March Sadness: How To Save College Hoops

I fill out a bracket every year. I do my research and I watch Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams spout off analysis on Providence’s backcourt or how VCU’s “tournament tested senior leadership” is poised for a deep run. We all do it. Some even call in sick to work or sneak a peek at the scoreboards during the day. From the first timers to the die-hard enthusiasts, we dive head first into this abyss without giving it a second thought and not ever realizing how atrocious the actual product we are consuming is.

I realize that the upsets are fun. I mean, who doesn’t love watching Baylor get upset by Yale or Middle Tennessee becoming only the eighth 15 seed to upset a two seed (thank you Michigan State for blowing up my bracket). But when we get down to the the Final Four teams, outside of the 1986 LSU Tigers, 2011 VCU Rams, and the 2006 George Mason Patriots, the schools remaining are teams that are constantly making appearances in late March. As Colin Cowherd mentions on The Herd, “if there are 300 girls at your school and two of them talk to you, you’re not George Clooney.” But that’s not the real issue I have with college basketball. In fact, I don’t mind having the best teams in the end play for the sport’s most coveted prize. I think deep down, we all want to see the best teams and players take home the trophy. My beef is with the game itself. We turn to Sin City to give the backstory on what is truly killing college basketball.

My reaction after finding my bracket was officially busted.

My reaction after finding my bracket was officially busted.

Vegas odds makers are often times a good barometer for sports. They can indicate trends and matchups that a casual viewer won’t see right away. They crunch the numbers and the result is a statistical value for the games in the form of point spreads and over under bets. The over under bets that Vegas odds makers set before a game are great indicators for the impending matchup. For those that do not know, over under bets are wagers in which a casino or sportsbook will predict a number for a statistic in a given game, which is usually the combined score. Now these are important because they indicate how Vegas predicts the outcome of the game.

The biggest issue I see with college basketball is the scoring, or lack thereof. The pace of play has been killing the college game for some time now. Look at this past weekend at the Virginia and Syracuse Elite 8 matchup. These are two solid college basketball programs. The over under was set at 123, which is considerably low if you consider they play a 40-minute game. That means the score of the two teams respectively will be around 61 or 62, if the game is close. The final score? Syracuse won 68-60. This year, the Final Four features Oklahoma and Villanova. Oklahoma is coming off a dominating performance in which Buddy Hield (real name Chavano Hield) torched Oregon defense for 37 points (more than half of Syracuse’s final point total in their Elite 8 win) while the Wildcats of Villanova arrive in Houston after an impressive victory over Kansas. The over under for this national semifinal game is set at 146 indicating that Vegas doesn’t believe that even with the best scorer left in the tournament, the two teams are putting in only around 73 points. This isn’t even factoring in that Villanova is a 2.5 point favorite. To put this into perspective, 22 of 32 NBA teams are averaging over 100 points per game as opposed to zero teams in the NCAA that averaged over 86 points per game.

Buddy Hield drives past an Oregon defender. Courtesy of http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-ncaa-west-regional-20160327-story.html

So how do we fix this? We cut the ridiculous 35-second shot clock down to 30 seconds or even less. This will work for a few reasons:

The first being the simple logic that with a shorter shot clock teams will have more possessions and when teams have more possessions there will be more opportunities to score. Many would argue that this would only benefit offenses and not defenses however, I would disagree. It will benefit offenses by giving them more opportunities to score but it will additionally help defenses. If the shot clock is reduced, defenses will be forced to play more focused and aggressive, which will allow the best play to come forward. With the shot clock as long as it is now, defenses lose focus, become sloppy, and tire out quicker and that ultimately benefits the offense.

The next reason this would work would it would offset the lack of talent found in the college ranks. College basketball rarely gets talented scorers that can put in 25 points on 11 of 15 shooting every night like we see in the NBA. I’m not blaming college players because these are still developing 18-21 year old student athletes. Since you don’t have the individual talent that can score on isolation plays as seen in the NBA, college players are going to need more attempts simply because they just don’t have the efficiency of their game developed.

The last reason this would work is because of our human nature. If we create a sense of urgency by reducing the shot clock to a lower amount the best talent will come out and viewers will be drawn in. Just take a look at the retail industry. There are clearance racks, “Limited Time Offer”, and “Last Chance” sales everywhere that are intended to pull in consumers and they successfully do otherwise companies wouldn’t do them. By reducing the shot clock this puts teams in a sense of urgency to run a play and run it well.

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Thank you and until next time...