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Lets fix the game of College Basketball

Over a month has passed since Roy Williams and North Carolina cut down the nets for their 6th national championship. Congrats to their storied program and their passionate fan base, who will now direct their attention to the Golden State Warriors and Alabama football.

This season of college basketball brought countless amounts of drama on and off the court. From Grayson Allen’s tripping incidents to John Calipari’s rant about coaches being fired midseason, the cupboard for storylines was not exactly bare.

With all of that being said, I think we can all agree there is still room for growth when it comes to the overall product of the sport. For starters, there were 44 fouls called in the National Championship game. FORTY-FOUR! This leads us into my first idea for improving the game.

EMPLOY FULL TIME OFFICIALS

Every single year, the NCAA tournament rolls around and all the casual college basketball fans come out in droves to whine and moan about how terrible the officiating is. Truly a tradition unlike any other. News flash guys, the officiating was bad all season long.

We can not expect officials to be as close to flawless as humanly possible when they are officiating as a part-time job. Nobody that is doing something part-time can perform their job in the same realm of quality as if they were to be doing it full-time.

Would you want your lawyer to finish up his daily roofing company obligations (infamous referee John Higgins owns a roofing business) and then head straight to the courtroom to handle your million dollar lawsuit? In this hypothetical, your part-time lawyer is off worrying about the logistics of how to produce more revenue for their company, not studying and interpreting the fine print of the law. Your lawyer has not stepped foot inside a court room or a law office in weeks, and is now handling a case with incredibly high stakes? The reaction to this is simple, of course you would not want that!

I realize it may be a stretch to make this comparison, but the official rulebook for NCAA basketball is not exactly 2+2=4. Not to mention, trying to figure out the difference between a block and a charge is like trying to convince Tiger Woods that monogamy is possible.

Lets also not pretend like nothing is at stake in these games. The Men’s NCAA Tournament is a multi-billion dollar enterprise in itself.

Making officials a full time profession would do wonders for the game. At the very least, it would make me feel better when the inevitable happens, and a Kentucky fan decides the game of basketball is so valuable that the officials need to receive death threats. This is their full-time profession now, they should be excellent at it.

Now, there are 347 D1 basketball teams, so the amount of full-time officials it would require to cover all these games would be exponential. I am not saying it’s necessary to employ full time officials for every single game. The battle for 12th place in the MEAC between Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T could probably go smoothly with part-time officials. However, asking for full time officials to referee every game in the Power 5 conferences does not seem like a tall order. The Power 5 officials are the ones doing the NCAA tournament games anyway.

Full-time officials would add consistency to the game. How many times a game do you look around and go “what in the hell just happened???” in regards to a call made by an official. WAY too many times. A lot of times, officials find themselves out of place on the floor when they are working with other officials for the first time.

Assigning officials to a set crew and having them work together, night in and night out, would shore up a lot of inconsistency. It would also allow them to build chemistry and continuity amongst each other.

In the off-season or on off days, instead of officials working at roofing companies or insurance agencies, they should be perfecting their craft. The NCAA should hold training camps that last longer than just a couple of days. Run simulated games to get younger refs more experience, and help older refs stay sharp. Hold film sessions and make sure these officials know the areas in which improvement can be made. Do anything and everything to be as perfect as you possibly can be. The notion that referees can not improve with more time, practice, and knowledge numbs my brain. Committing more time to an art such as officiating would make a significant difference.

My last tid-bit regarding officiating is this: Don’t be a Hero out there, officials. It should not look like you are auditioning for dancing with the stars when you make a block or charge call.

Call fouls only when they significantly impact the game. Do not call fouls when someone brushes a shoulder on a screen, or accidentally hand-checks someone away from the ball. Officials should not be paid to enforce the rules down to the letter of the rulebook, but to use their discretion to make the game better. This means that when a player is trying to foul late in the game, do not call a flagrant just because it was technically a flagrant by definition. (IE Seton Hall vs Arkansas)

The people who still want to say “well if you go by the rules, the call was right” are the people who used to ask the teacher if they forgot to collect the homework.

There are times when the rules should be followed exactly how they were written, but you have to understand the situation of the game.

Officials should make the product better, not worse.

