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Schmitz: Mavs owner Mark Cuban spot-on in college hoops critique

Mark Cuban declared the state of college basketball as “uglier than ugly.” (Associated Press)
Mark Cuban declared the state of college basketball as “uglier than ugly.” (Associated Press)
Brian Schmitz Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel

When critiquing college basketball from a pro basketball summit, you’re always at risk of sounding like an NBA snob.

So be it.

“It’s uglier than ugly, and it’s evidenced by the scoring going down. When the NBA went through that, we changed things.”

That’s Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban doing the critiquing.

And he’s spot-on about the trouble with college hoops.

Far too often, it’s unwatchable.

True, March Madness is must-see TV. But it can’t obscure the fact that the regular season is awkwardly reaching The Big Dance on two left feet.

Take an interminable 35-second shot-clock, add control-freak coaches, mix in physical defenses and you have a slow, grinding game that’s an eyesore.

Forget the style points for a minute.

How about scoring points, period?

Mar. 22, 2015: Michigan State 23, Virginia 18 at the half.

Scoring was at a record low heading into the NCAA tourney (66.85 points per game, according to analyst Ken Pomeroy).

Just last month Sports Illustrated studied the issue in a piece entitled, “Crisis On The Court: Why College Basketball Needs An Extreme Makeover.”

ESPN analyst and former Duke forward Jay Bilas has been talking about how “brutal” the game is for viewers for years.

While some coaches and purists feel critics are overreacting, average attendance for Division I games has declined steadily for the past seven years, according to the Sports Business Journal. The NCAA showed enough concern to experiment with a 30-second shot-clock in the NIT.

The NCAA largely has wanted to keep its amateur appearance and separate itself from the NBA, thus its resistance to the 24-second shot clock. Try it, you’ll like it.

Reducing the time it takes to launch a shot is a start, creating more possessions and, hopefully, more points.

With 35 seconds at their disposal, I’ve seen teams run three-man weaves at the top of the key – just to work the clock before getting into their offenses. Clothes go out of style while players stand around and casual fans grab the remote to channel-surf.

“It’s horrible. It’s ridiculous,” Cuban told reporters. “It’s worse than high school. You’ve got 20 to 25 seconds of passing on the perimeter and then somebody goes and tries to make a play and do something stupid, and scoring’s gone down.”

Unlike the NBA, coaches are the strutting stars of the college game. Many like nothing better than to have 35 seconds to call every play, stifling the creativity of gifted players. Less talented teams also use the clock to shorten games.

College basketball coaches could improve their sport by taking a cue from college football coaches. The off-tackle curmudgeons have evolved, much to the delight of TV execs, making games high scoring and entertaining with no-huddles and spread offenses.

College hoops also needs to widen the lane from 12 feet to 14 feet and extend the 20-foot three-point line a little – all to create more spacing. And please – pretty please – cut down on all the timeouts that interrupt the flow of games.

Cuban’s off-base when he says the sorry state of the college game is hurting the NBA. It’s not supposed to be a farm system for the select few – no matter how many Kentucky Wildcats leave in a stretch limo.

But, as Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has said, the NCAA could – and should – look to the pro game to improve its product.

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