How I'd improve college basketball

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

College basketball season is officially here as many tournaments get underway in the coming weeks. The 2013-14 season has the potential to be one of the most exciting in recent years, but often, games throughout the year are plagued.

If I were the president of the NCAA, these are a few of the changes I would make.

First off, I would get rid of the preseason and early season rankings. Take Iowa State's win over no. 7 Michigan on Sunday for example. It's a good win, but who really knows how good of a win it is? Will Michigan fall flat this year or will they remain a top 25 team?

Regardless, ISU now has a quality top 10 victory on it's resume even if Michigan falters the rest of the year. The same can be said at the opposite end of the spectrum, a decent team that entered the season in the top 25 could cruise it's way through the non-conference slate undefeated, and could very well end up a top five team once conference play rolls around just because they didn't play anyone of note and other teams ahead of them lost. I think rankings shouldn't be released until after the new year, when most teams begin conference play.

And don't even get me started on conference realignment, if I could halt that as president I would in a heartbeat. So many classic rivalries and conferences have been ruined because of greed. No longer will Syracuse and Pitt play, or Maryland and North Carolina. No longer will the Big East have the most exciting conference tournament. It's a shame and conference realignment should've been prevented years ago.

But that is the least of the college basketball's worries -- the game itself has many structural flaws. The biggest one is the 35 second shot clock. Thirty-five seconds allows teams way too much time to run through stale offensive sets and the game comes to a crawling pace.

Yes, the basketball was built on crisp passing and jump shots, but it doesn't benefit anyone when teams take 30 seconds to shoot. I would move the clock down to the NBA's 24 seconds, force teams to push the ball a little more and create an energy. Now the argument against a condensed shot clock is that teams will force more shots, but the new shot clock will also generate more possessions throughout a game.

The other big change I'd make would be fouls. This is a huge flaw in what was once a great sport. The problem doesn't stop at the refs being too tight with their whistles either -- intentional fouls and foul limits are also ridiculous.

This season, referees are encouraged to call fouls with much more regularity, keeping an eye on hand checking. The rule is meant to clean up the game, but it only slows it down and ruins the flow.

As president, I would recognize they physicality and tell refs to loosen up and let the players decide the outcomes. And the charge call has gotten way out of hand. Many refs, in my opinion, will call a charge just to keep or change the momentum of a crowd. They like to make a spectacle of the big call, it's a disgrace and the NCAA should not stand for it.

The fact that players only get five fouls before they are ejected from the game also hurts the overall product. Often, a team's best player will get two quick fouls and sit out for nearly 15-20 minutes of gameplay. You can't tell me this encourages strategy, it only hurts the team and the fans who are watching. I would increase the foul limit to six and allow the kids to actually decide the game on their own.

In addition, the intentional fouls at the end of games forcing teams to shoot free throws is ridiculous. The last minute of a close game can end up taking 15 minutes because of teams constantly shooting free throws. There needs to be a penalty for teams intentionally fouling. In the NBA under two minutes left, a team can not intentionally foul an opposing player. If so, the penalty consists of one free throw and the team that was fouled retains possession of ball. In college, I believe it should be two free throws and the ball -- this rule change would greatly reduce the length of games.

The final change I would make would be to change the "one and done" rule for incoming freshmen. Now I don't think the issue will ever be resolved concerning when players can and cannot enter the NBA draft, but I do think something needs to be changed.

Only requiring one year creates a bit of inconsistency. If players are allowed to enter the NBA right out of high school, it waters down the college game.

I believe the best alternative would be to require players to stay two years in college instead of the one year. This way, teams actually build a chemistry with their new players and the youngsters can develop some of the skills they lack.

Of course, there are many other things that can be fixed, but these are just the most glaring problems I have noticed over the last several years.