Ten Ways To Make X Better: Basketball

Ten Ways To Make X Better: Basketball

Submitted by Brian on July 14th, 2016 at 12:21 PM

Previously: hockey, soccer.

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[Patrick Barron]

10. Use advantage calls on fast breaks.

Dunks are the best. On this we can all agree. Cynical fouls to prevent dunks are the worst, and there's a model out there for preventing them. Soccer refs will let fouls go if the team fouled seems to have an advantageous position. Basketball should adopt this for situations where there is about to be a breakaway dunk.

9. Eliminate hack-a-blank.

Allow teams to take the ball out of bounds with a reset shot clock instead of shooting free throws on a non-shooting foul. Like the previous bullet this is an attempt to reduce the number of situations where someone is intentionally violating the rules to their advantage. Don't @ me about how players who can't shoot free throws shouldn't be protected. Rules exist to make the flow of a game more pleasant to watch, and when they fail that they should be changed.

8. Get rid of the three-second call.

Nobody calls it. Its purpose has always been mysterious. The rationale is nonsensical: "open up the offense by restricting what offensive players can do." Clogging the lane is the least of modern basketball's concerns.

7. For the love of God please figure out how to call a charge.

Nobody knows what a charge is. I don't know, and you don't know, and refs don't know, and players don't know. The NCAA made things infinitely worse a couple years back with a change that made things even more confusing; one year of that was enough.

Charges get a bad rap. They're very dramatic. There's a dude on the ground fist-pumping; Teddy Valentine has recruited a crew of Busby Berkeley dancers, all of whom are pointing to the other end of the floor theatrically; the offender is grasping the basketball disdainfully and trying to murder the entire arena with his eyes. Duke ruined them for everybody, but now that there's a restricted circle their preferred tactic is no longer valid.

My suggestion on charges is to make the rule as simple as possible. If a player is moving parallel to the basket, outside of the circle, and gets plowed in the chest by an opponent who still has the ball, it's a charge. Glancing contact is a block. Taking a charge-type substance when the player in question has already released the ball is a no-call. Maybe it would need some tweaks, but the current regime is as close to completely random as possible.

6. No timeouts on out-of-bounds plays.

The final proposal here is the best plan I have to stop the scourge of timeouts, but if people continue to insist on having a break for tea and scones every ten seconds in the waning moments of a close game there are still some improvements that can be made. Number one is eliminating timeouts that come one nanosecond before a five-second call on inbounds plays. In all cases these timeouts reduce the drama of a game, because they prevent the team that's pressing from their shot at a critical turnover. Infuriatingly, they almost always come in the immediate aftermath of another timeout.

Say no to timeouts, in all their forms. But especially this one.

5. Adopt a draft and follow system.

This is discussed in more detail in a previous post. The upshot is that the NBA should move to a style of drafting closer to the NHL model, where everyone is automatically eligible for the draft. This allows drafted players to retain NCAA eligibility and prevents a lot of the consequences of bad draft entry decisions. I also suggest that NBA teams should have to offer longer contracts when they want to sign younger prospects—five year right out of high school, four after one year of college, etc.—and that drafted college players should be able to participate in NBA summer league.

4. Promotion and relegation for the NBA.

People keep talking about this in MLS, where it is dubiously viable and could lead to teams folding. The NBA's situation is vastly different, with an enormous new TV contract and the ability to support teams in Sacramento, Oklahoma City, and the like. The NBA also has an enormous tanking problem. Way too many NBA games are functionally exhibitions. Promotion and relegation fixes that.

Existing team owners looking to protect their franchise value could be a hurdle, but adding, say, ten expansion franchises and gradually splitting into two leagues of 20 teams would bring in enormous expansion fees, enough to offset the possibility of ending up in NBA 2.

3. Okay if you don't want to do that, something else to fix tanking.

First picks in the draft go to the winners of a post-season competition between teams that missed the playoffs. There are 14. The three best and three worst teams are omitted from an eight-team single-elimination tournament that gets played in the latter stages of the NBA playoffs. There is a third place game; top three get the top three slots in the draft.

This is more content to get money from. It turns the bottom three slots in the league into poison to be avoided, instantly upping the drama for the 8 teams at the bottom who are otherwise trying to lose games.

2. Goaltending is legal if you're 5'9" or shorter.

THIS WOULD BE AWESOME.

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Sorry, Tom, you've got way too many fingers to call timeout [Bryan Fuller]

1. Coaches can only call timeout by cutting off one of their digits and handing it to the referee.

I admit my previous no-timeouts-ever stance was too radical. In the spirit of compromise, let us allow for timeouts if coaches are willing to take garden shears to their toes and fingers. If the situation truly calls for a little huddle on the sideline where the coach can remind his players to "play good" and "show effort", all it requires is one sickening moment of shredding flesh and cracking bone that forever alters a man. Should a long-time coach be so mutilated that he can no longer operate a pair of garden shears, a Make-a-Wish child can execute the act for him.

