It is Final Four weekend. Both the men and women’s Final Four are being held this weekend. The men play on Saturday and Monday, and the women play on Sunday and Tuesday. I think it is a shame, but hardly anyone seems to be following the women’s tournament. It has been suggested that the NCAA move the woman’s tournament so it doesn’t directly conflict with the men’s. I don’t know if that will do any good, but it may.
However, there is one piece that has come out that actually says negative things about men’s and women’s basketball. That is Geno Auriemma’s comments that men’s basketball is “a joke”. Part of his quote points out one of the problems facing basketball, and for that matter many sports. He said: “….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.
I have to admit that Auriemma is correct. Scoring in college basketball is, on average, 10 points lower than it was about 20 years ago. There was more scoring in the game before the 35 second clock. That 35 second clock is another stupid item in the men’s game. Heck, even the women play with a 30 second clock! Why does it take the men 35 seconds to run a play?
Auriemma goes on to say that “Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor.” That is also true. However, I must ask Auriemma why these rule changes are necessary to improve or “help” be better on the offensive end of the floor? There is a simple answer. Players are not being taught, and not being held responsible to use the “fundamentals” of the game.
There is one “undefeated” team left in men’s basketball. Kentucky. However, the one knock against them is they don’t score! Their shooting percentage is horrible! Yes, they play good defense, but their shooting and free throw shooting are terrible. That is their achilles heal. I don’t know if it will hurt them in the Final Four, and that is the problem with the game.
There were at least two games in the “Elite Eight” that were decided because one team or the other couldn’t make free throws! Half of the Final Four are in there because their opponent couldn’t make free throws. What is wrong with that picture? Why aren’t players, and their coaches, emphasizing fundamental play anymore? Because it isn’t “sexy” enough and won’t get them on Sports Center “Top Plays.”
I believe the two sports most affected by this lack of fundamental play is basketball and football. I am talking about both at the college level and at the professional level. I am tired of hearing about Player A “going off for 45 points” as if he did something terrific. Player A took about 50 shots himself. When you take into consideration free throws and three pointers, that pencils out to about 38% shooting!
Not to mention that if Player A made half of his free throws, he might have scored 50 points. I am also tired of being told that the “Top Plays” are dunks. Let’s face facts, if a man 6 feet 6 inches tall cannot dunk a basketball, he probably shouldn’t be playing basketball.
Then there are the “violations” that aren’t “violations” anymore. Like walking or palming the ball. How can we expect players to use fundamentals when they aren’t being enforced by the referees? I can’t tell you how many “traveling violations” I counted in just one game last weekend that were not called. Before you argue that I am just being biased, I did referee high school basketball.
When these players move into the NBA it gets even worse. The NBA almost never calls “traveling.” On top of that, the NBA uses a “star hierarchy” to determine who gets the foul called against them. If a “star” makes a move and there is a collision, the “star” gets the call in his favor, even if he was the one to commit the foul.
Football is even worse. How many times have you seen a running back “break” six or seven tackles on one run? Once in a while it is because the runner is that good. The vast majority of the times is because the defensive players don’t know how to tackle! Again, thanks to “Top Plays” tackling has become “run as fast as you can at someone, slam into him, and hopefully he will fall to the ground.”
Those are the kinds of “tackles” that make it to the “Top Plays” list. As a result, fundamentals of the game are lost. I doubt that they will ever come back either. I played football in my youth. I loved the game. I have basically stopped watching the game because they don’t play football anymore. It is more like watching a demolition derby.
Auriemma is also correct in saying ” This is entertainment we’re talking about. People have to decide, do I want to pay 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.”
I have more-or-less abandoned watching both football and basketball. Yes, I watch the NCAA Tournament, but more by flipping to it during commercials on other programs. I cannot say I have watched an entire game for years. The same is true for football. I used the same technique during the Super Bowl.
This is not to say there aren’t exceptional players in both sports. There are. The trouble is that too many “stars” don’t know how to play the game correctly. They have become more of a one-on-one game of egos rather than the team games they are supposed to be.
As a result, I find both games very boring to watch. I don’t understand how a team can pay out $100 million to a defensive middle-linebacker who doesn’t know how to tackle or to a 38% shooter. You can say all you want about how defenses in basketball has gotten better. But, when one team misses six 12 foot open jumpers in a row, that isn’t good defense, it is bad shooting.
You can also complain about athletes leaving college early for the pros. But, remember, they came to college not knowing how to play properly, so how can you expect them to play properly in the pros? Imagine how much more money may be available if someone could actually shoot the ball, tackle someone, or block someone.
If you need to see an increase in offense, teach the game correctly and give the players the fundamental tools they need to compete. Then you will see offense increase. You may even see defense increase as well. To me, there is nothing more dramatic than watching a fundamentally sound “unstoppable” offense pitted against a fundamentally sound “unmovable” defense. That is sports, and that is something that neither basketball nor football gives us anymore.
Oh well, enjoy the Final Four and “Go Big Ten!”