WE NEED CONTINUITY AND FAMILIAR FACES

I think we can all agree that college basketball’s biggest problem right now is lack of continuity. Its really hard for fan bases to be crazy about their program when they are adjusting to completely new teams every year. Your first initial reaction is probably to blame all the one and done’s, but that is not the most resounding issue. NCAA transfer data shows that in today’s game, nearly 40 percent of players who enter Division I out of high school transfer by the end of their sophomore year. Four weeks have passed since the Final Four concluded and 516 men’s college basketball players have decided to transfer. Just 10 years ago, the final number was 305. The days of players caring about the name on the front of the jersey versus the name on the back seem to be over. Players no longer seem to take pride in sticking it out and seeing things through anymore. Guys are leaving at the first sign of adversity instead of working harder and staying true to their schools. I understand some of the transfers are looking to “transfer up”, so to speak, and place themselves in a better position for a profession career. However, this is not helping college basketball in any way. Last off season alone, according to a study done by si.com, 91 players (42 traditional, 49 graduate transfers) made the jump to a distinctly higher-level leagues. (Using Kenpom’s conference ratings as a guideline) Being a mid or low major coach is not a great place to be right now. Anytime a player from a low major has a great season, they are hearing from Power 5 schools immediately. Its gotten so bad that a player will have one good game, and they will receive messages from schools in the middle of a season. I can learn to live with all the transfers, but players are legitimately being recruited off of other rosters. This is a rapidly growing epidemic for the sport. College basketball now has a bonafide free agent culture.

If the NCAA wants to be selfish and protect its game, they need to take action and stop this madness.

To lessen the free agent culture, the NCAA needs to implement a new rule making the traditional transfers sit out 1.5 years instead of just one. Sitting out one additional semester may not sound like a lot, but I think it would go a long way in deterring players from jumping ship so quickly. I would also be in favor of nixing the grad transfer loophole as well. All transfer rules should be the same, graduate or not.

Of course, I still believe if a player can show the NCAA that they have a legitimate reason to transfer (personal problems, family issues, etc) they could get a hardship and waive the 1.5 years and be eligible immediately.

The traditional cinderella stories of the past have been predicated by senior-laden, experienced rosters. If the transfer culture continues to rear its ugly head, we will see less and less of the mid-major magic we have come so accustomed to.

When it comes to the one and done’s, I do not have a tremendous issue with the rule. Without the OAD rule, college basketball fans missed out on the likes of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, etc. Now all the elite talent must spend a season on a college campus.

One thing that would be beneficial for all parties, a rule that could restructure the players’ NBA contracts. A clause should be put in place whereby, if a player stays in college two years, they could opt out of their rookie contract a season early. If they stayed three years, they could opt out of their rookie contract two seasons early, etc. This accounts for the extra years they stayed in college while they could have been in the NBA.

Countless players leave school completely unprepared for the NBA and end up getting cut from rosters in their very first season. Under this clause, they could stay in school and enter the league prepared to play at a high level and the clock to get to that second contract would have already started.

Seems like a decent incentive to stick around a year or two longer.

We desperately need familiar faces to become a staple of college basketball once again. I dreamt up a world in which no players decided to enter the NBA draft early. This is what three of the sport’s biggest programs would have looked like this past year.

I understand we are far past the era where this could be remotely possible, but man, imagine what the rosters would have looked like this year.

Duke

Jabari Parker, Senior

Jahlil Okafor, Junior

Justise Winslow, Junior

Tyus Jones, Junior

Brandon Ingram, Sophomore

Luke Kennard, Sophomore

Jayson Tatum, Freshman

 

Kentucky

Julius Randle, Senior

Tyler Ulis, Junior

Karl-Anthony Towns, Junior

Devin Booker, Junior

Jamal Murray, Sophomore

De’Aaron Fox, Freshman

Malik Monk, Freshman

 

Kansas

Frank Mason, Senior

Andrew Wiggins, Senior

Joel Embiid, Senior

Kelly Oubre, Junior

Cliff Alexander, Junior

Devonte’ Graham, Junior

Josh Jackson, Freshman

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Would it be the worst idea in the world to change from two 20 minutes halves to four 10 minute quarters? Way too many games are turning into free throw shooting contests because of so many foul calls. In the four quarter system, teams reach the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. After each quarter the fouls reset.

-Why do we think its a smart idea to start college basketball on a random Friday in the middle of football season? Last season kicked off in Hawaii with two excellent matchups between four of college basketball’s most storied programs (Kansas, Indiana, Arizona, Michigan State). These games started at such a late time that many folks on the east coast were not even awake for them. By the time the morning rolled around, college football had taken over all the attention and it was like the games did not even happen. Start the season in the middle of the week so people will care for at least a day or two.

-We need more blockbuster matchups. Schools have gotten inherently better at this of late, but we still need more. The Champions Classic is awesome, but there is nothing like atmosphere of an Allen Fieldhouse or Cameroon Indoor Stadium. Duke, Kansas, UNC, UCLA, Indiana, Kentucky, Louiville, Michigan State, etc. All these schools need to start going and playing in each other’s arenas on an annual basis. Not a lot of folks are going to sit down and tune in for Duke vs LSOTPU (Little sisters of the poor university), but if we consistently put Kansas @ Duke, UNC @ Arizona, etc, on televisions, people will be a lot more intrigued.


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