It is in this way timeouts can be responsibly managed.

Unverified Voracity Brainwashes Child

Unverified Voracity Brainwashes Child

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2015 at 4:26 PM

Bo with children. Bo passed away nine years ago today. Spurred by a classic old-timey photo posted by Steve Lorenz, a couple of readers passed along adorable pictures of Bo not yelling at them about their pad level despite his constant desire to do so:

Meanwhile, the legend lives on.

RIP.

If any school can do it, it's Michigan. PFF lists Jourdan Lewis as one of their alternate-universe-where-everyone-pays-close-attention-to-tape Heisman candidates:

Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan: +21.7

Key stat: Only three cornerbacks have been targeted more, and he has still only allowed 274 yards in his coverage.

Like Bosa, Lewis is hurt by playing on defense, particularly when he doesn’t have any game breaking returns to catch your attention. That being said, you won’t find a better cover corner in all of college football, and he is right up there with the other four players listed as one of the best players in the country. Lewis has been targeted 72 times in coverage, which seems foolish for opposing quarterbacks, especially when you consider he has given up just 26 receptions for 274 yards and one touchdown over the course of the year. He’s allowed more than 40 receiving yards in a single game just once all year, and has come away with two interceptions and 14 pass breakups. There was a three-game span against UNLV, BYU and Maryland where he allowed just three receptions for six yards while picking off one pass and breaking up five more.

Those numbers are bonkers. Michigan's inability to generate turnovers has got to be mostly luck when they're getting so many hands on opposition passes. Those translate to INTs at a fairly consistent rate and Michigan is way below par there; meanwhile they've recovered one opposition fumble all year. I can't imagine what their numbers would be like if they had the same level of fortune that Hoke's first team did.

In other grading things. PFF did the Indiana game, giving Jake Rudock a monster +9.2. Certain defenders didn't do so hot:

Michigan’s run defense was exposed for the first time this season, but it wasn’t because they were overpowered on the line. No, the Wolverine’s defense looked completely lost trying to maintain gap control against the Hoosier’s stretch plays. Michigan’s defensive line likes to fire off straight upfield at the snap. This works great against downhill runs like inside zone where they had great success Saturday. But versus outside zone firing upfield creates very wide running lanes when one defensive tackle flows down the line of scrimmage and another one doesn’t. The poor discipline made the job extremely difficult on Michigan’s linebackers. Matthew Godin (-5.3) and Joe Bolden (-3.6) were the two that struggled the most.

I'm through the first half-zillion Indiana plays and that is very much on point. Michigan is slanting with a backside blitz a ton and still not getting their guys to the correct gaps way way too often. Michigan quickly adapted to all the stretch plays tactically but the backup DTs were unable to execute, and Hurst suffered quite a bit as well.

Bolden… Bolden is not getting a good UFR number. I do not understand why Ben Gedeon isn't getting way more time.

New basketball rules impact. Kenpom with the 1000 foot view:

Scoring is up 7% over the first weekend last season. Pace is up 5% and efficiency is up 2%. It’s not 1975-style basketball, but for at least one weekend we turned the clock back to 1995 when it wasn’t unusual to see a team crack 100 on the daily scoreboard.

Fouls are up slightly, as are threes (with no decrease in shooting percentage). Twos are more accurate. The main caveat I would suggest is that years with rules changes that include "call the game like the rulebook says" often start out with a bunch more fouls and then refs swallow their whistles as the stakes rise. The last attempt to crack down on obstruction of movement petered out by midseason. Hopefully this one sticks, but I'm not getting out my victory epaulettes just yet.

FWIW, the NCAA put out a video about what the rules entail:

It's nice that the official voice of the NCAA is decrying MSU's brand of footsketball, at least. John Gasaway on the new regime:

One paradox or spiritual kinship shared by basketball and baseball alike is that invariably many of the sports’ most consequential “reforms” consist of nothing more than a renewed commitment to enforcing the rules as already written. Screens really do have to be stationary, and bumping a cutter or displacing a player off the block really is a violation. So it is that in the coming days it will be said that it’s precisely this newfound strict constructionist attitude that’s resulted in all these darn fouls that are suddenly being called. Indeed the NCAA itself is already sounding this alarm. In its video the organization channels its inner Clubber Lang and says its prediction is pain: “At times the fans and media will not like the number of fouls being called, but we must stay the course and call the rules as written in the rule book.”

