Last March at the CenturyLink Center, I had a ringside seat when Wichita State beat Kansas. The Shockers outmuscled the favored Jayhawks and knocked ’em out of the NCAA tournament.
Depending on your point of view, it was both inspiring and revolting. I’ve never seen so many fouls go uncalled.
Games such as that one inspired the power brokers to take a long, hard look at college basketball. They responded with a 30-second shot clock and a greater emphasis on eliminating WWE-style defense.
Pessimists rolled their eyes: “Yeah, yeah, we’ll see. Officials will bite their whistles in conference play like they always do.”
Well, it’s Feb. 22, we’re entering the homestretch of the season and I dare say that college basketball has indeed improved.
Tweet from Jay Bilas: "This season, scoring is up by 6.5 points per game. There are 4.2 more possessions, 1.1 more fouls and 1.1 more FTA. All positive trends."
Tweet from John Gasaway: “With 79% of games now in the books, scoring per 40 min in major-conference play up 8% vs year-end 2015. Pace up 7%, FT rate unchanged.”
This morning on the Big 12 coaches teleconference, I asked Kansas’ Bill Self for his assessment of the rules changes with almost one full season in the books.
“I think it’s been good for our game,” Self said. “I do like the fact that scoring is up. You’d have to believe that the shot clock is impacting it. There’s obviously a couple or three, four more possessions a game, which I think is very positive. I like it. I do think it’s a hard game to referee because you can still call a foul on pretty much every possession.”
Officials and players will get more acclimated with the points of emphasis, Self said.
“But for the most part, forYear 1, I think it’s been good.”
Texas coach Shaka Smart echoed the endorsement of the shot clock — he actually wanted to drop to 24 seconds. Like Self, he thinks the quicker whistles make it tough.
“In terms of the fouls, I think it really puts the officials in a tough spot because it’s really, really hard for them to call every one of those touch fouls,” Smart said.
“So what happens is, as a coach or as a player, you really have to figure out game-to-game and almost half-to-half how the game is gonna be officiated and what they’re gonna allow to happen and what they’re not gonna allow to happen.”
Have the new rules solved the problems? I wouldn’t go that far. Freedom of movement doesn’t apply when a big man tries to post up on the block. And I’m still concerned that as games become more important at the end of the season, they could revert to wrestling matches.
But we’re not seeing 53-51 games nearly as much. That’s Step 1 in winning back the casual fan.
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>> So "30 for 30" is finally tackling the '94 and '95 Huskers. Most Nebraska fans will be giddy with anticipation. They've been waiting for ESPN's documentary series to validate Tom Osborne's best teams.
My advice: Be careful what you wish for.
I'm sure that the film will revive the debate (on a national scale) about whether NU '95 is the best of all-time. I'm sure it will examine the brilliance of option football and the Big Red machine. Those are good things. But I fear (for Nebraska's sake) that this turns out more like "The U" than the inspiring doc on the '85 Bears.
For years, Nebraskans have glossed over the not-so-rosy details of 1995, focusing instead on the on-field dominance. I don't imagine "30 for 30" will fall into the same nostalgia trap.
>> With 7:43 left at Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday night, I wrote on Twitter that the final minutes of Nebraska-Ohio State would go a long way in defining the Huskers’ hoops season.
Rally to win and NU records its best home W of the season, moves to 7-8 in the Big Ten and maintains a shot at the NIT. Even with a 1-2 finish, NU could’ve guaranteed a .500 season and a respectable 8-10 conference finish.
You know what happened from there. NU rallied, pushed the game to overtime and lost. Now 6-12 looks possible (at Penn State, Purdue and at Northwestern).
The friendly confines of PBA haven’t been so friendly in 2015-16. Nebraska has beaten only Minnesota (1-13), Rutgers (0-14) and Penn State (5-9) in Big Ten play. And that doesn’t count the loss to Samford back in December.
With Shavon Shields sidelined, I think Tim Miles is getting the most out of his personnel. But there just isn’t enough skill and size available right now.
There comes a point in every disappointing season (regardless of sport) when the grind of losing emotionally wears on a team, prompting it to lose confidence and hope. Nebraska needs to hold on for two more weeks and try to salvage this thing.
Any sort of postseason bid would be a boost to the program.
>> Doug McDermott channeled his inner 2013 self Friday night in Chicago, scoring 30 points against Toronto. Looked like the Creighton version of McDermott, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. Doug followed it up with 16 points Sunday against the Lakers.
Following a poor performance Thursday against Cleveland, McDermott received a quick pep talk from his coach. Doug’s biggest problem these days? Confidence. I think part of it is he’s not a featured guy and, thus, too often the Bulls stick him on the wing as a floor spacer and don’t let him move. When Doug isn’t moving, Doug isn’t productive.
Chicago’s roster is destined for implosion — probably at the end of the season. The personnel just doesn’t fit Hoiberg’s space-and-pace philosophy. But he loves McDermott, we know that. Hopefully this weekend gives No. 3 the jolt he needs to prove he’s part of the solution in Chicago, not the problem.
>> In case you missed it, Denny Hamlin has only dreamed of winning Daytona since the second grade.
>> I hate to let Daytona go by without sharing Liz Clarke’s phenomenal tribute to Dale Earnhardt, 15 years after his death.
>> Dennis Dodd shares new details on the arms race in college football and finds an increasing gap between Power-5 schools and schools like San Diego State.
>> On a related note, Colorado is trying to expand its football stadium. It is not going well. Said one regent: "It really makes me sick."
>> Here’s your update on Jim Harbaugh’s spring break trip. The Michigan coach defends it. The Big Ten commish has no comment.
>> Bubba Starling, slowly but surely, is starting to look like a major-league hitter.
"It's just batting practice,” Ned Yost told reporters today in Arizona, “but he's so much quieter on his bottom side. He's looking more hitter-ish every year."
I’m imagining a September 2016 scenario in which Starling and Alex Gordon are playing together in the Royals outfield with Brian Duensing on the mound. Now if we could only get Shawn Watson hired as hitting coach.
>> The careers of Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet and Evan Wessel are finally coming to a close in Wichita. Tony Adame writes about the special relationship between the Shocker trio and their city.
>> One thing that will anger a coach more than just about anything is suggest (or just flat-out opine) that he’ll retire soon. A proud coach always perceives it as an affront to his pride — and red meat for rival recruiters.
>> I’m not a big soccer guy, but why does it seem like the USMNT gets a bad draw in every single international event? It’s uncanny. This summer’s Copa America Centenario could be humbling for the Americans.
>> Don’t click on this if you’re not a golf geek — it’ll waste your time. But those like me who can’t stand what has happened to CBS broadcasts will nod the whole way through. The No. 1 rule in golf broadcasting: SHOW GOLF SHOTS.
>> Finally, I was back in Rising City Sunday for my grandma’s 95th birthday party. My 5-year-old son and 7-year-old nephew started digging through old stuff I didn’t even know we had.
First, our old baseball, football and basketball cards. I think I found the entire 1987 Topps collection, including a Bo Jackson rookie card that’s surely worth thousands. (What’s that? We were duped all those years? Baseball cards actually have no value?!? How dare you lie, Beckett!)
But even cooler than finding Walter Payton and George Brett on cardboard was discovering old jerseys and T-shirts. This one, especially, made me laugh.
To think, 18 years ago, everybody in Nebraska was trusting in Ryan Leaf! Oh well, the next day the Blackshirts beat up an uncoordinated Tennessee quarterback whose name eludes me at the moment.
What ever happened to him anyway?