Archive | March, 2013

How to standardize the rules of basketball

28 Mar

I do a lot of complaining about basketball officials. NBA and NCAA both. They’re not good. I wrote a post awhile ago about how to improve the situation. That post was about how referees are supervised and assigned. Basically I said that USA Basketball should be in charge of all the officials and handle assignments, promotions, etc. In order for that to work, the rules need to be standardized. If refs are calling games at different levels, the different levels need to have the same rules. Of course, this is a minor consideration. The real reason to standardize the rules is that it makes things easier and more enjoyable for everyone. Giving each governing body authority over its own little fiefdom leads to rules that are different for no reason. This is stupid. Here’s how the rules should work, at all levels, from high school to the NBA.*

*I’m sure I will miss a lot of things. Maybe I’ll add on later if other things come to mind. As always I did no research of fact-checking of any kind. I’m also not going to try to wade into FIBA rules.

Three point line
This is an easy one. Use the NBA line. The college line is too close.

Restricted area/block/charge
The block/charge is the most aggravating thing about watching basketball. When I was little there were hardly any offensive fouls. Now they’re everywhere. Why? Defenders spend a lot of time trying to draw them. It drives me crazy. Darting in front of someone and falling down when he runs into you isn’t playing defense. Some players are terrific at drawing charges. There was a lot of uproar over Aaron Craft’s drawn charge against Iowa State last weekend. Whether he was or wasn’t outside the circle misses the point. He wasn’t trying to play defense. He was trying to get a call. I HATE this. To successfully draw a charge you have to a) jump in front of the player with the ball early enough to “establish position” b) but not so early so that the player with the ball has time to adjust his path. The whole thing sucks. Big time. I’d eliminate the restricted area altogether. You want a charge? The offensive player has to take a full step before he jumps into you with you in “established position”. I don’t even want to get into the lunacy of the NBA’s Lower Defensive Box. Just fucking get rid of it.

Illegal defense
OK, so this isn’t in the NBA rule book anymore, they have defensive three seconds instead. I hate this rule. Not as much as the old illegal defense, but I still hate it. Get rid of it. Defenders should be able to go wherever they want whenever they want. NBA why do you hate zone defense? If teams can make it work let them.

Shot clock
College basketball fans always talk about how college offenses are so much better or fundamental or whatever, and they think the shot clock is why. These people are idiots. They think every team runs some sort of intricate Bobby Knight motion offense. You know what most college teams run? The “dribble around 25 feet from the basket for the first 20 seconds of the possession” offense. It’s terrible. Run down the court and do something. At the same time, NBA sets are pretty much one-and-done exercises. There’s not enough time to pull out and reset. Compromise: 30-second shot clock.

Hand checking
The NBA has it right on this one. Let guards dribble the ball unmolested. Let them do stuff. They might make good plays that lead to good shots. That’s what we all want to see.

40 minutes is way too short. College football and hockey teams play 60 minutes. College soccer teams play 90 minutes. College baseball teams play nine innings. College basketball teams can’t play 48 minutes? Yes they can. Four 12-minute quarters. High school teams too. They only play 32 minutes now, which is beyond stupid. Timeouts are out of control. Best case is to adopt the NBA TV timeout rule, which has two per half plus the quarter break. As far as called timeouts, time for a drastic reduction. Three per game. If you don’t use one by halftime, you lose it. This will require coaches to let their players play basketball. The biggest misconception is that teams need timeouts to draw up plays. This is bullshit. Especially in college. To pick on one recent example: Fran Dunphy from Temple. He called a timeout with 50 seconds left in the game, his team down one, and ten seconds on the shot clock. Temple came out with no play and heaved an airball. Another timeout. At this point, Temple can win if they hold Indiana scoreless in their possession and get a quick shot at the end. The one thing they absolutely cannot do under any circumstance is give up a three, which puts Indiana up by four and effectively ends the game. Of course Temple left All-American Victor Oladipo wide open for a three. This kind of thing happens constantly. I don’t know what these coaches say during timeouts, but it almost never results in some kind of great clever play.

Advancing the ball after timeouts
In the NBA if you call a timeout after a made basket, you get to inbound from the sideline instead of under the basket. This is to enable more buzzer-beaters. I like this, especially with fewer timeouts available. Make coaches use them strategically. Now they can just call as many as they want and they never seem to run out.

Bonus free throws
The NBA suffers from the lack of the one-and-one. Since we’re playing four 12-minute quarters, here’s how to do it: Count team fouls for each half, not each quarter. One-and-one after the eighth team foul, two shots after the twelfth. Six fouls to foul out, of course. This also allows us to scrap the NBA’s convoluted end-of-quarter alternate free throw bonus rule, which is too complicated for me to understand without looking it up.

