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NCAA Basketball News

by Adam Glatczak

June 27th, 2003

 
Itís time for ACC to back out

At this point, maybe the best outcome we can hope for in this whole ACC/Big East thing is that the leagues kill each other off and all former members become independents. Wouldnít that be nice?

At least it would be peaceful. At this point, there really isnít a sympathetic figure in this ďcollege athleticsĒ (term used every day in a looser and looser sense) demolition derby. The Big East is the poor, poor league that feels ACC expansion would ďrip its hear outĒ and morally objects so much that itís already planning to pillage several other conferences. The ACC is the league that once stood for class but is so intent on overthrowing the Big East it makes a certain presidentís Iraq strategy look meek. Saddam Hussein is just glad he didnít have ACC Commissioner John Swofford chasing him down.

Weíre just going to call both spades as spades and label both sides scum. Especially after last week, when instead of regrouping and rethinking its plans, the ACC decided that if it canít have what it wants, itís going take whatever it doesnít want, too, so long as it expands. Meanwhile, the Big East announced a ďproactiveĒ strategy-in other words, steal before being stolen from in the future.

The latest repulsive development in this board game simulation is the ACC deciding Virginia Tech is suddenly ACC material, not long after reviewing and thoroughly rebuking them. Why? Because maybe taking the Hokies will convince Virginia to favor expansion and prohibit Johnny Swoffordís plan from going splat.

What began as a narrow-sighted plan by the ACC to make more revenue in the short term has now become simply a game of hubris. ACC expansion isnít even about money anymore. Because anyone who knows the difference between Roanoke and a cowpoke knows adding Virginia Tech isnít going to jack revenues up.

No, this is now about ego, and getting this done just because the ACC wants to. Itís about Swofford and his fellow greedy ACC compatriots being able to say, ďwe came, we saw, we did whatever the heck we wanted to do.Ē

Itís also getting really old, this little game of Monopoly, and itís also making college sports look bad. In fact, if this is the future of NCAA Division I college athletics, then weíre in sad shape, indeed. The past has always left some with questions about whether this is being done right, but this really makes one wonder not if the system is screwy, but whether it can sustain itself much longer?

(By the way, quick question: How many people think one second about the athletes who will be taxed even worse under all of these re-alignment scenarios on every message board and website out there? Show of hands, please? Thought soÖif major college sports is on a path to getting nuked, blame can start with all of the superfans and big-money types that support a system where schools pursue money first and treat their athletes a step better than slave labor.)

Both the ACC and Big East need to get their gak together and soon, because now theyíre embarrassing each other. The ACCís best resolution right now would be to back off. There are just too many questions and there has been too much carnage already, so Swofford should realize he can stop now, back the truck up, reassess the situation, and go about expansion some other time.

It would be an all-around wise move, because with the ACCís rethinking on V-Tech it seems it has lost all perspective and his ego has taken over. Doesnít Swofford see what happens to these monster-sized leagues? They all fall apart, and quickly-just ask the Western Athletic Conference, which once went to 16 teams and was left with eight, after the schools that approved expansion decided they didnít like it and ditched the very same schools they invited in! The same thing is happening now to the Big East, will happen to

Conference USA, and could happen to more.

The general public has spoken, and itís obvious it has reservations about ACC expansion. Itís pretty clear the members have such reservations, and itís crystal clear the Big East is going to fight this every step of the way and will make this a knock-down, drag-out fight. Just let it go, Swofford. LetÖitÖgo. Itís not worth the trouble.

On the other hand, itís time for Mike Tranghese and his Big East to stop talking out both sides of their collective mouths. Itís awful hard to feel bad for Tranghese, and itís not like the guy or his league has been a saint in his conference dealings in the past, either.

This is the same Big East that shipped off Templeís football program because it didnít meet the leagueís country club standards, yet hangs with a Rutgers program that hasnít been much better than a Division II contender for a longer amount of time. This is the same Tranghese that had the conversations with the ACC in the past about jettisoning some football schools to make the Big East more basketball-friendly.

Tranghese is only slightly less filthy than Swofford in this, because everyone knows that, like the ACC, he only has one concern, and that is his own. At least heís not the one poaching NOW, but you have to wonder if what makes him maddest is that he didnít think of this first.

