College basketball has never been worse. Please spare me the whole rah rah, they play with passion and defense and intensity. The skill level and basic fundamentals are at an all-time low and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Before you sprint to your email, I know the March Madness tournament is exciting. And I know the game involving YourAlmaMater State against HatedRival University is fantastic. The band plays, the cheerleaders smile and everyone wears the team colors. But I am talking about the actual play on the court and it is alarming how far it has fallen.
Point number one: College players can not shoot. They’ll jack up a three-pointer at any given moment, but when you watch a big time game (Big East, Big 10, ACC,) you see players clanking the ball off the rim from 12-15 feet. The reason? Top high school players in the United States do not work on the fundamentals of the game. They spend their entire summer and off-season playing in AAU games all around the country trying to impress scouts with their rim-rattling dunks.
Point number two: The 3 point shot. It is way too close in college basketball. It’s time to move it back and make it much less enticing for college teams. I watch game after game where teams just work that weave about the top of the key and find the spot-up 3-point shooter in the corner. The shot is so short it takes away the incentive to work the ball inside for the much more makeable two-point shot.
Point number three: The best players leave early. I hate the one-and-done rule. If I ran college basketball and the NBA I would let any high school player go directly into the NBA. But once they chose college they would have to stay a minimum of two years. You would have to be a pretty special athlete to think you can make the jump out of high school. If they played at least two years in college you could build some continuity on the best teams and the total play level would improve.
The disparity in play between the NBA and college basketball has never been greater. The guy who tells you that college basketball is better because there is “more team play and they play defense” either knows nothing or hasn’t watched a pro game in a decade. The big boys play in the NBA. Give an NBA guy a wide open 15-footer and it's 2 points. Plus, the best college guys in the country struggle to adapt to what it really takes to play defense in the NBA.
I am excited about March Madness. I’ll be covering the games and filling out my brackets like everyone else. But don’t confuse tough, competitive games with great basketball. That’s the way it used to be in the NCAA. I hope we get back there some day.