I don’t doubt for a moment that officials will signal their seriousness in November by minting free throws left and right, but it bears repeating that justice can be furthered by a no-call just as it can be by a whistle. Enlarging the charge circle could, one hopes, increase the prevalence of swallowed whistles, while the NCAA’s professed wish to stop rewarding “offense-initiated contact” will be nothing less than a no-call godsend if it comes to pass. I don’t want to see a foul called on Melo Trimble (just to pick a name purely at random), but a no-call the next time he flings himself like a horizontal missile into the chest of the nearest vertical-cylinder-inhabiting defender would most definitely be a just result.

One note from the Elon game: the refs appeared to blow one egregious example of offense-initiated contact when a Fightin' Christian jumped unnaturally into Walton to draw a foul.Otherwise I thought that game was well officiated aside from the usual slate of block/charge calls that nobody can ever figure out.

Is this how you do it? "Not quite." How about now? "Still not really there." Surely now? "For chrissakes can you stop looking like a serial killer experiencing afterglow for like 30 seconds?"

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You're the one who wanted me to smile, Lynn.

Henson. Via WH:

Etc.: Holdin' The Rope on Indiana and the Elon game. Elon highlights. Maize and Blue Nation.

Willie Taggart has had a nice turnaround year at USF. If he were to be let go at any point, Taggart would be very much on Harbaugh's radar to fill hypothetical holes on his staff, but better to see him succeed.

Charlie Strong to Miami rumors get their first credible support as Bruce Feldman says he's heard it is a possibility. Michigan is competing with Texas for a number of recruits including Jordan Elliott and Jean Delance.

The remarkable laziness of the Baylor offense. Steve Smith storytime from Sap. IU fans are sick of being #CHAOSTEAM, but what choice do they have? Five Factors from Punt John Punt. Grandson of Gerald Ford coming to play lacrosse. CFB is slightly slower than it was last year. Vincent Smith gardening in Flint. "I think it’s the bear, and I think Houma comes in second with tattoos.”

Unverified Voracity Collects Tattoos

Unverified Voracity Collects Tattoos

Submitted by Brian on June 11th, 2015 at 12:43 PM

Mark The Nomad still wins by a million. In what is inevitably going to be a successful trolling of Michigan State message boards across the state, MLive asked their readers for pictures of their badass Michigan tattoos. None approach the glory of Mark the Nomad's Harbaugh on Saved by the Bell masterpiece, but there's no shame in coming second in this competition.

This is my favorite:

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"I need a wolverine, but I don't want it to be generic."
"I could make him look like he just walked in on his parents having sex."
"Make it so, number one."

-"Jean-Luc Picard's many tattoos: a memoir," by Jonathan Frakes

Second place goes to the guy who went full entrails.

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The owner of this tattoo helpfully points out that the heart in the wolverine's hand comes from the pile of rotting gristle that used to be an Ohio State player below. Sports: we are reasonable about it!

A blessed man indeed. Jim Harbaugh has never heard of Paul Finebaum.

A coach approaches, fixes his collar and tells him he was the talk of the Paul Finebaum Show that day. Finebaum, whose show is nationally syndicated and televised on the SEC Network, discussed Harbaugh's appearance in Alabama with his legions of dedicated callers.

Harbaugh looks confused and shakes his head. He doesn't know who Paul Finebaum is.

The coach continues, "He's a radio show host."

Again, nothing from Harbaugh.

"He's a big deal down here in SEC country," another coach chimes in.

For just about anyone else involved with college football I would assume that is a put-on. Harbaugh is constitutionally incapable of being anything other than HIMSELF AT MAXIMUM VOLUME, though.

I assume that Harbaugh's knowledge of things is a sine wave of infinite amplitude. He can tell you the exact order of battles on the Eastern Front of World War II and the order of elimination of every Bachelor contestant in history; he's never heard of popcorn and thinks marsupials are horses. He regularly knits shawls with his teeth; every damned time his wife turns the faucet on he goggles and exclaims "WHAT IN TARNATION IS THAT?" Etc.

Mmm shade. Nick Baumgardner:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Someone forgot to tell Jim Harbaugh he's supposed to hate this stuff.

"The Raiders are still in play" is played out right now but if we keep saying it it'll be funny again in a few years. The Letterman approach.

Baumgardner quotes Harbaugh at his Sincerely Yours In Football best:

"This is the greatest sport ever invented," Harbaugh says. "Nobody will ever play four years of high school football and look back and say 'I wish I hadn't played football.' You ever hear anybody say that?

"It just doesn't get said. Because it doesn't happen. Football is darn good for you. Darn good for you."

SEC honks who are cheesed off about these satellite camps downplay this aspect of Harbaugh's personality, but it seems real to me. Harbaugh is a football evangelist in an era when people are muttering about the long-term future of the game. He's also a guy looking for recruits. It can be both.

