February 15, 2013

"College basketball 'brutal to watch,' needs a major overhaul as scoring dips to historic lows."

"There is little running the court, or soaring through the air, or crisscrossing through the lane, all the things that make this such a beautiful game."
"Our game is brutal to watch right now," said Jay Bilas, an analyst for ESPN.... "It’s organized fouling... The referees feel like they can’t call it all, and they don’t call it all. The result is we’re having wrestling matches instead of basketball games. It doesn’t take long, if you’re really watching, to see what’s happening and say, 'Oh my god, this is awful.'
"These games are ridiculous.... the amount of contact that’s allowed — the hand-checking, the arm bars, the dead-on pushing, the body checks on the shooter, the contact after the shot is released. Guys are getting knocked down and it’s not called."
Whenever I try to watch basketball, what I can't stand is the way the game is constantly stopped for fouls. Bilas is saying to stop it more frequently? Is the question whether the players are getting brutalized or whether people don't want to watch anymore? Or is Bilas saying the players getting brutalized is a problem if that's why people aren't watching anymore?

57 comments:

Larry Davis said...

I believe he's saying, there's too much contact, and not enough fouls are called. And, he's right.

donald said...

Basketball at all levels sucks. It's horrifying.

EMD said...

The college game is vastly superior to the NBA game, where there is no such thing as defense.

Auntie Ann said...

Problem #1: Because so many fouls are happening, the ones that actually get foul calls are arbitrarily chosen--putting enormous power for the outcome of the game, not in the hands of the players, but in the hands of the officials.

Problem #2: By allowing so many uncalled fouls to occur, the game game becomes the brutal one mentioned in the article. If, on the other hand, the officials actually made it clear that they would not only call a few arbitrarily-chosen fouls, but *all* fouls, the game should revert to its pre-manhandling style.

Problem #3: The people who actually *pay* to see basketball (or football, for that matter...or hockey) *like* the pushing and shoving, would watch/purchase less of it without the pushing and shoving, and so the NBA has no real incentive to crack down on what is, ultimately, beneficial to their bottom line.

chickelit said...

I'd rather watch ice hockey than basketball.

garage mahal said...

A lot of people rag on Sconnie basketball because of low scoring games. I say fuck 'em. Not our fault you can't score.

Kit said...

Exactly, Garage. I've been wayching the Badgers in the Big Ten my whole life. I'm used to to the bumping, defense and low scoring. What's the problem, Jay?

EMD said...

A lot of people rag on Sconnie basketball because of low scoring games. I say fuck 'em. Not our fault you can't score.


Big Ten basketball is very physical and demanding. I like it. Good coaches, too ... Ryan, Izzo, Crean, Matta.

Kelly said...

College basketball is all I ever watch. The NBA always seemed boring. They basically just ran the ball up and down the court and put little effort into defense. Seems it must have changed since last I watched which I admit has been many years.

Meade said...

Good coaches is right. Especially Ryan.

Lew Lipshitz said...

Problem, what problem?

Truckee Man said...

Basketball, NCAA and NBA is a showcase for selfish thugs. Give me baseball where there is still a code of conduct and a respect for the game. No showing up a player. Imaging that in a basketball or football game!

davidedwinross said...

College basketball's advantages are system-based. Easy schedule to follow: 2 games/week, shorter season. Fun playoff to get engaged with in March.

But when you actually sit and watch a game, it is brutal. Slow and boring. It's dribble-drive to get fouled or shoot 3s from a distance barely further that what 16-yr-olds shoot from at the HS level.

Yeah, they have close games with buzzer beaters in March that seem like they should be exciting. But just being close is not enough to make it watchable. If my friend and I had a best-of-7 coin-flipping contest, and we were tied at 3 apiece, you should not be excited to watch that 7th flip. Because watching 2 people flip coins is boring, and college basketball is boring.

Now, the NBA has system problems. 82 games is too many. 4 or 5 games per week is too many. The season is too long. For teams that make the Finals, the season is 9 months long.

