It seems with each college basketball season, people come up with reasons why the game is failing, in trouble, or not as good as it could be. Everywhere, think pieces pop up about how to increase ratings, or just make the game more viewer-friendly and entertaining. Personally, I don’t think viewership is ever going to be sky high because of how important the NCAA tournament is compared to the regular season, and the fact that a lot of college basketball overlaps with college football, but there are ways I think the game can be made more entertaining.
First, a few general thoughts before diving into the list below:
With regard to the schedule, while I don’t think it needs changing, I wouldn’t totally be against it either. As a fan of a lot of different sports, it is tough to see college basketball shuttered to the back pages while college and professional football are going on, and if the college basketball season got into swing either right around now, or after the college football season ended, there would be a more natural transition between the seasons. It would also give the end of the regular season, the conference tournaments, and the NCAA tournament a platform pretty much all by themselves if the sport moved them back a month or two. The two big counterpoints here, obviously, are that March Madness already captivates the American sports stage when it is, and moving it back would leave less time for prospects to declare for the NBA Draft and go through their pre-draft workouts, unless the NBA moved its draft back to accommodate college basketball. However, the NBA lately seems hesitant to accommodate the NCAA in any way shape or form.
The other most common critique or suggestion is to reduce the shot clock. If the NCAA wants to shave it down to 30 seconds I am on board, but any suggestion that it should go lower than that is a firm “no” for me. College offenses often look scattered and unorganized and struggle to get a good shot in 35 seconds, so I have little hope that going to 24 seconds would fix it. Scoring might go up, but efficiency and aesthetics would go way down.
I do, however, have a list of humble suggestions I would like to offer to the NCAA, free of charge:
1. Reduce the number of timeouts.
This one probably will never happen thanks to the need for commercials, but with TV timeouts every four minutes, teams do not need five timeouts each. Not all timeouts require a commercial break, of course, but that is a potential for 18 timeouts in a game. In a 40-minute contest, it goes without saying that is way too many.
Instead, I would go to three timeouts per team (which maybe seems low until my next proposal), and there would no “use it or lose it” timeout at the end of the first half. This would certainly shorten the length of the game, and either stop teams from unnecessarily stopping play in blowouts (see: every timeout called after a 3-pointer to reduce the lead to 6 with 10 seconds left).
2. No live ball timeouts
Why should a team which has been trapped in the backcourt for 9 seconds, or a team that is trapped in the corner, or a guy who has equal control of the ball with another guy, be able to call a timeout and get bailed out? It shouldn’t happen. FIBA has this rule and it works very well. Teams should be rewarded for playing well, not rewarded for hoarding timeouts.
3. No back to back timeouts
If there are a few seconds left and an out of bounds play is coming, teams shouldn’t be allowed to see how the opponent lines up and then call a timeout to change the defense or offense. If a team isn’t prepared for what the opposition is going to do, too bad.
4. 10 minute quarters
Too often with 20 minute halves, teams get into the bonus with over 10 minutes left in the half and then it is a free throw shooting contest. While being able to make free throws is an admirable skill, it lengthens the game way too much.
5. Extend the restricted area and revert to last year’s charge/block rule.
Defenders shouldn’t be allowed to camp under the basket, or slide under an offensive player driving for a clear shot at the hoop. It rewards bad defenders and unathletic players and also forces refs to make a lot of tough (and incorrect) calls that ruin the experience of watching a game. Again, pull up jumpers and the like are impressive and important skills to have, but it’s much more fun as a fan to watch guys make dunks or acrobatic layups without the fear of picking up an offensive foul.
6. Jump balls either automatically go to the defense or are actual jump balls
The former would reward the defense for making a good play as well as keep the game sped up, while the latter would reduce the incentive for a guard to dive in and tie up a big guy, but would slow the game down a bit more. It’s a matter of preference here.
7. Allow teams to touch the ball on the cylinder
The FIBA rule is a bit complicated at first to people not used to it, but so many refs get the in the cylinder call wrong, anyway. It would be nice for them to have one fewer thing to worry about and will also allow athletes to make athletic plays.
8. No foul outs
The grand finale. While this might increase fouling to start with, I hate that trying to plow into an important player in an attempt to get him in foul trouble is an acceptable strategy. I also hate that teams can finish games without their most important players because of fouls, especially when fouls are called so inconsistently these days.
Instead, I would make it so that on the fifth foul or more by a player, the opposing team gets a free throw and the ball. On the seventh foul, if it got that far, it would be two shots and the ball. It would still require coaches to strategize whether to pull players from the game, but would ensure that a coach could play his five best players at the end of a game no matter what.