This season has been an especially painful one for Purdue basketball fans to endure. Many of us had pretty high hopes coming into this campaign...and while the season isn't over, it surely isn't going according to play. As I've said to many of my friends, hope is on the way...the bench gets deeper next season...and in '10, a complete 12-man roster that might see 10 or 11 guys playing regularly will be calling Mackey their home court; so the future is very promising.
But, the greater state of the game may be more painful to witness than Purdue's situation.
First off, flagrant fouls and and thuggish behavior is running rampant and seems to be contagious...from the Southwest to the Midwest, flagrant, ugly plays seem to be more prevalent than ever. But no conference is uglier right now than the Big Ten.
The most recent incident involved IU's leading scorer Dumas...who acted shabbily not once, but three times during their game last weekend. The third, a shot to the junk, is probably something that needs to be left to the prats down at Duke...because that type of stuff isn't just cheap in the sport of basketball, it's flat-out deplorable behavior to any red-blooded man.
Tom Crean thinks Dumas' behavior is an out-cropping of frustration that Big Ten players just want & deserve respect on the national level,
"People are tired of the (Big Ten) getting a bad rap for not being good enough or aggressive enough and not being able to hold its own against the best competition in the country, that's certainly not the case."
Perhaps what the forehead means is that he's been telling his players all season that they're getting no respect (for good reason, by the way)...and they need to earn it by being tougher and more aggressive. While part of that notion is correct, the best way to get respect is to win, no doubt about that...and most of the incidents that I have seen seem to, coincidentally, come from teams that are in a frustrating or desparate situation.
Make no mistake though, frustration doesn't make this right...nor does playing with a chip on your shoulder make you a good player.
But is there a bigger problem at hand here in college basketball?
Perhaps. My older brother and I have been discussing this for years...and while we sound like old men when we talk about it, I think there's some validity to our discussion.
We've both coached basketball at low levels...and maybe that's the reason we think as we do...or maybe it's because we weren't very good players, I don't know.
But what we think is that the game of basketball is moving further and further away from its roots.
-The Big Ten and other leagues have tried to clamp down on carrying...they'ved done a poor job. Most point guards carry the ball every time they dribble. This isn't what Naismith intended.
-I've always been taught to play defense with my feet...and get in the right position to stop the ball handler from getting around me. That's not the way the game is played today- players grab, hold and slap during each possession...and away from the ball, it's even worse. In many games if you dare to go through the lane, you WILL get knocked back, down or at minimum off of the path you're going...and I'm not talking about players setting their feet, I'm talking about defensive players checking others like it's hockey.
-Offensively, it's no better, players are constantly leading with their non-dribbling elbow, setting moving screens and pushing off to create space.
There's no doubt, the speed of the game is entertaining, but it's really not basketball anymore. And as the NBA moves closer and closer to becoming a hybrid game like Slamball, the trickle down effect drains itself into the collegiate game and then finally all the way down to pee wee basketball. In my opinion, this erosion of what makes the game great might be the root of what we're witnessing this season.
Todd Lichliter of Iowa talked about Big Ten coaches this way:
"I have great respect for our coaches. They coach the game correctly. It is a contact sport. There is no question about that."
Sadly, the ex-Butler coach is absolutely correct, it is truly a contact sport now...and perhaps the players need to start wearing head gear if it's going to be played this way...I'm only half-kidding.
I railroad the Big Ten officials as some of the worst in all of America, possibly because of familiarity, but mostly because of the awful way they call the games...they will swallow their whistles for the most obvious violations, then, in the very same game, they will be chirping like birds and making sure the attention is on them...while calling the most ticky-tack fouls. This type of inconsistency is frustrating...but it isn't limited to the Big Ten. Jim Burr, Ed Hightower, Ted Hillary and other officials are disliked in other conferences as much as they are by Big Ten fans, because they oversee those games as well...and they're doing it at a clip that would make the average 25 year old marathoner fatigued; that also could be part of the problem.
But whether it's the way it's called, the leagues that oversee the rules, or the greater NCAA making/changing rules, something needs to be done to protect and preserve the game of basketball...If not, perhaps the ghost of James Naismith will take matters into his own hands.