Less of a big deal right now. Michigan's summer basketball camp came and went in the middle of this swarm business with hardly a mention. That's partially Harbaugh sucking up the offseason oxygen—something Beilein is probably happy about—and partially the fact that Michigan doesn't seem on the verge of offering blue-chip 2017 guys who are talking like they will commit. Last year Tyus Battle and Derryck Thornton were in attendance—one out of two ain't bad.

This year, 2017 NV SF Greg Floyd, a top 75 guy but not a five-star, was the most notable (uncommitted) name participating. Austin Davis and Jon Teske were there; Cassius Winston was present but sat out with his broken wrist. The rest of the notables are younger kids that may or may not end up on the radar in the next couple years.

Speaking of Winston, his visit for the camp follows one in May. Both Scout and Rivals seem to be incrementally more optimistic with each one. The vibe now is that Michigan probably tentatively leads; before it was that they maybe tentatively lead.

Okay. The basketball rules changes that were proposed have officially been instantiated.

I don't think the clock change will impact Michigan—or anyone—disproportionately. Michigan does get dinged by the larger arc, as they've always been a team that tries to take a charge instead of block a shot. Teske is arriving at the right time, at least.

And thank God for small timeout murders. Put the rest in a sack and throw them in the river, please.

In Texas. A slice of life from the Houston stop:

“OK, you gotta run, speed up, throw a catchable ball,” he said, jogging in a loop and throwing the ball to a camper 10 yards away, always moving. “Throw a catchable ball. That’s not a catchable ball. A catchable ball is right there. Shoulders, one foot in front of the number.

“There.

“Not there.

“Shoulders!”

While observing, the former San Francisco 49ers coach offered: “No one likes watching incompletions. They really don’t.”

I imagine a couple of projectors got broken in there.

Another reason we're doing well at Paramus. Blake Costanzo is a former San Francisco 49er who's now an assistant at Paramus Catholic. His take on Harbaugh is a bit different than the few 49ers who have not already retired:

"Awesome," Costanzo said. "You want to play for a guy who's been through it, been to practices, grinded, knows what it's like to be in a locker room. To have a guy that knows what you are going through is huge." …

"Everywhere is Michigan country now. They've been all over the country," Costanzo said. "They are just good people. I know a lot of the coaching staff and they are just good people. I promote good people no matter where they are."

Michigan looks set to rake in a number of New Jersey commits this cycle.

Can't stop, won't stop. Old Dominion announces a 2016 satellite camp stop for the sisterhood of the travelling football. No doubt it will be the first of many.

MLB draft fallout. Baseball saw a number players drafted.  CF Jackson Glines, a senior, went in the 10th round. Junior 2B/closer Jacob Croenenworth went in the 7th; he's a junior but Bakich is not holding out hope he'll return. 3B Travis Maezes went in the 13th; Bakich says they might get him back.

Michigan's recruits went late if they went at all, so they should arrive on campus.

Etc.: Compher as captain profiled. OSU QB run concepts; Durkin pattern-matching against trips.

Mailbag: Declaration Of Harbaugh, Shot Clock Impact, Baseball Competitiveness, Sea Cucumbers

Mailbag: Declaration Of Harbaugh, Shot Clock Impact, Baseball Competitiveness, Sea Cucumbers

Submitted by Brian on May 19th, 2015 at 12:05 PM

I did.

you asked for it

"Soon he will start appearing in historically significant photos and no one will remember that he was not, in fact, present."

-Nick

DeclarationOfHarbaughy

Harbaugh put his Jim Harbaugh on the Declaration of Independence, and war was avoided. The British decided to do anything else at all; Harbaugh was forced to invent the game of baseball so he could play it with himself.

Shot clock effect on upsets.

Brian,

Given that lowering the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds had little to no effect in the NIT, and that we can expect the same for a full season, I wonder if a side effect of the change might be fewer upsets.  While efficiency might not change, the number of possessions will.  I would think that with more possessions the better team is likely to win, because more possessions mean less randomness and greater reversion to the mean overall. 

Give EMU 50 possessions against Michigan vs. 100 possessions against Michigan, and I would think that they would have a better chance to win with 50 possessions than 100.  Could the 30 second shot clock actually make March Madness less maddening by reducing upsets?  Thoughts?

-A slightly amused reader who still hopes for upsets

I think that's correct. I still remember that game back in the Amaker era when Illinois was at their apex and Michigan was rolling out Dion Harris and walk-ons named Dani. Michigan's strategy was to run the clock down without running offense and have Harris take a contested shot—the most Amaker strategy ever—and it worked for a while.

Anything that increases the number of trials without making those trials significantly less reliable indicators of talent should reduce upsets. It should be a real effect, but it might be so small as to not be reliably measurable. Maybe Kenpom will address it once he's got a big ol' bag of data.

