Fixes for College basketball

college_basketball

I watched a bunch of college basketball on Saturday and I saw quite a few games with final scores in the 50s. It’s hard for me to believe but teams in the ’90s used to score 100 regularly. Once teams started playing quality opponents regularly this season I can’t think of anybody outside of Kentucky that has scored 100 points much less both teams in the same game.

This is an offense problem and a pace of play problem. A lot of people blame this on the belief that players are less skilled because they don’t stay in school as long. I don’t think that is accurate; if it was, would Kentucky be rampaging through their regular season schedule right now?

I believe a couple of rule changes would rectify these problems:

1. 28 Second Shot Clock

Thirty-five seconds is too damn long. San Diego State yesterday waited till the end of the clock to get a shot up all game against Boise State. It would be one thing if every team was like Wisconsin and got a good shot up, but most of the time it was “Crap there are 5 seconds left on the clock, I’m going to hoist up a wild three that will carom off the back board.” Shave off 7 seconds and I think it will encourage players to shoot faster.

2. Defensive 3 seconds

Teams just pack the paint all day long in college. I would do the defensive 3 seconds just like the NBA: it’s a free throw and the ball. You don’t call it all the time but often enough to keep people honest. The offense of most teams at this point is drives and threes. Making driving a little easier would help the other.

3. Three timeouts per half total

The last 2 minutes of a college basketball game are agonizing with timeouts and clock reviews. At this point Pandora is out of the box with reviews, but we can limit all these timeouts. I would add that coaches who don’t use a timeout in the first half get an extra one in the second half.

4. Fewer games

Teams are playing 12 and 13 non-conference games. Cut that number in half. The first game of the college basketball season doesn’t start until football conference championship games are over; that was the second week in December this past year. Trust me, no casual fans are paying attention before then. I think conference tournaments are kind cool, but in the monster conferences is there a reason to have everybody play each other if there an end of season tournament? I think fewer games helps keep people fresh and would maybe increase offense.

5. Realign conferences

At this point, everyone understands that college football rules the roost for money and prestige in college sports, but why let football screw up all of these rivalries in basketball? First, put the band back together in the Big East. No Big East fan I ever met wanted that conference to disband when it was time for basketball (Boston College goes back to the Big East). Mizzou and Texas A&M go back to the Big 12 and Maryland goes back to the ACC (although Louisville makes sense in the ACC).

For college basketball, have the conferences make sense geographically — again I think this difference in travel will make players less tired and hopefully more offensively fruitful. SMU was meeting UCONN today for the fifth time in the history of both schools and UCONN had never won. The appropriate response to that factoid is “Who gives a crap?” or “Why the Hell are SMU and UCONN?” playing each other again?”

Advertisements

In appreciation of Gary Pinkel

Insight Bowl - Missouri v Iowa

Brian Phillips, my current favorite writer, was questioning fans in Stillwater for wanting Mike Gundy’s head after two mediocre seasons. I have to agree that they should hold off to bringing the ax to Mr. “I’m a man; I’m 40” for at least a couple of seasons.

Two years ago, I wanted Gary Pinkel fired. My rationale was that I’m tired of coming up just short and that it might be time for a change … well, unless he delivers one of those magical seasons. Low and behold, last year, the Tigers only have one loss in the regular seasons (admittedly a total gut punch to South Carolina at home) — wins include: stomping Georgia on the road and ranked Florida, Texas A&M and Ole Miss teams. Mizzou played in the SEC title game in just the Tigers second year in the best college football conference in the nation and actually played Auburn pretty tough for three quarters. If they had the playoff last year, Mizzou might have been in the running for one of those spots, probably not because I think there were a few one loss teams that year but I think a two-loss team might make it this season.

I’m going to put my disclaimer here, we can easily lose to Arkansas. We play them the day after Thanksgiving, which is kind of a funky situation. The Razorbacks are a team we have not played and they just blasted two ranked SEC West teams. Still, the fact that Mizzou is in the situation that we could go back to the SEC title game two years in a row is mind boggling, considering we lost our top three receivers, our top two defensive lineman and our best corner from the previous season.

Gary Pinkel is the best coach in Mizzou history and it’s not even close. Here is what Tiger fans can expect every year:

