Saturday, December 22, 2007
Let's Talk About College Basketball, Shall We?
Here's the thing: I love basketball. I don't write about it all that much, because it's like describing sex. I feel like I can't do it justice. Watching a perfect pick-and-roll (I saw one last night when Chris Kaman dropped a midrange jumper by rolling off of a pick just TWO STEPS) or a well-executed break off of a long rebound, I just go warm all over and feel like I walk though cars or fight a school of fish and win. It's the damn truth.
There is, I'm afraid, a disconnect in the college game. I can't get excited about teams that take ten to fifteen seconds to set up a play that takes twenty to execute. It promotes the most boring kind of basketball-- sloppy picks, easy baskets on over-extended defenses and worst of all: coaches are allowed to overthink every play. I've picked on Sean Miller and Xavier before, and I will again today. There were plays where three people tried to pick for Drew Lavender (one of my favorite "won't make it in the pros, so he plays his fucking heart out every day 'cause this might be it" guards) and none of them rolled anywhere near the basket. Even if Lavender sprung free, who would be open near him? Everyone was standing around behind him, leaving him with an awkward bank shot that had a better chance of hitting me on my couch than rolling in. He made one out of three of those, and the commentators went nuts.
Then, with a small lead, Xavier made the same mistake they made against Ohio State in the tourney last year. They slowed down the ball. Against a good offensive team in Tennessee. And they gave up pretty much the exact same run-- 8-0 in the final two minutes-- and lost. Overthought. A game lost.
Conversely, Memphis' John Calipari put together a ridiculous second half against Georgetown. Memphis kept running them out of the gym-- refusing to stop penetrating or scoring early in the shot clock to keep the pressure applied. Lo and behold, they won a fairly convincing matchup. Call Calipari what you want, but he knows how to win when he's ahead. He knows he has a group of 18-21-year-old kids that don't want to do anything but play and win. The best way to do that is to let them run and press and play the way they did to grab that lead. If you lose because you continued to exploit weakness and beat a team at the end of the game (when they are tired), so be it. Losing in a slowed down offensive set when you've had success taking the forst open shot is ludicrous.
I propose a 30-second shot clock. Any team can muster a play in that amount of time and the games will be more compact and tighter in flow. Meanwhile, coaches may have to reconsider their "milk the clock, wait until there is a "7" on the shot clock, and force up a horrendous three strategy." They will have to call plays toward the end of the game like NBA coaches do. Maybe they will call the wrong plays, or set eight picks with no rolls. Maybe they'll draw up new plays to attack tired, desperate players and exploit over-aggressiveness toward the end of the game. Maybe, just maybe.
Either way, I can't love the current format if it continues like this. It's just five seconds. It will make for better basketball for... uh, me, I guess.