I have gotten a lot of questions/assertions about the 30 second shot clock—far more than I think the change warrants. The differences are going to be minor. The median NCAA team saw only 10.7% of its shots go up in the period of time just erased. Some of that time can be reclaimed by being more urgent about getting the ball up the floor. (For example, the NBA's back court violation is an eight second call, not a ten second call.) The net impact is likely to be less wasted time and approximately equal efficiency. That's a good change for the game.

More on shot clock

I don’t believe this will affect the quality of shots as much as it will affect substitutions…

On a number of occasions I watched several teams, Wisconsin and Michigan included, essentially ‘waste’ at least 5 seconds tossing the ball back and forth outside the 3 point arc without any other movement. Case could be made this was simply being used to offer the players a short rest on offense, meaning that the top players likely play longer before substitution.

This may mean that teams with deep and talented benches gain an advantage…so the question may become whether it is the team with the best starters or the team with the best top 9 that wins.

-Howard [ed: a basketball referee]

There's another effect: if teams do decide to make those five seconds up by being quicker that's going to result in more pressure to get up and down the floor and more tired legs late in games. That'll be something to watch next year: does the percentage of bench minutes go up as a result?

Again: probably marginal impact but one that I would argue is unambiguously good.

[After the JUMP: another theory of baseball competitiveness, sea cucumbers.]

We Have Won A Battle Against Timeouts But The War Has Just Begun

We Have Won A Battle Against Timeouts But The War Has Just Begun

Submitted by Brian on May 18th, 2015 at 11:20 AM

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imagine this with bloody stumps and shears

The NCAA announced a not-quite-official suite of rules changes in men's basketball that, in the words of John Gasaway, have left twitter speechless in the wake of "a rather disconcerting overabundance of wish fulfillment." Well, most of twitter.

The rules changes fall into three main categories plus some miscellaneous minor fixes. Those are:

A VITAL CHANGE TO THE SHOT CLOCK DOT SARCASM FONT. The shot clock will be 30 seconds as college basketball seeks to combat the scourge of possessions without a turnover.

I've seen a lot of speculation on Michigan boards that such a change will hurt Michigan's offense disproportionately. It is possible. I downloaded Hoop Math's data on late clock shots (ie, shots in the last five seconds of the shot clock) and there is a surprising large spread through D-I. Wisconsin puts up 18% of their shots late; Iowa State is at just 4%.

As you might expect, Michigan is consistently towards the Wisconsin end of the spectrum. Last year 15% of their shots were attempted in a period that will no longer exist. Despite having an off year (after back-to-back #1 finishes in offensive efficiency at Kenpom) they were also very good at executing late, with an eFG of 49.4%. That was 30th nationally.

You could look at those numbers and worry that a hunk of time that Michigan utilizes unusually frequently and well is going away. You could look at those numbers and revel that the NCAA is moving a number of shots into a late-clock situations and Michigan will be better prepared than most to deal with that fact.

If the NIT is any evidence, both of these hypotheses will be hard to test because the shorter shot clock won't have enough impact on efficiency to make a difference.

TIMEOUTS AND PACE OF PLAY. There is one fewer, and any TO within 30 seconds of a media timeout becomes that media timeout. As noted above, your author does not believe this is anywhere near enough timeout murder. He will take what he can get until Congress passes the To Take A Timeout A Basketball Coach Must Cut Off One Of His Digits Act, though.

The NCAA prohibited live ball timeouts… but just from coaches. That will not prevent players from preventing turnovers by spending TOs. They also are "emphasizing" returning to play quickly after a TO and have removed the free timeout teams get after a player fouls out. (Maybe. Those latter changes have gray areas and there is a tendency to backslide whenever a rule is not a bright line.)

Except for the fact that they were not nearly ruthless enough, all of these changes are excellent.

FLOPPING. The NCAA will implement the full NBA-sized restricted circle and can call fouls on players who are deemed to have flopped when they are in the middle of an interminable review. Thumbs up on the former even if it hurts Michigan's defensive strategy; the latter isn't likely to have much impact.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Refs can check for shot clock violations whenever they want. This is clearly spurred by that Nigel Hayes basket in the Wisconsin-Kentucky game and will just add to the reviews that almost never actually result in a call getting reversed. A good rule of thumb is that any law named after a deceased child is a terrible law; the basketball equivalent is that any rule change clearly traceable to a single possession in an NCAA tournament game is almost certainly not going to be worth the extra time spent reviewing things.
  • "Class B" technical fouls are now just one shot. Remember when Aaron White didn't get ejected from a game in which he had two techs? Apparently that was legit because one of those was for hanging on the rim, which is a Class B tech. Now people will know that there are different classes of techs—which I did not. So they've got that going for them.
  • There is no more five second "closely guarded" rule. I'm torn. In no way was that rule important, but when it got invoked it felt like a reward for superior perimeter defense. On the other hand, I'm all for reducing the burden minor rules impose on referees in the hope that they'll get the more important stuff right.
  • You can dunk during warmups. Aubrey Dawkins has been high-fiving himself for days now.