  • The Tigers will have a dominant defensive line. I believe this trend goes back to Ziggy Hood. Mizzou churns out lightning fast lineman — Aldon Smith begot Sheldon Richardson who begot Michael Sam and Kony Ealy who begot Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Having a good defensive line basically ensures that you will have a good defense every year. It’s a lot easier to contend with a good defense.
  • The Tigers will produce at least one NFL player each season. From the 2013 team, Ealy was drafted the highest but EJ Gaines plays regular minutes for the Rams. From the disappointing 2012 team, Richardson has been a beast for the Jets and Zavier Gooden plays for Tennessee. From the 2011 team, Michael Egnew was the only guy to get drafted (and the history of Missouri tight ends in the NFL is not good). From the 2010 team, Aldon Smith, when not having problems with the law has been a world beater for San Fran and Blaine Gabbert, uh well he was drafted in the top 10. From the 2009 team, Sean Weatherspoon, who when healthy is one of the best linebackers in the league. The 2008 team produced Maclin, an all-pro caliber receiver, Hood, who was an NFL starter and William Moore, who is one of the better defensive players for the Falcons (he has been good in the league, but that descriptor does not say too much). So in the six drafts, only 2012 was the outlier. Hey, high school recruit, you want to play in the NFL? Missouri’s a pretty good place to be.
  • Especially, because of those players, only a handful were high level recruits. The only five stars were Gabbert and Richardson. On defense in particular, Mizzou develops players. I’ll use Aldon Smith as an example. People knew he was a freak athlete when he arrived in Columbia, but he was super skinny, which is why he was a three-star recruit. Pinkel and staff redshirted him a year and just yoked him up in the weight room. He was virtually unblockable after that.
  • On top of a great defensive line, the defense will have at least two other high quality play makers. That might actually be an understatement. Michael Scherer and Kentrell Brothers are at the very least extremely competent college linebackers. Braylon Webb, Kenya Dennis and Josh Gibson have all been pretty good in the secondary. I really like Dennis.
  • Mizzou will have at least two quality offensive play makers. This year it’s the running backs — both Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough. Last year it was the three wide receivers — Dorial Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington.

Dorial-Green-Beckham-has-been-arrested-again-no-charges-fil

I was ready to punt this season after the DGB fiasco. At the time, I wanted us to keep him and just let his transgressions play out. Now, I wonder if the karma gods are rewarding Mizzou for letting him go (I really hope he leaves for the NFL without ever playing a down for Oklahoma). He’s a bastard if he actually pushed that girl down a flight of stairs.

All of this is predicated on Mizzou beating Arkansas but I want to throw out a couple of scenarios. Alabama is not the force of nature it was two years ago. It’s offense is young and just not as talented. If they win the Iron Bowl, which they could easily lose, could Mizzou’s defense keep the Crimson Tide down enough for the Tiger offense to capitalize.

In the case that Alabama loses the Iron Bowl and Mississippi State beats Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, hasn’t it seemed like everything has worked out pretty much perfect for the Bulldogs this season? I think they might be due for a big stumbling block game.

Regardless, if Mizzou makes the SEC title game, they’ll be the team with A. a chip on its shoulder and B. nothing to lose. Even more than making the SEC title game in consecutive seasons, the perfect F-you to the conference would be to play spoiler to one of the SEC west powerhouses.

Again, I have Gary Pinkel to thank that the Tigers are even in this position.

Time to bench Maty Mauk?

mauk_bowtie

Maty Mauk went 6-for-18 with 20 yards and an interception yesterday against Florida. He was 9-for-21 with 97 yards and four picks against Georgia. He was 12-for-34 for 132 yards and (by the grace of God) zero interceptions against South Carolina. That’s three putrid games in a row. With Mizzou’s style of offense, a 50 percent completion rate is not too much to ask for.

Now the Tigers won two of those games against South Carolina and Florida. Pretty much everyone else was stellar against UF yesterday, but you cannot expect to get two defensive touchdowns and two return touchdowns every week.

It’s weird. In the NFL, where you get to keep your players for as long as you’re willing to pay them, I think Mauk would have been benched already. In college there is more thought put into ruining a guy’s confidence because Mauk might be our best option next year. He’s only a redshirt sophomore. Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and James Franklin all went through growing pains when they went to full-time duty (Gabbert a little less so but he threw slants and screens all-day long to Danario Alexander, who was a monster that season).

Then again Mizzou has an outside chance of winning the SEC east. The Tigers need Georgia to lose to someone, Florida on Nov. 1 would be perfect but unlikely (because Florida’s offense was even more of a train wreck than Mizzou’s yesterday). Tennessee in Knoxville, Texas A&M in College Station, Kentucky at home and Arkansas at home are all winnable games — Vandy at home is an absolute must win. But winning any of those games is a dubious proposition if Mauk can’t complete passes.

Mizzou’s other options at QB are Corbin Berkstresser and Eddie Printz. After seeing Berkstresser flub multiple games during Franklin’s injury woes two years ago, I’m not enthused about seeing the redshirt junior back in action, but he’s big — 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds — and has experience. Printz is a redshirt freshman but just a little bit smaller than Berkstresser — 6-foot-2 and 215 — and he was highly touted recruit.

The book is out on Mauk. It reads, rush him up the middle, watch him flee the pocket and then wait for an ill-advised pass on the run. If Printz is the eventual answer, next week against an over-matched Vanderbilt team may not be a bad time for his first start.