But the game is pretty entertaining to watch. Seeing what LBJ did last night against OKC was a joy to experience. You just don't see those kinds of performances in college basketball. I grew up watching college basketball, but once I got a glimpse of what the athletes were doing in the NBA, there was no going back to college.

Methadras said...

The blatant traveling in college and pro B-ball that never gets called is bullshit too. How about that? That's worse than the other stuff.

mishu said...

Can't stand college ball. It's improved a bit since they introduced the shot clock. At least it forces them to shoot once in a while. Otherwise, it's a lame game of keep away. You can go watch that on some schoolyard playground.

Icepick said...

I heard Bilas compare college basketball unfavorably to the Pat Riley-style of basketball when he coached the Knicks and then the Heat. There's good defense and then there's nihilism. Bilas's complaint is that the amount of contact slows the game to a crawl. The refs, for whatever reason, aren't calling fouls. Thus the players are encouraged to play in a more brutal fashion. Calling more fouls would quickly get the players to back off the body checks and other bad behavior - you can't play if you've fouled out.

And I can't believe people are complaining about the lack of defense in the NBA. That was true 25 years ago. Fifteen to ten years ago the game got so heavy with 'D' that it wasn't worth watching. The better defensive teams had improved their team defense to the point where teams with good one-on-one players were taking advantage of the mandatory man defense rules in the league - they'd send the player with the ball to his favorite wing, and the other four players to the other wing. That meant four defenders had to go with them, leaving a one-on-one match-up. It was pure basketball nihilism, and it was disgusting to watch. Ironically, allowing more zone D helped clear the problem up - teams couldn't run the iso plays anymore.

Now the leagues just unwatchable for other reasons, namely that the league only really give a damn about four franchises, and the Hell with the rest of them.

Ann Althouse said...

I think the game would be better if the uniforms were more attractive. Those silky culottes are atrocious.

I was just looking up the history of basketball uniforms and I see that it's completely the result of a request made by Michael Jordan!

bpm4532 said...

He wants college ball to be like the NBA. That's not progress. It's actually ugly basketball. NCAA is just a free minor league for the pros - that's the problem.

Curious George said...


"Meade said...
Good coaches is right. Especially Ryan."

Give me a break Meade. Ryan is joke. He hasn't won a Big-10 Championship in 10 years. Compare his record to Izzo, Motta, etc. The guys thta have adapted to the modern game, Izzo, Motta, Crean are the ones on the top of the standings both in the Big 10 and nationally. Bo Ryan puts out a boring product that wins enough games to make the tourney. Doesn't take a lot to impress Badger fans.

Elliott A said...

@Ann- Face it Ann, you just don't like guys in shorts. Next month look for an Amazon purchase of about 6 pair of Dockers shorts. It's me!

Elliott A said...

If the officials called the game by the rules, the players would stop the hand checks, shoving, etc. The game would become more fluid and interesting. Once upon a time, even the NBA was fun to watch until they stopped playing real basketball.

Meade said...

Bo Ryan has a 76.1 career winning percentage.

Ann Althouse said...

"@Ann- Face it Ann, you just don't like guys in shorts. Next month look for an Amazon purchase of about 6 pair of Dockers shorts. It's me!"

Okay.

But I have always had an exception for sports where shorts are the uniform. I think that picture of Chuck Taylor in shorts in 1921 (in the link at my last comment) looks really good.

I'd prefer to see their thighs!

furious_a said...

NBA always seemed boring. They basically just ran the ball up and down the court and little effort into defense.

cough San Antonio cough.

Enough with the TV timeouts and the "head back to our studio in New York", and limit timeouts in the last two minutes. For both NCAA and NBA.

EMD said...

Bo Ryan has a 76.1 career winning percentage.

He does more with less. I can't imagine recruiting players to white-hot Madison is that easy.

He gets big, slow white guys, so he designs a game for big, slow white guys to excel at.

cryptical said...

I was at the Minnesota-Wisconsin game last night. It was both thrilling and brutal. My buddy had commented in the first half that the first team to 50 would win, and with 6 minutes left in the game the score was 49-43 Wisconsin.

