On May third, Michael Lopresti, a sports columnist for Gannett News Service wrote an article talking about college basketball and some issues facing my favorite sport. One of the issues he was addressing was the problem with the officiating.
I agree with his statement about officiating, or lack thereof, and its consistency in the college game. For that matter, the consistency of officiating on any level of basketball is not very good. Being the wallflower I am without an opinion on many subjects, I decided I had to write to him and this is what I wrote: He even replied, thanking me for my input and calling my thoughts "Interesting." I got a kick out of that, he thought I was interesting!
I read your article today and appreciate your commentary. As I see it, from watching a lot of college basketball over these many years, the problem is not the officiating, but rather the three-point shot, five fouls and you're out, and not playing fundamental basketball. Think about it, ever since the three-point shot came into existence and guys think they need to go out beyond the three-point line to shoot, we have seen a steady decline in shooting percentages. If you watch a college practice or the pre-game shoot around, all you see are guys going out beyond the line and hiking up three-point shots. The art of the midrange jumper and using the backboard are completely lost. They can't shoot free throws either because they don't practice them. Instead, all they do is practice their crossover dribbles, dribbling between their legs, practicing their flashy playground moves and hiking up three-pointers. It seems oftentimes their goal is to do something so flashy it gets them on ESPN.
Watch a college basketball game, and watch the lack of fundamental basketball being played. Someone will drive the lane, jump up in the air and then try to make a pass or shoot a teardrop, and hope it goes in. There is a reason for that square on a backboard, and nobody knows how to use it. I believe everyone should spend their shoot around time going back to shooting the midrange jumpers and practicing using the backboard.
Another thing that bothers me is watching a player drive the lane and then turn around and throw it back to a guy behind the three-point line. Rather than stopping and taking a 10-foot bank shot with a higher percentage of completing, he will turn around and dish it out to the guy behind the line. Once he leaves the ground, he has no control and often times will charge and commit a foul.
There is no other sport you can foul out. Dick Vitale suggests going to a six foul rule. I want to go him even one better, and give them as many fouls as they want because when a player gets his second foul early in the first half, the coach takes him out and sets his maybe best player for the remainder of the first half. That's where officiating needs to change. A lot of times they call that second foul on a guy that never did anything. Or, a referee will make a call from behind because he just assumed somebody must've fouled. I say give them all the fouls they want, just make them all major fouls after five. Give the offended team two free throws and the ball just like they do now with a flagrant foul. Players don't want to foul. All refereeing crews do not call the same game, or even the same half for that matter. People don't come to the games to watch the stars sit on the bench when they get two fouls in the first half. Fans come to watch the players play, and the referees officiate. They don't come to watch the good players sit on the bench.
Another thing is the alternating possession rule. Go back to letting them jump on a held ball! So many times, when a player forces a jump ball, it just goes right back to the offensive team because of the possession rule. It's a bad rule and should be eliminated. Teach the referees to throw the ball up straight!
Lastly, start calling carrying the ball because virtually every player carries the ball with almost every dribble. It's a violation, so call it. It's that way with many of the fundamental aspects of the game. Many players don't know how to set a pick, roll off a pick, run an effective give and go, or make a good pass to the location where the receiving player can catch it.
When the going gets tough, players revert to their playground habits.
I'm nobody, just an interested fan who would love to see the game I grew up with. Watching guys like Rick Mount, Calvin Murphy, Lew Alcindor, Elvin Hayes amongst countless other great players in the 60s and 70s who played again fundamentally sound and with a commitment that wasn't flashy; it was just good fundamental basketball.
I could have never played for him, but Bobby Knight, despite all of his behavior and boorish attitude, turned out winners because they played the game fundamentally sound. He made sure of that! I would have liked to have played for John Wooden. He taught the fundamentals!
I appreciate if you read this far on my rant. College basketball is a great game and it's fun to watch. I just like to see good, well-played, fundamentally sound execution of my favorite sport!
No, not that Mike Patrick! :-)
Although, I do have a great Mike Patrick story about meeting him twice. It was a fun experience.
P.S. Here is his reply from yesterday:
Hi Mike ...
Thanks so much for the note and the input. Interesting. And yes, I did make it to the bottom of your "rant."