I caught the third half of NBA basketball that I've watched all season tonight...it was entertaining, but it wasn't basketball.
The Pacers gave the Heat all they could handle before Bron Bron made an astoundingly-athletic play to lay the ball in before the clock hit triple zero. The things James can do with a basketball in his hands, whether dribbling or traveling are astounding. He'd be the best tight end in the NFL right now if he would have chosen to do so; the guy is a freak. I'm not diminishing his athleticism, or anyone else's for that matter, in the NBA- they're amazing athletes...that's probably part of the reason I hate the NBA so much...These guys don't need any more help.
Things like giving the ball to the offense on the other side of half court after a timeout has been called following a basket show the silliness of the game. If a team allows their opposition to score and a second or two is remaining, they should have to work to get the ball up the court...not be awarded with the ball in the position to score easily. You already know that I can't stand the NBA if you come here very often...so the thought of college basketball moving closer and closer to that game simply pains me.
As I watched tonight, I was reminded how much more I like college basketball. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty wrong with the game...but I blame most of that on the NBA and people like Dick Vitale who are incessantly insisting that the NCAA continues to take steps toward the NBA game.
Crappy, inconsistent, overly-demonstrative officiating is something NBA players and teams have to deal with; it's a way of life, and its a monster that they've allowed, if not encouraged, to grow out of control. The fact that I know the name of three or four NBA officials, in itself says a lot; I'm not sure if I know the names of the starting five on the team from my hometown. The asshats in gray shirts with black sleeves love being part of the story...and their little brothers, Hightower, Burr, Valentine and others love getting lathered up with a good home crowd. Rather or not any of them realize it, NO ONE came to see them do their job and I truly wish we didn't know who they are (professionally, anyway).
If you've watched a game with Vitale swallowing the mic, you've heard the names of the officials as he reminds us how Valentine (or someone else who is awful at his job) is one of the best in the game. No, he's really not, but it's not surprising that Vitale likes his style. While Vitale calls college games, he lusts for college basketball to become whatever sport the NBA has become.
Everything about the NBA takes too long. The season is about 20 games too long, the playoffs take too long and should have never been extended...and the game itself is excruciatingly-long. Game stoppages are more common than action. One of the stoppages that Vitale wants to be brought down into the college game is the jump ball after each tie-up. The possession arrow has been a part of college basketball for over 30 years. It's not perfect, but it keeps the game moving, and maybe more so, it's not an NBA rule, so I'm a fan of it. Also, the possession arrow favors good fundamentals. For instance, if a big man holds the ball up high, he's generally not going to get tied up by a smaller player. In this scenario, the NBA rule will reward the taller guy with an easy jump over a smaller player for bringing the ball down. Also, if a guy gives up his dribble too early, there should be a consequence; the tie-up is one of those consequences.
Now, the NCAA has a real problem in the simple fact that offensive players aren't allowed to stand their ground. Often, the defender will accost and beat-up an offensive player in an effort to get the tie-up forcing that player to try to break free. Officials need to blow the whistle on the initial contact. If a defender can't make the play cleanly, it's a foul; pretty simple. Afterall, basketball was once a game that didn't require pads beneath the unis. But the NBA has already filtered down too much to the college game. We need less of that, not more like Vitale insists upon.
So we already have a game that that allows too much banging 25 feet away from the basket, let alone in the paint...but that's not enough for Dukie V. He also wants the NCAA to have six fouls like the league:
"I am sick and tired of seeing star players getting whistled for two quick fouls and then winding up on the sideline. Nothing against the officials that are out there doing their job, but there were too many times this past season where stars were sitting because coaches were afraid they would get a third foul in the first half."
Did you catch that? His premise says a lot about what he thinks about college basketball. He thinks it's about the star players...not about the team. He wants it to be about the individual; isolation plays, one-on-ones...that's what college fans want, right? Not really. I'd argue that even the majority of fans of teams like Kentucky and other NBA mills are still there to watch their squad, not just individuals. Sure foul trouble hurts, but this argument is a bit like a political argument in which we should make everything legal because the jails are too crowded. This type of thinking has large consequences and really doesn't address the root of the problem. PLUS, and more obvious, the college game is 40 minutes long...the NBA game is 48 minutes long. I wasn't a math major. But I can tell you with a decent amount of confidence that both games give every player one foul for every 8 minutes played. Seems pretty fair, no?
Vitale continues his asinine argument by saying this sixth foul is needed because the game is more physical than it used to be. Finally, we agree on something...BUT, giving the players another foul isn't the answer- calling the game consistently and less like an NBA game would cure this problem.
Another thing that Dukie V wants to see changed is he wants the shot clock to be changed from 35 to 30 seconds. Once again, this takes college basketball another step toward the NBA game; a place that people like me don't want to see it go. His argument is that offensive efficiency needs to be improved. The theory is of course flawed because a rushed shot isn't a better shot...But really, this is another rule that would greatly favor the teams that have superstars. Setting up a play and moving the ball isn't what Vitale wants. He wants more running, less discipline, less team basketball and more one-on-one matchups.
All of that is great in the NBA. There are 30 teams in the NBA, drafts, salary caps, and contracts have a way of creating parity*. But in the NCAA, you have small athletic departments competing with much larger ones. Butler's budgets are no where near that of Kentucky, UConn...or even Purdue. But they still have to play these teams...and guys like Brad Stevens use their brains to try to offset the clear talent disparity; and it works. Many of Vitale's proposed changes move the college game toward the murky waters of a one-on-one game. Most players had plenty of that style in AAU ball; the really good ones will get to play it again in the league. Talent will always be king, but the reason Cinderella exists at all is generally because of tremendous coaching.
Oh yeah, one more thing Vitale wants- he wants every college basketball player to be paid. Perrrrrrrfect. At the very least, he's consistent- Consistently moronic and ironic. Vitale perpetually defends guys like Calipari and Calhoun who break NCAA rules like they breath...Coach Vitale, memo: Many of the teams that are loaded with the superstars and diaper dandies that you love so much already pay their players, baby! I guess in his world, his pals could stop living a lie; so that'd be nice for them.
Vitale yells about how college basketball is the greatest game in the world, YET, he's trying his damnedest to make college basketball into the game that used to be basketball in the NBA.
The NCAA would be wise to do as so many of us have continually done whenever Vitale is speaking, and hit the mute button.
*When Stern isn't making exceptions to certain trades and blocking others