With the NCAA tournament back in action tonight, NBC Sports takes a look at why you won’t see certain numbers on uniforms.
With the college basketball season being what it’s been thus far, it’s anyone’s guess who are the actual favorites to reach the Final Four. There aren’t the dominant teams that we saw last season, which has added some intrigue to college basketball. But how do we make sense of it all as the season approaches February?
College Basketball Talk’s own Rob Dauster joined the CSN Washington crew to discuss college basketball as a whole, some of the issues surrounding No. 8 Maryland heading into their showdown with No. 3 Iowa Thursday night and Georgetown.
One of the major talking points in college basketball has been the quality of play, as scoring has dipped down to levels the game hasn’t seen since the 1950’s. With the CBI, CIT and NIT all evaluating possible rules changes such as a 30-second shot clock and a larger restricted area arc, the powers that be are attempting to make strides that would result in a product that be considered more entertaining by the casual fan.
One “spectator” who isn’t too thrilled with the current product is UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma, whose team is two wins away from a third consecutive national title. The title would also be Auriemma’s tenth as a Division I head coach, which would match the mark set by the late John Wooden at UCLA.
During the coaches Final Four teleconference Wednesday afternoon Auriemma was asked for his thoughts on the men’s game, and it’s safe to say that he isn’t pleased as a spectator. Below is the full question and his full response, as transcribed by ASAP Sports.
Q. You’ve read a lot about the state of the men’s college game this year, that the game is not as fluid, efficient, exciting, well played as it has been in years past. There’s many reasons people would surmise that from more freshman, sophomores playing than juniors and seniors. I know you are obviously an authority on the women’s game and your team. But you’re a basketball coach and a basketball fan, so you see a lot of men’s college basketball. What has been your thought about where you see the state of the men’s game is right now?
HEAD COACH GENO AURIEMMA: It’s funny, you asked me that, I just had a conversation with Phil Martelli yesterday and I think he’s the president on the ABC board of directors or whatever (NABC to be exact).
And we had this conversation and we talked a lot about where the game is and what the future of the game is. And obviously it’s immensely popular. You look at the interest paid on the NCAA tournament. I don’t know that it’s as immensely popular during the regular season as it used to be, but obviously the tournament is just at another world when it comes to that.
Having said that, I think the game is a joke. It really is. I don’t coach it. I don’t play it, so I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator, forget that I’m a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it’s a joke. There’s only like ten teams, you know, out of 25, that actually play the kind of game of basketball that you’d like to watch. Every coach will tell you that there’s 90 million reasons for it.
And the bottom line is that nobody can score, and they’ll tell you it’s because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense. College men’s basketball is so far behind the times it’s unbelievable. I mean women’s basketball is behind the times. Men’s basketball is even further behind the times. Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor. They’ve moved in the fences in baseball, they lowered the mound. They made the strike zone so you need a straw to put through it. And in the NFL you touch a guy it’s a penalty. You hit the quarterback, you’re out for life. You know, in the NBA, you touch somebody in the perimeter, you whack guys like they used to do when scores were 90 to 75, they changed the rules.
This is entertainment we’re talking about. People have to decide, do I want to play 25 bucks, 30 bucks to go see a college scrum where everybody misses six out of every ten shots they take, or do I want to go to a movie? We’re fighting for the entertainment dollar, here, and I have to tell you it’s not entertainment from a fan’s standpoint.
So that’s just‑‑ I’m talking as a fan, not as Geno, Auriemma, the basketball coach.
While some of the early reactions to Auriemma’s comments have fallen along the lines of “he should stick to women’s basketball,” he does make a solid point about the lack of offense in men’s college basketball. While scouting has become far more advanced over the years, this has also led to coaches being even more hands-on throughout the course of a game.
If you’re on Twitter at all during games, you’ve probably seen the torrent of tweets during games lamenting the number of timeouts called and how possessions can be micromanaged at times. There are issues within the game, such as the need to not only talk about enforcing freedom of movement rules but sticking with them throughout the season, and that’s been acknowledged by many.
