SALT LAKE CITY — It may not be the best time to be saying this after a weekend where we saw a five-overtime thriller between Notre Dame and Louisville and that amazing halfcourt shot by Wisconsin to force overtime.
But, I still think college basketball has lost some of its sizzle in recent years and needs some changes.
We feel it here in Utah, where a once-proud Ute program languishes at the bottom of the Pac-12, where BYU is playing small colleges in tiny gyms and the two longtime rivals only play one meaningless early-season game now.
But it’s not just on the local level.
Quick, name the top five players in college basketball? Top three?
I didn’t think do.
College basketball still has its share of excitement, but it’s just not the same as it used to be. It’s definitely in need of a fix.
So the following are a few ideas that should be made to spice up the game and make it more watchable.
This may not seem like much, but college basketball needs a little more urgency on the offensive end, not to mention just more overall scoring. We’ve had enough of those 55-50 games.
Basketball teams don’t need 35 seconds to get a shot off. The NBA has used a 24-second clock forever. Heck, even women’s basketball uses a 30-second clock. Why do the men need 35?
Fans want to see more offense, not 33 seconds of great defense
Less physical play
Basketball, once thought of as a finesse game, is getting more like football all the time. Officials will blow the whistle if a player gets tapped on the wrist, but look the other way as players get knocked around and mugged in the lane all game long.
I hate the idea of more fouls being called, but officials have got to start cleaning up the excessive body contact. Perhaps the NCAA rulesmakers have to make an edict that certain physical play won’t be tolerated and perhaps we can put finesse back in the game.
One-and one-free throws have been around since 1954, but when you think about it, they’re often a disadvantage to the offensive team and an advantage to the fouling team. You shouldn’t get rewarded for committing a foul.
Just make it two foul shots after seven fouls, rather than the one-and-one after seven and two after 10.
No held balls at end of games
When a defensive team forces a tie-up in the final seconds of a game, the ball shouldn’t go to the offensive team just because of the alternate-possession rule. Let’s have jump balls for say, the final three minutes of the game. It just seems fairer.
Cut the timeouts
Did you know that 100 years ago, coaches couldn’t even communicate with their teams during an entire game? And up until 1948, coaches couldn’t talk to their teams during timeouts?
These days it’s turned into a coaches’ game with the guys in suits and ties constantly talking to their teams with as many as 18 timeouts in a regulation game (four mandated media timeouts per half and five per team per game).
As a result, we have too many disjointed games with the play constantly being interrupted by timeouts.
I know this change has little chance of happening because of TV, which needs regular timeouts and as many as possible. But can’t we eliminate one of the media timeouts every half and at least one of the coaches’ timeouts?
If soccer can be played without timeouts, can't college basketball get by with only a dozen or so timeouts per game?
Let’s make it more about the players than the coaches.
I see two options here. The NBA, which instituted the “19-year-old rule” in 2005 to halt the parade of high school players going straight to the pros, could up the age limit to 20. That would give players two years of college, allowing fans to at least learn the names of their team’s players and allow players who might have left after one year without being ready, to re-evaluate and stay longer in college.
The other idea, which would require cooperation of the NBA and NCAA, would be to copy the college baseball method, which allows players to turn pro out of high school, but if they don’t declare, they must play through their junior season. That would allow the LeBron Jameses of the world who are ready to go straight to the NBA out of high school and let everyone else develop in college like they used to.