From increased exposure to shortening end-of-game reviews, college basketball can take major steps forward in 2023.
Time’s ticking down on 2022, and it seems like all that’s left is to watch Kentucky men’s basketball dismantle Louisville this weekend. But while folks far and wide are making promises to get back to the gym or read a book every week, we thought it’d be fun to help the college basketball world make its own New Year’s resolutions.
It’s been a wild year in college hoops, complete with Caitlin Clark igniting a fanbase in Iowa, two men’s basketball legends stepping aside, and a historic run from St. Peter’s to the men’s Elite Eight. In order to make next year even better, here are some improvements we’d like to see in 2023.
College Basketball New Year’s Resolutions
More men’s basketball home-and-homes
College basketball isn’t short on great non-conference games to get us through November and December. Just this season, we had Houston vs. Saint Mary’s, Tennessee vs. Maryland, Kentucky vs. Michigan, Auburn vs. Memphis, and Baylor vs. Gonzaga. Those games were played on neutral sites and decided by an average of 4.4 points, in front of an average of just over 6,000 people.
The neutral sites are a bad look, make for bad atmospheres, and turn what should be a thrilling product into a boring one. Put more games on campus and let the students go wild.
Part of this is on the coaches. It’s probably just as hard to convince John Calipari to go play in Ann Arbor as it is to convince Juwan Howard to play at Rupp Arena the next year. But the truth is, losing one of those games on the road will do little to hurt a tournament resume, while the reward for a win could be massive. These games ending up in South Dakota, London, or Brooklyn, far from each fanbase, are a result of nothing but cowardice.
Neutral sites have their place. The Champions Classic, Jimmy V Classic, and CBS Sports Classic all draw well, and Thanksgiving multi-team events (MTEs) aren’t going to draw well anyway, so you might as well make them purely for TV. But that’s it. Let’s put an end to the rest of them in 2023.
More women’s basketball representation in November
When you think of Thanksgiving college basketball, what do you think? It’s probably the Maui Invitational, or in more recent years, the Battle 4 Atlantis. Those November MTEs serve as the perfect kick-off to the season, pitting top teams against each other and forcing them to play two or three games in just a few days.
These games and their coverage disproportionately favor men’s basketball. The Battle 4 Atlantis did add a women’s field recently, but every round except for its championship game is buried on FLO Sports, a $30 per month streaming service. Women’s basketball has proven time and again that it deserves a bigger platform, and it’s time they had it during the biggest week of college basketball’s non-conference schedule.
Next year, let’s find a way to bring more quality women’s teams together for tournament play in November.
Figure out end-of-game replay
I’m not saying do away with replay entirely — you want to get the call right. But the most dramatic part of a college basketball game should not be completely neutered by the need to go to the monitor and see if you need to add 0.2 seconds to the game clock, or to spend three minutes determining if the ball touched a player’s foot before going out of bounds.
It seems that whenever a replay situation happens, the broadcast says that you need conclusive evidence to overturn a call on the court. So let’s do this: give refs 45 seconds to review a call. If you can’t decide in that time, then the evidence is not conclusive. The call on the court stands.
As for the game clock, limit those reviews to the following situations: timeouts (when play is stopped anyway), or when the officials clearly observe a clock malfunction (such as it running too long after a made basket in the final minutes or it failing to start on time). Other than that? Play on. Next year, let’s pack more action into less time.
Take steps toward standardizing the rules
This can’t happen in one year, but it has to start sometime. With minor exceptions, there’s no reason the men’s and women’s games should play by different rules. Furthermore, there’s no reason why men’s college basketball should be the only league in the world that plays halves instead of quarters. Women’s college basketball doesn’t do it. Nor does the NBA, WNBA, high school, FIBA, you name it.
The NCAA also needs to decide how to uniformly approach fouls — the men still have the one-and-one, and the women reset at each quarter — and late-game timeouts, where the women can advance the ball and the men cannot.
This does not mean, however, that the NCAA should blindly adopt more NBA or international rules. The shot clock should stay at 30 seconds, for example. As Greg McDermott said in the preseason, the college game doesn’t have as many players who can simply “make a play” with six on the shot clock.
That’s all to say that in 2023, I’d like to see the NCAA begin reviewing the differences between the men’s and women’s games, what can be standardized, what can be updated, and the differences that need to remain.
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