Is there a more dramatic explanation for why this season’s rule changes – while steps in the right direction – were insufficient to reverse the decline in pace and scoring in any significant way?
I don’t mean the embarrassed looking Hall of Famer and coaching extraordinaire Mike Krzyzewski during last season’s Final Four but the stool on which he’s perched and what it represents: the ascent of the coach from the bench to the court, the shift from coach as teacher to coach as participant.
In effect, today’s game is presented as strange theatrical production in which the director shares equal stature with the performers. He’s on the stage with them, shouting instructions and modifying the script as the play unfolds, and in the process, leaving little room for the actors to actually act. That’s what we have in college basketball today.
It’s over… finally. Much of it unwatchable. The slowest, lowest scoring collegiate season since 1981-82. In fact, you’d have to go back 64 years to 1951-52 to find a less productive season. That’s an era when many players still relied on two and one-handed set shots.
The tournament, of course, presented many of the old delights – the “combination of upsets, buzzer-beaters, frenzied comebacks, court-storming, dancing, and weeping” recently noted by ESPN’s Brian Phillips – but also contributed to the season-long agony of pushing and shoving, interminable timeouts, coaches prowling the sideline, often straying onto the court, jump shots clanging off the rim… well, you get the picture.
According to analytics expert Ken Pomeroy, three of this year’s Final Four teams ranked outside of the top 200 in tempo. The lone exception? Duke ranked No. 114.
In its semi-final game against Duke, Michigan State scored 14 points in the first 3:42 of play followed by only 9 points in the remaining 16:18 of the half. Duke advanced to the finals on the back of 27 free throws and 26 field goals in 40 minutes of competition. That’s an average of one basket every 90 seconds.
Forty-eight hours later, the halftime score of Duke’s national championship game with Wisconsin ended 31 apiece. In the 1988 matchup, Kansas and Oklahoma battled to a 50 – 50 tie in the same period of time, collectively outscoring this year’s stalwarts, including nine McDonald’s All Americans, three of whom are surefire one-and-doners, by 38 points.
The final five minutes of the Duke – Wisconsin brawl took 18:41 minutes of real time to play.
To place the dismal offensive performance of this year’s tournament in historical perspective, consider the following: Continue reading…