much as I’d love to see players like Jahlil Okafor, DeAngelo Russell and many other exciting freshman stay in college for multiple season to develop their game and improve the quality of the sport as a whole, I believe if players want to go pro — and they’re good enough to do so — they should be able to. So let’s talk about ways that the NCAA can boost scoring and make this game more exciting.
First, they have to shorten the shot clock. The fact that the men’s game has a 35 second shot clock while the women’s game has only a 30 second shot clock is ridiculous. It has to go down to at least 30 seconds. There’s too much time just being wasted with the longer shot clock, which leads to fewer possessions and less scoring. Another change that should be made is extending the restricted area, which will lead to fewer charges being called. There are simply too many charges called (and inconsistently called).
The last change I would like to see made is six fouls leading to a disqualification instead of five like in the NBA game. This is actually more of a problem because of how inconsistently the game is called. Some refs call a foul if you breathe on an opponent the wrong way. Not only does it slow down the game and make it far less enjoyable to watch but I hate seeing a star player go to the bench for a large chunk of the first half because they pick up two quick ticky-tac fouls.
All of the pro sports have made changes to increase scoring and try and make their game more enjoyable. College basketball should join this trend with some of these changes. However, some people have argued that the NCAA is unwilling to make changes to improve the entertainment quality of their game. Doing so would compromise their stance on these athletes being students first rather than revenue drivers, even though major men’s college basketball and football bring in billions of dollars every year. The NCAA, in my opinion, always drops the ball off the court, but they should at least try and improve the game on the court.