The Gophers went on to tie the game, and hold the Badgers scoreless in regulation. A 3-pointer in overtime put Minny over 50 first, and they ended up winning. The barn was as loud as I've heard it. Beating Wisconsin is always a good thing.

mccullough said...

Bo Ryan is like Gene Keady. A terrific coach at a school that isn't going to attract 5-star recruits.

Do you think Bo Ryan would win an NCAA championship with Kentucky's 2012 team? Do you think John Calipari would make the tournament with Ryan's players?



EMD said...

Do you think John Calipari would make the tournament with Ryan's players?

That depends ... how much is he paying them?

Bart Torvik said...

"Ryan is joke. He hasn't won a Big-10 Championship in 10 years. Compare his record to Izzo, Motta, etc."

Bo Ryan has the best winning percentage in the history of the Big Ten.

On the general criticism of the sport, if you don't like the it, that's fine—don't watch. I'm sympathetic to Prof. Althouse's criticism that basketball has too many stoppages. But the idea that college basketball is too low scoring is weird and frankly stupid. Even in the slowest, lowest scoring games, there are dozens of scores, and 100 shots at the goal. How much scoring do people need to be entertained?

Kit said...

CG - Ryan is 13-6 vs. Izzo, 9-6 vs. Matta and 9-0 vs. Crean (IN). He's doing ok. As a fan, I'll take it.

Kirk Parker said...

Bart,

"How much scoring do people need to be entertained?"

Ummm, people watch soccer, so I'm not sure your question is a meaningful measure.

Bart Torvik said...

Kirk,

Right, but people complaint about soccer being too low scoring. The conventional wisdom is that lack of scoring is why soccer is not a major spectator sport in the US.

But I'm not trying to say that scoring is the only way a sport can be entertaining. I'm saying that it is stupid to say that college basketball is too low scoring to be entertaining when there is more scoring in college basketball than in practically every other sport (except for the NBA).

john marzan said...

even college teams are employing pat riley, detroit pistons style defense.

the solution of course is to disallow players from grabbing, mugging, wrestling other players. to do that, you need a no hand check rule like in the NBA. it's about time. if the opposing team wants to foul out their players, that's their choice.

EMD said...

The conventional wisdom is that lack of scoring is why soccer is not a major spectator sport in the US.

That is true. However, if you watch MLS soccer vs. Premier League in the UK, you'll see a big difference in quality of the game, and the EPL is much more watchable.

Patrick said...

Bo Ryan has a 76.1 career winning percentage.

That's a good percentage. I still wait for the time when he over performs tournament expectations. He usually goes about as far as expected, a little less, almost never further. Good guy though, from what I can tell. That's gotta count for something.

Astro said...

I have the perception that there is a lot less 'dunking' going on now compared to 10 or 20 years ago. Which is good, because after a while dunking is boring. Competition dunking is more boring than diving contests.

The worst part of the game remains, though -- the final minute that takes 20 minutes of actual clock time. The fouling to stop the clock plus the time-outs is excruciating. I'd like to see a 5 second run off of the game clock when a foul occurs in the final minute.

mccullough said...

Soccer in the US isn't popular because the best athletes play other sports.

whoresoftheinternet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
furious_a said...

Right, but people complaint about soccer being too low scoring.

Problem with soccer is the gimmick they use to decide overtime games -- the penalty kick.

Imagine if baseball decided extra innings via homerun contest or basketball by H*O*R*S*E. Cheap and gimmicky. Play 'til someone scores, or schedule a makeup game.

Smilin' Jack said...

"College basketball 'brutal to watch,'

Not brutal enough to keep me awake. I wanna see cage basketball. Ten go in, five come out.

HT said...

The problem is that the players either are not taught technique or they are not learning it. The problem is not that there is not enough soaring through the lanes, in the air and so on. The problem is that the players ONLY want the gooey center, the glory moments. They don't want to learn how to control their bodies and how such control is a building block of the larger game.

This is why I stopped watching.

Also, there IS blatant walking, and palming the ball.

It's a very sloppy game now. The backbone, the center of it has gone.

Shanna said...

