We Need to Realize What’s “Broken” in College Basketball Before We “Fix It”

We are all weak and imperfect beings.

Regarding the biannual what’s wrong with college basketball columns: I swore there would be no caving on my end, and that I would not write any more than absolutely necessary, but it looks as though a trip to church to confess some sins might be in order.

Here we are, again, debating the merits of shortening the 35-second shot clock to 30. These new — but totally the same — discussions are thanks to Michael DeCourcy of The Sporting News, who published his latest in a long line of columns against the move.

This is not directed squarely at Michael, either. He has points, some of which are valid, and he has been on that particular side of the fence since these discussions became regular parts of our lives.

I don’t care all that much if the switch is made or not, to be clear. My biggest knock against the current shot clock has as much to do with coaches micromanaging as it does with the amount of time on it. I’ve already written about it before, during the sport’s first round of the biannual tradition (it is quickly becoming a monthly tradition, for what it is worth), but to sum it up: Many, not all, coaches run 10-second motion sets to “start” their offensive sets without there being any true attempts to make moves to the basket or engage in honest offense… or anything that would make the defense feel threatened.

That’s rather wish-washy, though. Many other issues demand more urgent attention within the sport. Too many timeouts, too many Division I teams, too little talent, too little free movement, too this and too that — all the “toos” in the world, really.

Here is what we need to acknowledge before we fix whatever the hell it is we are tying to fix with college basketball: There aren’t enough good players in the sport to fix it.

We need to stop comparing efficiency, tempo, pace, and all other stats we use to make our side of the argument factual in comparison to previous generations. We also need to stop comparing teams with lesser talent (NIT teams) to those with more (who are in the Big Dance). It shouldn’t work that way. It can’t, because it makes no sense. Are we really that naive to think that the second dude off the bench in almost all mid-majors is going to end up shooting over 43 percent from the field because of a shot-clock alteration?

Shot clocks, timeouts, you name it… the problem(s) can’t actually be fixed because the talent is not there to equal what our ideal college basketball situation would look like. Our dream scenarios are unrealistic. We can can continue to tinker with the shot clock, or complain about the shot clock, or pretend any of it actually matters, but that’s like building a dinosaur park. Just like a lack of talent in Division I hoops, there are no {expletive} dinosaurs!

It is simple math. College basketball, minus talent, equals what we have.

That’s the equation. There’s no fixing it, either.

There are no magical buttons to push, grassroots programs to build, or seminars to be had — it is what it is. With there being, approximately, eleventy-billion Division I basketball programs out there, we need to accept that this is the game we have been given. There are just too many players in the sport to expect them all be what we are clamoring for.

Can we tinker to make college hoops more enjoyable to our senses? Sure. Get rid of some of the timeouts, for the love of Sam Cassell Jr. Let’s fix how the replays work (just have them reviewed by an official not on the hardwood — no need for stoppages), and so on.

The shot clock debate, though? Eh. I can live with or without it. Advanced stats people, regular columnists, and the most casual of the ho-hum fans can continue to throw data out there — which is usually done only in a vacuum which fits their opinion — but at the end of the day it matters as much as starting a GoFund me account for that dinosaur park you’ve been planning to open.

Talent is what is wrong with college basketball — whatever “wrong with college basketball” actually means. We just need to accept that going forward or we will have these same debates over, and over, and over again… much as we have been doing since we all decided college basketball was broken.

So here I am. I beg of you, all of you, to please stop. It doesn’t matter anymore. I swear to (your respective) god that no matter the changes we make to the shot clock, none of us will be happy. Not because the game won’t be fixed, but because what is broken with the game is something we can’t change, because it is the game — it is the talent.

See you guys again in October, when we have this discussion again. I’ll miss you guys… except I totally won’t.

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.