There is also a potentially massive future change on the horizon: adding a foul per player. The NCAA plans to test that at the NIT next year. I am not in favor of that at all; offering additional incentive to foul the pants off your opponents is not going to help create the open, flowing game everyone says they want.

Unverified Voracity Refuses To Get Excited

Unverified Voracity Refuses To Get Excited

Submitted by Brian on April 28th, 2015 at 12:28 PM

Jaylenbits? Maybe not quite but it is by far the most interesting thing going on right now. The latest:

  • Scout's Brian Snow has been saying this is a top two of UK and M for weeks and reiterated that, with Cal running third. Feels like the Bears would be a surprise but not an all-caps SHOCK.
  • Sam Webb did not offer a gut feeling on WTKA this morning but did reiterate that Michigan was very much in this recruitment; he's got an article coming up in the News on why that is. As a guy who's badgered him about this recruitment for months I can say that Sam is getting more hopeful as we move along here. He is not playing coy, though: nobody knows.
  • Kentucky offered 2015 6'6" wing Shaun Kirk yesterday just hours after he committed to NC State. Kentucky needs a lot of guys, yes; they already have a commitment from a 6'6" wing out of Chicago and are about to get a JUCO shooting guard, Mychal Mulder. A 247 Kentucky staff member suggested this was "more indicative" of where things are with Jaylen Brown than Cheick Diallo, the 6'9" power forward who is the other major prize Kentucky is after.
  • Even if Kentucky sweeps Kirk/Mulder/Diallo they will still have a spot for Brown, FWIW. Adding Jamal Murray, the Canadian combo guard who is considering reclassifying from 2016, and all those guys would fill them up but even then a guy like Marcus Lee could get Creaned.
  • Crystal Ball predictions continue to roll in for Michigan, including one from Jerry Meyer, 247's head of basketball recruiting. Michigan now has the last 13 picks, with 247 staffers at their Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, and UNC sites amongst those to pick M in the last couple days. Again, I wouldn't take this as gospel since this recruitment has been cloak and dagger. Somebody is hearing something.
  • College coaches don't seem to be among that group, as several said they have "no clue" and/or "no feel" for what Brown was going to do.
  • The OSU staffer told his message board that after some texts it looks like it's "headed UM's way" and that the Adidas thing was "huge". Steve Lorenz also mentioned something along those lines. I will call them Competent Germans for a week if this happens.
  • Rivals, which has been pessimistic the whole time, suggests that Kansas writers in their network are "beginning to believe" they have a real shot. That's at odds with what their 24/7 guys are saying.
  • There's no scheduled commitment time but people expect that that Brown will choose within the next couple weeks.

Meanwhile VA combo guard Kenny Williams is planning to take an official to Michigan. UNC and Virginia are the other schools he'll visit after using two of his officials earlier in the year; those schools and maybe VCU appear to comprise his list. Obviously if Brown does happen, Williams will no longer be an option.

Other basketball things. During the Hatch press conference, Beilein touched on a couple personnel matters. On DJ Wilson's position:

That is no surprise with Teske and maybe Davis scheduled to enter in 2016 (Davis may prep), but it is an indicator where Michigan stands this year. They may need a third C and it sounds like Wilson will be the guy playing Bielfeldt/Smotrycz when foul trouble looms.

On Spike:

That does not put talk about Spike redshirting to rest but it should at least dampen it considerably. Given the composition of the roster Michigan should want to add a point guard in 2016; a Spike redshirt prevents that. And having Albrecht available is a very good thing for a team with aspirations.

On other potential roster moves:

There was some speculation that Chatman might light out for greener pastures; happy that is not the case. He is still a guy who can develop into an excellent player. Just get that corner three down and get mean on the boards and we're in business.

1925 sounds exactly as fun as you would expect. The roaring 20s of football:

Several years later mud would obscure key numbers in the New York Stock Exchange, and the rest is history.

Nyet. Mike Spath reported a week or so ago that Michigan would look to add a grad transfer wide receiver or two over the coming months, space permitting, and thoughts naturally turned to Devin Lucien, the UCLA receiver who Michigan essentially turned down (they asked him to play D) days after Hoke took the job. Lucien is no longer available:

Ah well.

Cut to the chase. The Final Four—two spectacular games and Duke punking MSU—put the "COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS DEATH" meme to the sword, or it least it should have. But at the same time the tournament was going on, basketball was experimenting with a 30 second shot clock in their B- and C-tier postseason tournaments. Those increased scoring without a commensurate decrease in efficiency, so you may as well do it. It appears that people are going to do it:

Men's basketball is likely heading toward reducing its shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd told ESPN.com on Monday.

