Last week the NCAA basketball tournament began. I filled out a bracket like most but this year I haven't been into the game much. Mostly I will admit because my Missouri Tigers were in the dumps. It's been like that for a couple years and I figured that was the reason. So this year I continued my yearly plea to fans everywhere- watch for the game! It simply means enjoy the game for what it is, and don't root for teams just because you picked them in your bracket. How awesome was it to see Louisville go down, and Villanova? It killed my bracket, literally as they were my final two teams, but the games were amazing...
So most people said. See I had a problem. As the games began I watched some of the games, as its my favorite time of the year. It transitions from winter sports and once NCAA concludes, its time for baseball. It's perfect.... except this year it isn't. I watched the early match ups and something didn't seem right. It wasn't seeing familiar teams like Kentucky playing, or underdogs like Middle Tennessee, it was something else. It wasn't the announcers or seeing Tracy Wolfsen on the sidelines (which is always a highlight), it was something else. It wasn't the passion of the crowd or the fury of the coaches, it was something else.
By the fourth game I watched on the first night, and the first night game of the tournament it hit me. It's the style of play. Long ago I stopped watching the NBA because the style seemed to change. The quality of it just seemed to diminish. Sadly I think the same is starting to happen in college too.
I first noticed it while listening to Mizzou games in the last year or so but just figured it was their playing style and the reason they were losing so much. However it seems to be the norm now. I'm a big proponent of defense in basketball. I'm one of the few guys who doesn't like dunks all the time. Low scoring games don't bother me as long as they are shooting good shots and playing great defense.
This isn't happening. It's becoming a 3 point contest. Every play is either a three ball or a dunk. I think centers that can hit threes are both interesting and disheartening. They aren't supposed to shoot threes, they are supposed to be the big man under the basket to either get the ball and make baskets (mainly dunks) or allow the lane to open up so a shooter can drive to the basket. Centers have become obsolete in this new era and its sad. Another position that has really been diminished has been a sharpshooter. I loved Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson that could hit a three almost automatically, however they didn't take 60 shots a game from 3 point land. They picked the right time to take the shots and left the defense guessing. The only guessing anymore is which player will shoot a three on a play.
Shooting threes each possession isn't fun to watch. The only thing worse though is teams that can't hit three's continuing to try. Even worse still is team winning by 20 still hitting three's and with about half the shot clock left. I'm not saying never take a three, I'm saying save it for either when you need to shoot one (losing badly, shot clock about to go off) or if you are super open and can easily take the shot without anyone nearby. Also I'm okay if you doing it sparingly to keep the defense on your toes. Also I'm obviously okay if you are on fire and everything is falling in, but that doesn't happen as often as many believe.
However shooting threes and dunks exclusively isn't the only thing missing with college basketball. Defense is missing too. I think part of it is the refs are calling a lot more cheap fouls like hand checks more frequently which not only extends the game, but is pointless because it cause players to worry more about fouls instead of playing quality defense. I also blame the coaches for this too. I know the game evolves, but this evolution is making college coaches look bad in my opinion. I know their top concern is winning games, but they are also should be teaching these college players how to play quality basketball. They don't seem to be developing quality players like they use to.
My biggest pet peeve though is the fact that players don't rebound. If you see me tweet about basketball you will hear me complain most often at halftime about how a team would be doing better if they would rebound better. That's still true but nobody listens to me. As soon as a player hits a three most of the offense runs down the court to play defense and the other team gets the ball. Unless they know its a terrible shot they usually expect it to go down and go to play D. Besides the fact nobody plays defense anymore (as I said before) it is beyond stupid to just expect every shot will drop, especially from three point range. If you want to hype yourself up into thinking you can't miss that's one thing, but your teammates can't think like that too. Somebody need to try to rebound. Its gotten to a point where stats are meaningless anymore because of lack of anyone trying.
All of this just suddenly hit me as I watched a Thursday game and I turned off the late game, it just kind of sucked after I realized what the games were lacking. Friday it was more of the same and I watched maybe two games all day. By the night game I opted to watch more reruns of Miami Vice. Saturday I heard Villanova lost, and so did Louisville, and even Wichita State, but I didn't watch them, I just wasn't into it. Maybe when the last four teams play I might give it a shot and watch it again, but I don't hold high hopes. At this point I'm just waiting for baseball to begin.
On a different front, NASCAR made some rule changes lately to battle dropping ratings, and I was somewhat vocal about how I hated it. After watching a few races, I admit, I don't mind them that much. In fact I think it works pretty good. I don't think it will fix ratings but I think it will make fans interested in the entire season. Here is a secret to fix the dropping ratings though and this I've been very vocal about too- return to your roots. Sure to some extent I mean return to your southern roots and feature more tracks down south, but I also mean feature the Monster series (the top level of NASCAR) to broadcast television. Better yet, keep the races on a single network the entire season. Either Fox or NBC, or maybe CBS or ABC but make it a weekly ritual. "It's Sunday? Time to turn it to Fox for NASCAR" When they leave fans guessing each week what channel they need to turn it to, it makes people not care as much. Also I understand NBC and Fox are trying to build their cable sports channels, but keeping it on broadcast TV will give the sport the best ratings and also give the networks more revenue from the races.
Also and I'm possibly alone in this, maybe put less emphasis on the west coast swing. I don't get why there is a big deal on the races in Phoenix, California, and Vegas (which is getting a second race next year). Broken down to the simplest terms, once the race begins all you see is the track and the cars, it doesn't matter where they are racing as long as they can get fans to come. I hear that races are losing fans showing up and aside from the reasons already mentioned, maybe its because tracks are getting two races a year. I once said they should shorten the season and I still believe that, but they should also limit it to one track one race a year. If they sell out, then they know they can raise prices. If they don't either try a new track or lower prices. They try to gain fans in Canada and Mexico by forming series in those countries, why not have a race in each of those countries each year or rotate. That might gain more fans too.
Okay, that's enough ranting for now, thanks for letting me get things off my chest. Thanks for reading and have a great night, or morning whenever you read this.