Jump balls
Jump it up! The possession arrow is horrible and I don’t get what purpose it serves.


25 Mar

Hey, remember when I picked Georgetown to win the NCAA tournament? That turned out to be a bad pick. Sorry. My bracket is full of bad picks. I’ve never done this poorly. I only got 29 total games right out of 48. I correctly predicted only seven of the Sweet Sixteen. Two of my Final Four teams lost their first game. That’s almost impossibly bad. I don’t know what happened.

On the bright side, I did correctly pick Ole Miss and Minnesota to win in upsets. This probably makes up for all my mistakes. You might even say it more than makes up for them. I know I would.

Here are some bullet-point style thoughts about the first weekend of games.

This photo should have won the Pulitzer Prize

This photo should have won the Pulitzer Prize

Colorado State is coached by Larry Eustachy. I wish someone had told me this, I didn’t know he was back. He’s a fun character to have around. He’d be more fun if he was still getting drunk at frat parties on his opponents’ campuses after games. One thing about Larry is that he doesn’t wear a suit during games. He wears a button-down shirt with the school’s logo on it. When he was at Iowa State he wore an Adidas mock turtleneck. Coaches who don’t wear ties irk me. It’s just so bush league. Only old guys who wear sweaters à la Bobby Knight or Lou Carnesecca can get away without wearing ties. No one else. I declare ties mandatory unless you’ve been grandfathered in to the sweater club. I don’t think any of those guys are even left. When Tommy Amaker was at Michigan he wore sportcoats with these fancy mock turtleneck things. It drove me fucking crazy. Grow up man.

You look terrible

You look terrible

One little thing I enjoy is when the referees go to the monitor to review a call. Not the review itself, because those are ludicrous and need to stop. Just call the foul and move on. The refs blow calls constantly, why should we be extra concerned about getting flagrants right? Even with the video they still blow the call much of the time. At least they’ve stopped ejecting players for unintentionally elbowing people. Anyway, what I love is when they go to the monitor. It always plays out the same way. The announcers tell us that the refs will be reviewing the call. Then the camera cuts to the referees, who are standing at midcourt. The midcourt guy turns around the monitor, which shows the same shot we’re looking at, which is the refs themselves. It sets up the terrific infinite regression of the refs looking at themselves on the monitor looking at themselves at the monitor, etc. I love that.

F minus

F minus

I hate the new generic NCAA floor that every venue uses now. The floors were always such a great part of the visual appeal of the tournament, especially when there are four games going on at once. You immediately knew where each game was instead of having to sideways-read the baseline lettering. It also provided a cool sense of continuity through the day, because each game in a given venue had a kind of intrinsic visual similarity. Since everyone is flipping back and forth between games in different places, this was a really cool small thing. It’s too bad that the NCAA’s corporate marketing strategy is more important than fans.

Another thing I miss is the way the physical bracket is organized. It used to be that all the games in two regions were on Thursday and the other two regions were on Friday. This meant that the whole left side of the bracket got filled in Thursday, and the right side on Friday. Another small cool visually/graphically appealing thing. Now it’s a big mishmash. Frown.

Complaint number three: we need to figure out how to incorporate the First Four into the bracket. Right now you don’t even pick those games. That was kind of lame when there was just one play-in game, but now that there are teams playing early that can and do win in the tourney proper, something needs to be done. My suggestion would be to scrap the whole thing and go back to 64 teams, but then the NCAA would lose the TV revenue from Tuesday and Wednesday and mediocre power conference programs would complain about not having a chance so it’ll never happen. I hate the NCAA so much.

The Big Ten did very well this weekend. Except Wisconsin. This made me very happy. I have a new strategy when it comes to picking games involving Big Ten teams. If teams play better in their non-conference schedule than they did in conference play, pick them. If they did worse, don’t pick them. Big Ten conference games are so different from regular college basketball that I don’t think they have much predictive value. Notable teams this year that fit the profile: Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois (who were much better out of conference), and Wisconsin (who was much worse). I feel pretty good about this, we’ll see how it plays out in years to come.

UCLA/Minnesota is the only matchup I can recall in which both teams fired their coaches immediately. Howland was pretty inevitable. I think Tubby was too. UCLA can probably pick whoever they want. Minnesota could end up with a downgrade if they’re not careful. Their AD used to work at VCU; he hired Shaka Smart. Hopefully he knows what he’s doing, and hopefully he’s loading up a dump truck with money to give to Shaka. I would be so happy to see him in the Big Ten generally and at Minnesota specifically. The Gophers playing that havoc style of his would have Williams Arena rocking every game. That would be awesome. That’s an awesome arena. The Palestra in Philadelphia is the only basketball venue I’ve visited that tops it.