Of course, like Swofford in comparison to his league members, Tranghese is far from the only guilty party in the Big East. Take Virginia Tech itself, which at first wanted into the ACC, then sued because the ACC tried to destroy their league (as if they themselves didnít), and now will have to decide if it wants to look even stupider than before.

Like two kids fighting over the TV remote, itís time for both of these leagues to shape up. This isnít about being against super-conferences so much as itís about these leagues not shooting themselves in the foot and destroying both of their futures.

Itís amazing that, once upon a time, these two leagues were in harmony so much they held the friendly ACC/Big East Challenge with each other. Of course, that was the Big East B.F. (Before Football) and B.B.C.S.

Maybe we should be hoping both leagues are soon looking at life A.F.: After Football. Because right now, neither is doing much to prove they deserve to sponsor the sport. And thatís a shame for two leagues that have been so good for college basketball in the past.

Draft dodgers are making solid moves

Smart moves by guys like Ricky Minard, Jameer Nelson, Jason Parker and Chris Thomas to pull themselves out of the NBA Draft. Not only because theyíre going back to school, but because it simply wasnít worth hoping for a spot in the late first-early second round. In fact, the way things are going, itís starting to look more and more like the NBA Draft isnít worth it for any college player. If youíre not European, from high school, or coming out after one year of college, you may as well not apply.

Minard has a chance to take Morehead State to some real heights next season. Kyle Macy has done a terrific job of building the Eagles step-by-step into one of the top teams in the Ohio Valley Conference, and now the school should be setting its sights on the NCAA Tournament. He also has work to do to prove he can play with the nationís best, as he hasnít had many opportunities to do so yet. The draft experience couldnít have hurt him, so donít be surprised if after a summer of hard work that Minard is garnering some All-America consideration next year.

Nelson also made the smarter choice. He could have stayed in the draft, been a second-round pick, and maybe clung onto a roster as a backup point man getting eight minutes a game, but now heíll get another season to improve. He may well only enter the 2004-05 NBA season as a backup point guard, too, but heíd be playing more minutes and more quality minutes. Thereís more of a difference than it might sound. Even with their experience, no one should be betting the house on St. Josephís this year after seeing how the team played with monster expectations two years ago. Nevertheless, Nelsonís return should make this team a national contender that maybe will actually play to its seed in the NCAA Tournament, unlike this past season.

Thomas will be back with a Notre Dame team that is showing signs of being a contender every year under Mike Brey. (Makes one want to reminisce of the days of DePaul, Marquette, Notre Dame and Dayton all being independentsÖ) He can work on that decision-making that many NBA scouts were questioning (it wasnít a surprise, because Thomas occasionally shoots too much). Plus, heís going to have a cast around him that much wonít be expected of, so when Notre Dame plays well early in the season as it has the past few years, Thomas will get plenty of credit. Result: his stock soars, and heís a more attractive draft candidate. Simple, huh?

Hopefully this is the first step of the processÖ

Now that the NCAA has sobered up a little bit and wonít implement three-point line and lane changes this year, maybe we can hope it stays sober a lot longer and eventually gets rid of these unnecessary planned rule changes.

All right, yes, we know the general consensus is that the three-point line is too short. And maybe it is. But you know what? Theyíve been saying that same thing since the line came into play.

If itís too short, why havenít three-point percentages changed much over the past 10 years (theyíve stayed between 34 and 35 percent during that time, according to NCAA statistics)? In fact, thatís WAY down from the 38.7% clip the shot was going down at in 1986-87, the first year the three was an across the board rule.

Seems from here that there is at least a fair argument that the statistical evidence (which dominates this sport in areas like, oh, the NCAA Tournament selection) is being completely ignored on the basis of perception, and at the least this is something that should be experimented with much more. Especially since many donít think the nine inches theyíre thinking of changing it will make any difference anyways.

As for the trapezoid lane, this is where the rules committeeís logic is really questionable. According to these guys, this goofy-looking lane is going to open up the game inside and favor players cutting to the basket. Itís going to improve fundamentals, make players better and more skilled, and clean up all the wrestling underneath. Who knows-maybe itíll even make players jump higher, cook the arena hamburgers, and reduce global warming.

Okay, first point: forget the European game, all right? This is America. American players play differently than international players, and theyíll continue to no matter what the lane looks like.

On that note, someone please tell us all what a wide lane has done to reduce physicality in the NBA? Absolutely zilch. It makes guys clutch and grab further from the basket, and thatís it. Has anyone seen guys who became better cutters to the basket once they got OUT of college?