Byrd, the coach at Belmont, said a year ago that there was a 5 percent chance of the change happening, but he changed his tone Monday.

"Now there's a real decent chance," Byrd said. "It's pretty evident a lot more coaches are leaning that way. The opinion of coaches on the shot clock has moved significantly to reducing it from 35 to 30. And all indicators are pointing toward that."

Byrd also said there was a 90% chance college basketball would adopt the NBA charge circle. It does sound like other changes are on the horizon:

Byrd said coaches have told him the game is too physical and too rough. He said that will come up quite a bit in the meeting.

Byrd also said there will be discussion about altering the timeout rule to create better flow. He said he would like to mimic the rule in women's basketball where if a coach calls a timeout within 30 seconds of a media timeout, then that becomes the TV timeout.

He said too often coaches will call a timeout, knowing they are getting a media timeout 15 seconds later, and that creates an even longer downtime for the fans in the stands and the TV audience.

"You can have the last few minutes take 20 minutes," Byrd said. "It doesn't bother coaches, but it does for those watching at home and in the arena. We need to try to get the games within two-hour windows."

All of that sounds excellent. From a selfish perspective I think the shot clock reduction hurts Michigan since they use their time on offense so well, but if it's part of a package that includes improving offensive flow by reducing the Spartanizing of the game I'll take it in a hot second.

Now just implement my coaches-must-cut-off-a-digit-to-call-timeout plan and we are cooking with gas.

The unbundling. ESPN has sued Verizon for attempting an end-around of their contract. ESPN thinks it says Verizon can't offer "basic" packages without its family of channels; Verizon is like nah.

Verizon Fios has just shy of six million cable subscribers -- making it the fourth largest cable company and sixth largest cable or satellite company in the country. Verizon recently announced a new cheaper alternative to a basic cable package. That offering allows consumers to subscribe to a basic cable package for $59.99. Unlike Dish Network's recent Sling TV offering which includes ESPN in its basic tier, the new Verizon Fios package doesn't include ESPN in its basic tier pricing. Instead ESPN -- along with ESPN2, FS1 and NBC Sports Network -- are included in a sports tier package which consumers can purchase for the additional price of $9.99 a month. That is, it's possible to subscribe to Verizon's new cable package without receiving ESPN.

That's actually a great deal for that sports package since ESPN and ESPN 2 alone cost Verizon seven dollars. I am not a law-talking guy but I can't see how this is going to fly in the courts; it is an indicator of where we're going. Right now sports is being subsidized by people who don't care about it at all. In an a-la-carte world that no longer happens.

Then what? Then ESPN takes a bath, with sports leagues next on the chopping block. ESPN costs 6 bucks a month for a channel 20% of people are interested in; it will not cost thirty bucks a month in an a-la-carte world because a lot of people will forgo it. There's only so much you can do by strong-arming customers in an environment where ten bucks a month gets you a virtually infinite pile of content. The people who don't care will opt out.

This is why adding questionable fanbases to the Big Ten in the pursuit of short-term cable dollars was so incredibly foolish even beyond the deleterious effects of adding a bunch of games nobody in the world cares about. Every time I see someone hail Jim Delany as some kind of visionary I want to laugh/cry.

Etc.: Jack Harbaugh on satellite camps. Quinn on Hatch.

Unverified Voracity Is Tested Regularly

Unverified Voracity Is Tested Regularly

Submitted by Brian on April 8th, 2015 at 12:34 PM

Not literally a comic book. 28 minutes of Charles Woodson highlights from high school do not quite feature him bounding over a tall building:

 

Full go minus one decision. John Beilein doesn't see anyone transferring this offseason:

"Everybody seems to be all onboard 100 percent," Beilein said Monday after attending a USBWA Final Four luncheon honoring freshman Austin Hatch. "Obviously, we're not with them 24 hours a day, but I love their attitude right now."

That does not include Caris LeVert, who is deciding on the NBA draft. It seems that people around the program are cautiously optimistic he will stay for his senior year, but we won't have certainty until the early entry deadline, April 26th.

That would leave Michigan with zero scholarships this year and two plus any attrition after next season in 2016. Unless Hatch goes on a medical scholarship that would cut out Mike Edwards, the various transfers looking at Michigan, and Jaylen Brown.

In related news, it looks like Max Bielfeldt will spend his grad transfer year at Bradley.

Meanwhile, another one bites the dust at Indiana. The Hoosiers get a commitment from prep post Thomas Bryant, bringing the number of Indiana players guaranteed to get run off this offseason to three. Someone please fire Tom Crean.