I picked Memphis to beat Michigan State. That was dumb. Here’s why:

mgoblogtweetI didn’t think of that. The announcers made a big deal of Josh Pastner’s laminated cards and his jumping around. Jesus. Is he coaching twelve-year-olds? I’ve seen Memphis play before. I knew about him. I should have known better than to pick him to beat a team with a real coach and a real gameplan. He’s a recruiting coördinator, not a coach. My fault.

I was watching Marquette/Butler and I spotted someone familiar on the Marquette bench. It took me a split second to place him. Jerry Wainwright. Wow. I assumed he’d retire after he got canned by DePaul, but I guess he’s still around. Just wow is all I have to say.

The TV timeout situation is out of control. CBS cuts to a commercial on every called timeout. Plus all the scheduled TV timeouts. That means in most games there are EIGHTEEN commercial breaks. In a 40-minute game. That doesn’t even count halftime. Just unconscionable. The NCAA’s bald hypocrisy on issues of finance is more deplorable with each passing day.

Speaking of TV timeouts, lets talk about commercials. The Bud Light one with the people on a blind date is, to me, the obvious winner for worst/most overplayed of the year. Budweiser has a gigantic ad budget. Couldn’t they at least film a few terrible commercials instead of airing the same terrible commercial over and over? KFC is the runner-up. “Dad, you’re not getting my bites.” Fuck you and your dad and anyone who thinks putting gravy on chicken nuggets is a good idea. Second runner-up is the Sears thing with the dancers and appliances. I don’t even get that one. Is it supposed to be funny? Are there people who think it’s funny? The mind fairly boggles. Nothing this year comes close to unseating the all-time champion, the Michael Jordan of bad March Madness advertising, Shrimp Sensations from Applebee’s. Take a bow, Shrimp Sensations.

Now it’s time for my new and revised bracket. Just because I did really really poorly last time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to me now. I’m rooting for an all-Big Ten Final Four. I think Michigan State is the only team that won’t make it. Three out of four will still be good. It’s amazing that Ohio State will get to the Final Four without beating anyone seeded higher than 6. I wonder if that’s ever happened before. Michigan will win. Trey Burke is the best player. Although if they end up losing to Florida Gulf Coast I won’t even be mad.

Fuck a jinx

Fuck a jinx

The first annual TPY NCAA tournament preview

17 Mar

I have always loved the NCAA basketball tournament. I would love it almost as much if you couldn’t fill out a bracket. But the bracket is definitely part of the appeal.

The idea of filling out a bracket appeals to every part of me. The first year my parents had internet access for the tournament I must have been a freshman in high school. Or thereabouts. I don’t remember exactly. Having internet access was a pivotal moment in my relationship with the NCAA tournament. Instead of filling out one bracket for a pool at school, I filled out like 20 brackets. I spent a good amount of time on primitive search engines finding every website I could that ran a bracket contest. Instead of filling out the same bracket for every site, I switched them all up. Hedging my bets. I knew this was the best strategy if I wanted to win at least one glorious prize from the internet. I printed out a stack of blank brackets and dutifully filled in my picks for every website. I tacked them all up on a bulletin board in my room. Let me tell you, having twenty brackets on the wall to constantly refer to makes the first weekend a lot of fun. I highlighted correct picks in blue and incorrect picks in yellow. I spent a lot of time poring over my bulletin board. Pulling out that blue highlighter felt so satisfying. And covering the wall in yellow when one of my Final Four picks lost early was unreasonably demoralizing. That was fun.

Over the years I regained a little bit of perspective and dialed things back. Now I only fill out one bracket. I realize that it’s mostly a crapshoot. I don’t even root for my picks necessarily. I cheer for upsets. To me this is so much more fun. I hate the idea of hoping MIddle Tennessee State loses because I picked against them. I try to separate my bracket from my rooting interests. Especially on the first weekend when most of the fun upsets happen.

The high point of my bracket career was 2003. That was the year I picked 3 seed Syracuse to win. I remember sitting in a class with maybe 25 other people on Tuesday before the first round. We were all talking about the tournament. I let everyone know that I thought Syracuse would win. Three weeks later, on the Tuesday after the championship game, everyone was hanging out waiting for class to start. “Hey, remember when I said Syracuse would win?” That’s a great feeling. I followed the logic then that I have used ever since: pick the team with the best player. Carmelo Anthony made it happen and made me look like a genius.

Now, I’m sharing my secrets with you, dear reader. Use this info to win your bracket pool and impress your friends. Or, if you’re in my pool, use this info to tie me for first place. That’s still pretty good.

Disclaimer: This season I have watched almost every Michigan game and almost no other games. This will not prevent me from pretending I know what I’m talking about.

