Dooley: Game needs change


Florida forward Casey Prather drives on Minnesota forward Maurice Walker during the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the Frank Erwin Center on March 24 in Austin, Texas. Florida defeated Minnesota 78-64 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third season in a row.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.

The confetti was still being swept from the floor of the Georgia Dome when the national championship game for men's basketball was being declared one of the best ever. Some writers went as far as to say that this was the kind of game college basketball needs to see all the time.

Two things:

1. Absolutely.

2. Fat chance.

Not with the current rules. Not with the current officials and not with the current mentality in the sport.




I enjoyed the Louisville win over Michigan, a fast-paced game with shots actually going in the basket, as much as anyone but it didn't erase what we saw during the season. Louisville and Michigan are two teams with a number of skilled offensive players. Not many teams have point guards like Peyton Siva and Trey Burke.

But even those two teams were limited to less than 60 points a combined seven times during the season. Part of the problem with college basketball is that coaches with inferior offensive talent know they can make it a game (or at least try to) by taking the air out of the ball.

They can't go four-corners, but they can milk the 35-second clock. The best defense is an offense that doesn't let the other team have the ball. In that way, college basketball is becoming like football.

Fewer teams are trying to score in transition. They're content to walk the ball down the court and take time off the clock. This may lead to more upsets and closer games, but less scoring.

And there will be some who say the game has never been better, that this year's tournament was great and the title game was the perfect way to finish it off.

But I'm just looking to make the game interesting enough so that people don't wait until after the Super Bowl to start paying attention.

And Georgetown 37, Tennessee 36 isn't cutting it.

Reducing the shot clock would be one answer. More possessions should result in more scoring. Widening the lane to unclog the middle would help, too.

Billy Donovan wouldn't mind either one of these rule changes. Maybe extend the 3-point line again. Spread the court.

And this is a coach whose team relied on defense and will have one of its most physical teams under Donovan next season.

“Our game is more physical than the NBA,” he said. “I'm not saying we want to become the NBA, but the game has become so physical.”

Donovan pointed to a statistic that 96 percent of the fouls called during the NCAA Tournament were on-ball calls. Only four percent were away from the ball.

That, he said, is one of the problems.

“You're getting guys being held or grabbed while they're cutting and they can't get open,” he said. “The officials are doing a good job of protecting the shooter but all eyes seem to be on the guy with the ball and the guy covering him.”

Donovan would like to see the skill return to the game, but without rule changes or an emphasis by officials to clean it up, we're probably looking at more of the same next year. Players are getting bigger and stronger every year and officials are reluctant to turn the game into a free-throw shooting contest.

“And I get that,” Donovan said. “But an official will tell you that he called a certain play a foul three times and it was actually a foul 10 times. It's still a foul.

“I think, too, coaches have learned how to guard the 3-point line better. Defenses have gotten better.”

They have. And don't get me started on officials.

Here's the play that drove me crazy (a very short drive) this season — a player takes a shot, the official sees that it is woefully short and off-line and then calls a foul because the shooter must have been hit in the elbow or wrist to have shot that poorly. If it's a foul, it's a foul.

And, like Donovan, I've seen cutters practically tackled as they try to navigate the baseline. I've seen enough illegal screens to last 10 seasons. I've seen uncalled hand-checks that were so fierce they were just this side of arrestable.

The game has turned into wrestling with a basket. It was refreshing to see a high-scoring championship game, but unless some changes are made it wasn't an example of what basketball can be as much as it was an aberration.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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