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.