Click to expand and see all of my expert picks

Click to expand and see all of my expert picks

Midwest Region

I’m surprised Duke is a 2 seed. They’ve been #1 in the RPI all season. I hate Duke as much as the next guy, but I think they’ll get through here. I’ll definitely be cheering for Creighton in the second round though. Memphis over Michigan State is my bold upset pick, even though the game’s in Michigan. Big Ten teams are at a big disadvantage in the tournament because the style of play is so different from what they’re used to. They also get saddled with referees who don’t call Big Ten games all season and are willing to enforce the rules as written. That’s a bigger adjustment that most people think. MSU has traditionally been able to overcome this, but Memphis is good. I’d love to see Saint Louis beat Louisville. I think that’s a good upset pick too but I can’t pick all upsets.

West Region

Gonzaga is a pretty soft 1 seed. It’s the first midmajor 1 seed I can think of since St. Joe’s a few years ago. That team had Jameer Nelson and Delonte West and couldn’t make it to the Final Four. I think Gonzaga is in the same camp. Kansas State has some athletes. They’ll blow by Wisconsin unless UW can hit 50% of their threes. I think they also have the advantage over the Zags. New Mexico is a trendy Final Four pick. Let no one say that I am not trendy. UNM has been close to the top of the RPI all season. The RPI loves the Mountain West this year. They have it as the #1 conference overall. That’s wild. Something to keep in mind when considering Mountain West teams. I think the Pac-12 blows so I picked Belmont over Arizona. The Pac-12 and SEC both need to step it way up. They’ve been embarrassing for the last five years or so. That’s a big part of the reason there are so many teams from outside the power conferences in the tournament lately. The only “power conferences” left are the Big Ten and Big East if you ask me. After the Big East splits up next year, I don’t think there’ll be much of a gap between the traditional majors and the next tier (Atlantic 10, Mountain West, Missouri Valley, Big East leftover conference, C-USA)

South Region

It pains me to say it, but I don’t think Michigan will make it to the second weekend. I really hope they will, but unless they learn how to play defense this week I just don’t see it. Georgetown has been on a roll lately. They’d be a 1 seed if they had played a respectable non-conference schedule. Unfortunately for them, their non-conference schedule was pretty embarrassing. It was basically Indiana, UCLA, and a big pile of garbage. I don’t think that’ll hurt them once they get on the court. Minnesota is an interesting team. They have the players, but they lose inexplicably all the time. Honestly I think Minnesota would solve all of their problems if Tubby Smith fired his son Saul from the coaching staff. You might remember him as one of the least likable players in NCAA history. He’s got to be the problem. Unfortunately I doubt Tubby will do that and he’ll probably get fired himself unless they make a run. Good news for Tubby: I think they will. Florida hasn’t played anyone good since December, I think they’ll be surprised by Minnesota’s athleticism. Plus Tubby did win a National Championship once, maybe he’ll recapture some of that magic. Villanova/North Carolina is an uncommonly good 8/9 matchup. Jay Wright has been a great coach for Villanova. I hope he stays there for another 20 years. He has a reputation as ayoung, hip, fashionable guy. Maybe even like a basketball sex symbol, if a college basketball coach can be one. I think that’s part of why he’s so popular on the Main Line. Fun story: The first time I saw Coach Wright on the Villanova campus, he was wearing a t-shirt, mesh shorts, and alligator loafers with no socks.

East Region

I think Indiana will make it through even though I think Cody Zeller will struggle without protection from the officials. I feel sorry for the NBA team that wastes a top-5 pick on him. Victor Oladipo is really good. Good enough to carry the team through the region. This is almost a Duke-level team. Zeller, Jordan Hulls, Will Sheehey; It’s amazing those guys didn’t find their way to Durham and I hate them as much as if they did. I think this is a pretty straightforward region. I have Butler over Marquette, but picking Butler can hardly be controversial at this point, can it?

Final Four

This is where the Best Player Theory comes into play. Otto Porter Jr. is the best player. Therefore Georgetown will win. Simple as that. Victor Oladipo is probably the second-best player and is a beast on defense. That semifinal matchup will be the game of the tournament. I suppose it’s possible that Oladipo shuts down Porter. I don’t know if he has the size to do it. I’ll be fun to watch. Indiana did win their game in the fall, but I think Georgetown has improved a lot since then. I don’t think Indiana has improved much at all. Duke/New Mexico is a boring game in comparison. I like New Mexico striking yet another blow against the power conferences. Maybe they’ll get promoted up like Butler.

Final note: Georgetown will be playing next year in the New Big East. I’d like to remind everyone that that whole conference was my idea, even if they invited Butler so they can’t call it the Eastern Catholic League like I wanted. Although I am glad they got to keep the Big East name. Good for them.