UConn’s Geno Auriemma on current state of men’s college basketball: ‘I think the game is a joke’

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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.

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

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John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

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Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

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Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)