I hate the low scoring and lack of running as well. Arkansas used to have a very entertaining game.

Still love basketball, though. At least it moves.

MPH said...

Prof. Althouse - Bilas is actually saying the game will be more free-flowing, fast paced, and enjoyable to watch if the refs did their jobs. Once the players know they are going to get called for whacking their opponent, they will quickly learn to stop fouling so much. The game will be much better for it -- and more to your liking, too.

Nichevo said...

Yes, whores, I can see your recruitment ads now. The mind reels...

Not saying you're wrong on the facts.

Not that I give a damn about basketball, either. I think there used to be something called "gym rats" which iirc is how the game is supposed to be played. The human helicopters is entertaining but not the foundation of an athletic event and can't be nearly as difficult, i.e. skilled, as shooting. Steroids can't help your percentage. (Can they?)

Mr. D said...

The physical bumping has been a trend for 20-30 years at all levels. Back in the 1980s it was a rarity if a team scored less than 90 points in a game. Now it happens all the time. Scores have fluctuated in college ball, but they've generally gone down over time as well.

The other thing is that the mid-range jump shot is getting to be a lost art. Players these days are usually looking to dunk or to hoist up a 3-pointer. You don't see too many shots taken from 12-14 feet away in most games. You used to see that all the time, at all levels.

Mr. D said...

I should amend my last comment to say "Back in the 1980s it was a rarity if an NBA team scored less than 90 points in a game. Now it happens all the time."

Pete Toal said...

I am a graduate of Indiana and I love what Tom Crean is doing-push the pace, run and gun. Preparing players for the NBA. What top recruit would go to Wisconsin? Four years of holding the ball until the shot clock expires?

Tibore said...

Bilas is trying to manufacture a problem where none exists. Thinking that low scoring = bad basketball is an insult to fans who understand what defense is.

I'm as aggravated as anyone else at some of the unchecked fouling and overphysicality in the paint myself, but Bilas is citing fixes that won't address what he imagines is the supposed problem. Decreasing the damn shot clock won't stop that. And calling more fouls will lead directly to the thing he's complaining most about: Game flow being interrupted. I'll hand him the victory of being right about some systems overcoaching players, but the opposite has been true in too many places, and it's the rigorously coached teams who've been successful, so no wonder it's not viewed as being a bad thing. Why argue with success?

For all his time reporting, I'll bet Bilas still watches the ball handler instead of the lane. This article just reeks of someone more interested in the show over the game.

Original Mike said...

"A lot of people rag on Sconnie basketball because of low scoring games. I say fuck 'em. Not our fault you can't score."

It IS our fault, and we're proud of it. It's called defense. It's half the game; or at least it ought to be.

Original Mike said...

Give both teams 50 points at the start of the game. That'll get the scores up for Mr. Bilas.

Geoff Matthews said...

Well, if fouls were called consistently, to the point where people would regularly foul out, maybe they'd change the way they played the game.

tim said...

clutch, grab, bump, push and pull is not defense, it's mma. and it's ugly. I blame roach k and dook.

EMD said...

I blame roach k and dook.

Duke is 11th in team scoring pts/g nationwide.
They are 116th in scoring defense.

It ain't their fault. They're also not in the Top 40 in personal fouls per game.

EMD said...

Also, many players are one-and-done or two-and-shoo, not playing a full four seasons.

So they're raw and athletic. Most of the player names I don't recognize anymore, and I came of age during the glorious years of Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing, Dwayne Washington, and Jim Jackson spending four full years at a school learning the game.

tim said...

Yes, because THIS year is the only thing that is important.

Several years ago, after k became one of the big names you could see the shift in strategy to "foul, because they will not call all of them."

Joe said...

I forget, is the rule that you can four or five steps without dribbling to be called for traveling?

Either call the game by the rules or change the rules.

Baron Zemo said...

The problem with the college game is that the big stars are out of college after their freshman year. Or before.

The NBA needed to stick to an age requirement and college needs to put in some rules to open up the floor.

But the genie is out of that bottle and it will never be back. So college ball is gonna suck for a long, long time.