Also, what makes one think that players are all of the sudden going to become better at cutting, screening, and other assorted fundamentals, just because the lane is different? Thatís a problem that canít be solved with court dimensions, only with better coaching and with players being more receptive to coaching.

These changes also are taking absolutely no account of the financial costs to schools. Not every school has a $20 million athletic budget that can easily pay to have the whole court re-painted, varnished and waxed, just because a few people got a case of international game penis envy and decided they want their game and their players to be just like those overseas.

This says nothing about the womenís game, which absolutely doesnít need a wider lane or even a longer three-pointer. But they have to go along with it too, and that stinks and shows just how impulsive this move was and how little thought went into it.

What this change is going to do is make all college games more like the NBA. And thatís not good. The last thing college basketball needs is to become a less-athletic, less-talented version of a game thatís already suffering.

The old three line and lane have always worked nicely because they were so uniform, across high school and college. That means high schools can practice and play games on college courts, creating a unique experience for their athletes.

Some can reasonably argue that 22-year old college players shouldnít have the same three-point stripe as a 14-year old high school freshman. But the lane change is especially puzzling, because there simply has never been anyone complaining that it is something that we absolutely need. Mostly, it sounds like a few people trying to force their ideas on an entire country.

Heck, maybe these guys will decide to reduce the shot clock to 20 seconds, too, because theyíll think that will increase scoring. Of course, anyone who was even remotely informed of what happened in the NBA Finals this year will know how

Time well spent

Hereís an idea: instead of spending this offseason musing about the next realignment possibility, that time may well have been better spent by watching a college sporting event that has plenty of drama, atmosphere and excitement. It does so without the mass commercialism of a mega-event like the Final Four, or the empty feeling one gets from watching a BCS not-so-national championship game. Weíre talking about the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, an event that frankly ranks right up with the Final Four and seeing a game at the Palestra on this writerís list of things to do and sights to see someday.

Unfortunately, this writer has never been there, but everything you hear about it is true. You can just sense it on TV. The CWS has an aura to it that makes one say: ďThis is how sports is supposed to be.Ē The emotion of the players shows through in a million ways. Players sprint to the dugout after a third out-not walk, not job, sprint. Guys can celebrate after a good play without rubbing it into someone elseís face. The ballpark-Omahaís Rosenblatt Stadium-is beautiful, even on TV.

Plus, college baseball is one of the few college sports that hasnít been swallowed up by schools with all the money. An Oregon or Wisconsin canít just buy a baseball program the way it can buy success in some other sports (the Badgers donít so much as play varsity baseball). The result: you have a Rice, a Cal State-Fullerton, and a SW Missouri State, all among the final eight teams at the CWS. What that gives you is a true national champion. Not a champion of a group of schools fortunate enough to have big TV contracts. This is a real college sport that is almost idealistic, and even with pro baseball drafting rules that has players coming and going every bit as much and more than college football and basketball, you never get the feeling that the integrity of the sport is being damaged.

Itís almost as if this is what the NCAA Tournament was 15 years ago. The biggest schools still have their due representation, but there is still plenty of room for everyone. Itís made for a great College World Series. This year, it even has scoring on a level with a normal baseball game, as opposed to some of the slow-pitch softball (American League-ish?) scores from the past. Itís good baseball, an excellent change-up from the big leagues, and definitely was worth a watch.

By the way, congratulations to those Rice Owls, winners of the first NCAA Championship in any team sport in school history. Wow-made it pretty easy to pick a sentimental favorite in a final that matched a school with 84 NCAA titles (Stanford) against the OwlsÖ

NIT organizer dies

Finally, his death will just get passed over in the sports pages, but it deserves to be noted that Pete Carlesimo died this past week. Pete is best known as P.J. Carlesimoís father, but heís also the man responsible for there still being an NIT today. Carlesimo was the man that moved the NIT to campus sites, helping prolong the tourneys existence in the 1970s. He also founded the Preseason NIT, the event that has kicked off the college basketball season for almost 20 years now and an event that the NCAA is doing its best to kill with the two-in-four rules. As much as many denigrate the NIT, college basketball fans owe a thank you to Carlesimo for continuing to care for an event that has seen its better days, but is still a worthwhile part of the season.

Continue to enjoy the summer everybodyÖ


 

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