What’s difficult is finding solutions to those problems, which is something the rules committee is attempting to do with the changed they’re using in smaller tournaments. However with all this being said the NCAA tournament has posted record-high television ratings, so obviously people continue to tune in.
Will that continue to be the case? That remains to be seen, especially when considering the fact that this year’s tournament has a “name brand” program in Kentucky looking to be the first team to run the table since 1976. Auriemma touched on regular season games in his comments, and given the number of available channels the majority of those games aren’t going to blow folks away ratings-wise anyway.
According to a report from Tim Gayle of the USA Today, SWAC officials announced on Friday that all 10 teams in the league would be allowed to participate in the 2014 conference tournament despite four teams being banned from the NCAA Tournament due to poor Academic Progress Rates.
The SWAC has seen this sort of issue before, in regards to its conference tournament, and last season saw only seven men’s teams compete in the tournament.
Regular-season SWAC champion Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling and Mississippi Valley State are the four teams facing the NCAA Tournament ban and the four schools were allowed in the conference tournament after SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp had the presidents of the 10 teams in the league vote on whether to include them. According to Gayle, the vote would up 8-2 to include the teams in the conference tournament.
But what about the NCAA Tournament? With the SWAC being a one-bid league, conference officials were concerned that an ineligible team would win the league tournament and the SWAC would forfeit their NCAA Tournament bid — and the postseason money that comes with it.
Thankfully, the NCAA has stepped in and weighted in on the matter, as Gayle explains in the USA Today report:
SWAC officials were worried that an ineligible team winning the tournament might exclude all SWAC teams from the NCAA tournament which, in turn, would forfeit the conference’s right to the postseason money that is divided among participating teams.
But the NCAA took the unprecedented step on Friday of allowing ineligible teams to participate and will simply take the highest-seeded eligible team (currently the Alabama State men and the conference-leading Texas Southern women) should more than one eligible team reach the same level of conference tournament play before being eliminated by an ineligible team.
Otherwise, the eligible team that advances the farthest will be the conference’s NCAA qualifier.
The NCAA also weighed in on the matter in regards to future rulings with a statement:
In response to a request from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees will allow the conference to amend its automatic qualification policy for the 2014 championships only.
The conference tournaments will still determine the automatic berths into both NCAA championships. The eligible team that advances furthest in the conference tournaments will receive the automatic berth to the NCAA championships. In the event of a tie (for example, all tournament-eligible teams are eliminated in the same round), the automatic berth will go to the highest-seeded team.
The process will be revisited when the men’s and women’s basketball committees meet in the summer.
Obviously, this is a bizarre situation — and it certainly doesn’t make the SWAC look good — but it seems as though the NCAA and the league have figured things out.
The big news here is that Southern won’t be making another NCAA Tournament appearance after putting a scare into No. 1 seed Gonzaga last year as a 16 seed. As the regular-season champs, Southern would have been the favorites to make it back to the tournament, but now, Alabama State is the highest-seeded eligible men’s team in the field.
The SWAC will hold its conference tournament March 11-15th at the Toyota Center in Houston.
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 4 Syracuse at No. 12 Virginia, (4:00 p.m., ESPN):
CBT’s own Rob Dauster broke down this weekend’s top matchups in our weekend preview:
All of a sudden, this looks like the biggest game in the ACC this season. Believe it or not, Virginia currently holds a one game lead over the Orange in the ACC standings, and a win would clinch the ‘Hoos the outright regular season title. But Virginia has not beaten one of the other top four teams in the conference since January 20th and they only play Duke, North Carolina and the Orange once each. It’s weird when you think about it, but there’s a possibility that the ACC champ could end up being the fourth-highest seed from the ACC once the bracket is announced.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Louisville at No. 21 Memphis, (2:00 p.m., CBS):
Louisville added a bit of credibility to their resume when they knocked off Cincinnati in Cincinnati last weekend. They’ll head to Memphis this weekend to try and exact revenge for a whipping that the Tigers put on the Cardinals at the Yum! Center earlier this season. Russ Smith vs. Joe Jackson will be a battle between two of the most under-appreciated guards in college basketball.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 15 Iowa State at Kansas State, (7:00 p.m., ESPNU)
Kansas State could use another top-25 win and they’re terrific in the Octagon of Doom, where they will host No. 15 Iowa State. The Cyclones picked up an 81-75 home win over the Wildcats in late January but are 2-4 on the road in Big 12 play this season and those wins came over a reeling Oklahoma State team in three overtimes and TCU. Can Kansas State stop alternating wins and losses after the big home win over Kansas and build some momentum going into the Big 12 Tournament?
