Dance Fever

4
93

You can’t beat this stuff. And you can’t kill it.

Yet the experts say college basketball is worse than ever, and that the game is facing a “crisis.”

Scoring is down, possessions are down, field goal percentage is down, even regular season attendance is down.

Yeah, okay.

I didn’t think about ANY of that while watching these games over the last four days.

All I saw was passionately played basketball, by players with skillets that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. The joy of the players and coaches when they win, is undoubtedly real. As are the tears and hushed voices when they lose.

sadness

And despite some cynics saying these kids are only in school to play basketball, if you open your ears and do a little research, you’ll be amazed that many of best players you see, are also legitimately good students.

If you still have all this, and if you have networks happily handing over huge checks to televise it, you don’t have a problem. You have some ragged edges to smooth over.

But no, let’s over-react, shall we?

Let’s pay the players, shorten the shot clock, and spend a boatload of money to buy a bunch of “full-time” referees.

That’ll “fix” this game that’s in a near “crisis.”

By the way, the subject of paying athletes is going to come up again this week, so let me re-state my stance that such an idea is insane.

Unless NCAA Division I schools are struggling to find enough warm bodies to accept their deal of “books-tuition-TV-coaching-training-tutoring-for-play” there’s no need to make them pros.

I believe the reason guys like Jay Bilas are so annoyingly preachy about paying the players, is because he’s making a seven figure salary these days just TALKING about the game. At best, he’s probably harboring some serious guilt. At worse, he’s afraid of being called a hypocrite.

Of course paying these kids would be the equivalent of poisoning the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner. A certain and fairly swift death of what this event means to the average fan, would follow.

This tournament still resonates in a social-media-ugly world, because of it’s corny-ness. It’s Roy Williams bouncing into the lockeroom to do a dance and lead a chant with 19 year olds. It’s Ron Turner breaking down in tears rubbing the head of his star player son, R.J. It’s Pat Connaghton’s parents being isolated and mic’d up for the cameras, agonizing over every play.

A Villanova piccolo player, bravely tooting her flute in the face of 1-seed upset sorrow.

One shining moment, indeed.

College basketball has never been better, and anyone who think otherwise is hostage to hopeless nostalgia.

More good players are on more good teams, in more far flung parts of the country than ever before. More games are on television, in the most glorious high definition, across the most amount of networks ever.

You can buy more sweatshirts and read more in-depth coverage on more basketball dedicated websites than ever. From anywhere!

But no, the college game is not the NBA. Sorry.

If you want to boost scoring, that can easily be done. They tried it early in the 2013 season with an emphasis on “freedom of movement”, and it worked. Then like a dog distracted by a squirrell, the sport just sorta forgot about all that, and the downward offensive trends resumed.

You want the simple answer to why scoring and attendance are sagging? It’s simple.

Players are faster and more explosive vertically than ever. Thus, getting off a clean shot today is harder than opening a clamshell package wearing mittens. Faster players initiate more contact, contest more shots at the rim, and guard tenaciously out to 23 feet and beyond. The only way to loosen the death grip of wickedly athletic defense, is to call fouls.

Lots of them.

You’ll need to foul out 3 players per team for about a year and a half solid. Then things will change. If the sport can withstand the inevitable shrieks of “let them play!”

cauleystien

The attendance issue is one that every sport is going to have to battle the next 20 years. Television is so good now, and so many games are shown “for free” (cable bill, not included) that it’s only natural more people are staying home.

Inducing fans to actually show up, is going to necessarily involve reducing ticket prices, which the big business of college sports won’t like. There’s no reason why a live sporting event shouldn’t cost the same thing as a movie.

Hell, the chances of a game totally sucking is far less than a movie you choose to see, and there’s no parking lot lines at the cineplex.

Both of these are manageable problems. They are not existential threats to the game.

Previous article
Next article
Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Czabe, Couldn’t have said it better myself!! While the NCAA has many self-induced problems, college basketball is still a great sport to watch. And yes, most of these student athletes are playing for pride, not a for a pro ticket. This play for pride lends itself to intense, heartfelt playing and on the court with emotions not often seen in the NBA. Of course NBA play is at a higher level but not even close to as entertaining as good college game. If someone needs more scoring that just means you can’t appreciate the strategy and skill it takes to set up the offense and fight for a good shot. I love college BBall and by the likes of the crowds at my local wing joint during March, so do many others.

  2. It will be interesting to see if (or when) the narrative changes between the first weekend of play and the second weekend. As they go from the smorgasbord of four games at a time to only having one game at a time with no other game to flip to during stoppages or lulls. Sort of like a movie that is hyped and promoted into a boffo opening weekend only to fall off the face of the planet afterwards.

  3. Steve,

    Couldn’t agree with you more about paying the players. Start paying them and I’ll watch college bball as I do the pros, zero. This is where I would normally go on my “NCAA is already the NBA’s minor league” rant, but I think everyone can guess that narrative. Whoever said that they should open the NBA back up to high school graduates in the last week or so deserves a gold star. There is no reason for anyone to go to college to get a fake education (basket-weaving, TV 101, etc.) just so they can be NBA eligible, and only hurts the people really wanting to parlay their basketball skills into a real education.

  4. Czabe, in a way I don’t want you to read this but hopefully you will. For years I was a loyal listener to Bob and Brian even before you with, dare I say, Dan Patrick. But you were are welcome change for the joker in between. But I digress, your thoughtfulness in relation to sport and yes life is something that I have missed without knowing it. Reading this article regarding this year’s March Madness reminds me that I must listen to Bob and Brian again and most especially with your portion of the show being the biggest draw. Bob and Brian are great but your insight is special. I have seen the light, now don’t blind me with your brilliance, sorry that won’t happen you are just not that smart.

    Thanks.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here