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Western Michigan at Toledo (6 p.m., ESPN3)
The top two teams in the MAC’s West Division face-off in a big contest when division-leading Western Michigan (19-8, 12-3) visits Toledo (23-5, 11-4). Toledo looked like one of the mid-major teams you wouldn’t want to potentially face in the NCAA Tournament until recent road losses to Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois while Western Michigan has won eight consecutive games and will look to sweep the season series against Toledo after beating them at home on January 8th.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1) Cincinnati at UConn will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend. The No. 11 Bearcats are a big, physical team that loves to pound the offense glass. UConn? They don’t have much size up front and they rely heavily on Shabazz Napier to generate offense for them.
2) Can No. 2 Wichita State finish the regular season undefeated? The 30-0 Shockers will attempt to be the first team to finish the regular season undefeated since Saint Joseph’s in 2003-04. There also hasn’t been an 18-0 team in the Missouri Valley Conference since Oklahoma in 1927-28.
3) Still a lot of intrigue when No. 5 Kansas travels to Oklahoma State. Three months ago, this looked like the best game of the season but Kansas has already clinched the conference and Oklahoma State is 6-9 in league play. The Cowboys really, really need a win.
4) Xavier needs wins to keep themselves on the right side of the bubble, and a home win against No. 9 Creighton will be a tough one to get. As good as Semaj Christon is, can this group matchup with Creighton’s front court? Matt Stainbrook isn’t chasing Doug McDermott or Ethan Wragge around.
5) No. 11 Cincinnati at UConn will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend. Cincinnati is a big, physical team that loves to pound the offense glass. UConn? They don’t have much size up front and they rely heavily on Shabazz Napier to generate offense for them.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25:
- LSU at No. 1 Florida, 4:00 p.m., CBS
- No. 10 Saint Louis at VCU, 6:00 p.m., ESPN2
- No. 13 San Diego State at Fresno State, 10:05 p.m., CBSSN
- Minnesota at No. 16 Michigan, 6:00 p.m., BTN
- No. 17 Kentucky at South Carolina, 6:00 p.m., ESPN
- Illinois at No. 18 Michigan State, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2
- No. 19 North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 2:30 p.m., ESPN3
- UCF at No. 23 SMU, 4:00 p.m., ESPNN
- No. 24 Texas at Oklahoma, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
- UMass at Dayton, Sat. 11:00 a.m., ESPNU
- Vanderbilt at Tennessee, Sat. 12:00 p.m., ESPN2
- TCU at West Virginia, Sat, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
- Texas Tech at Baylor, Sat. 1:30 p.m., ROOT
- Mississippi State at Missouri, Sat. 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
- Pitt at Notre Dame, Sat. 2:00 p.m., ESPN2
- Colorado at Utah, Sat. 2:00 p.m., PAC12
- Richmond at Rhode Island, Sat. 2:00 p.m.,
- Georgia at Arkansas, Sat. 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
- BYU at San Diego, Sat. 4:00 p.m., ROOT
- Northwestern at Nebraska, Sat. 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
- Cal at Arizona State, Sat. 6:00 p.m., PAC12
- Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s, Sat. 10:00 p.m., ESPN2
This edition of Posterized comes to you from the NAIA ranks as Eric Gaines from Campbellsville University in Kentucky just destroys a Lindenwood defender on a a breakaway dunk.
The 6-foot-4 Gaines, a junior, spent his first two seasons of college at Kent State before transferring to Campbellsville, where he now throws down vicious dunks on unsuspecting victims in the NAIA ranks.
This is one of the better dunks I’ve seen since the season began.