Spike surgery. Spike Albrecht will have surgery on both hips to eliminate the pain he played through this season. His projected return is in four or five months, which cuts him out of all the summer stuff but should have him back on the court a couple months before the season. That should be enough time to knock off the rust.

Soon, a fully healthy Spike will also be dunking on fools.

Out go the successories posters. Harbaugh on the weight room:

"It was shiny, like somebody from Chicago came in [from a ] P.R. firm," Harbaugh said. ""This isn't a slide show.

"This is work."

Don't get a DUI and then fail your probation. Harbaugh on Glasgow:

"The legal system has got as much hanging over his head as anybody else could possibly put on him," Harbaugh said. "There's nothing more that I, or the football program or the university could have on Graham right now than what (the courts) have.

"This is somebody who is taking a breathalyzer every morning and every night. He's got to be clean, 100 percent clean, not a drop of alcohol. And he'll either do it, or he won't. I believe in him, I believe he will. But we'll all know, there will be no secrets on that. Whether he does it or he doesn't, it'll be for public consumption."

He will have to do this through January, so he will either be clean as a whistle or you'll know he wasn't.

This is a lovely shot chart. Aubrey Dawkins did two things last year:

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Threes and throwdowns. He was excellent at the threes, average at the throwdowns, which still means he was extremely efficient. Next year's project is getting some of those hexagons to be larger without changing their distribution. Oh, and doing the defense and rebounding stuff.

Okay, let's do it. Kenpom looks at the effect the 30-second shot clock (and expanded no-charge circle) had on the tournaments that used it:

Adjusting for the matchups and expected points in each game, scoring in the smaller tournaments has been about 5.6 ppg more than the NCAA tournament. This is 2.4 ppg higher than the typical difference in these events. That's not something that will transform the game, but if you assume that boost applies to the entire 2015-16 season, it would take the sport to scoring levels not seen since 2003. (That statement excludes last season, when scoring increased dramatically, partly because a bunch of fouls were called.)

Pace

Not surprisingly, most of the scoring increase can be attributed to an increase in pace. Accounting for the teams involved and the increase in tempo normally seen in lower-level events, there have been two additional possessions per 40 minutes than we'd expect under normal rules. This is a more modest change compared to scoring and only turns the clock back to 2011 in terms of pace. This suggests simply reducing the shot clock to 30 won't produce significantly more up-and-down basketball. A surprising finding here is that slow-paced teams were affected as much as fast-paced teams were.

Efficiency

One of the concerns of the 30-second clock is that it may make offenses less efficient, but the postseason experiment isn't providing much evidence of that. Accounting for the quality of the teams and the usual increase in efficiency seen in the lower-level events, efficiency was actually up, though by a miniscule 0.6 points per 100 possessions.

The efficiency thing is almost certainly noise, but it looks like any effects are going to be minimal in that department. I don't think there's much wrong with college basketball other than the fact that block/charge is impossible to call and the refs are hilariously bad in general—but that's not something you can wave a wand and fix.

Final CSS rankings out. Minor movement for most players. Zach Werenski is 9th, down from 6th. Kyle Connor moves up a spot to 13th. 2016 recruit Cooper Marody moves up ten spots to 53rd. There were some more significant moves:

  • NTDP forward Brendan Warren dropped from 34th to 66th, which is an early third round pick to the fifth or sixth. He had an okay year only with the U18s.
  • Incoming defenders Joe Cecconi and Nick Boka went in opposite directions; Cecconi dropped from 70 to 88 and Boka shot up from 176 to 117.

Given Michigan's needs next year I'm happy that Boka's stock has apparently surged, even if Warren is less of a prospect than you think he might be. I wonder if Michigan will try to bring Marody or another 2016 recruit in now given Copp's departure.

The Hockey Writers have an extensive breakdown of Werenski that compares him to Trouba. I know I'm seeing Werenski a year younger, but he is not Trouba. Trouba was a commanding defenseman at both ends of the ice. Werenski really came on in the offensive zone late in the year but was a significant source of defensive problems.

Etc.: 1914 All-American ring for "Maully," which is either John Maulbetsch's nickname or a cartoon hammer. Bacari Alexander is up for the UW-Green Bay job, which is a pretty good mid-major posting. Various OMG Harbaugh stories on spring from ESPN, MLive, MVictors, etc.

Sports "donations" are still tax-deductible. Alabama assistant salaries have gone up 60% in four years(!). Michigan's are probably in the same range.

Unverified Voracity's Hourglass Runs Out

Unverified Voracity's Hourglass Runs Out

Submitted by Brian on March 17th, 2015 at 3:48 PM

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A man who knew how to live.

RIP Terry Pratchett. British author Terry Pratchett died on Thursday at 66, eight years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.

Occasionally, people ask me about how to be a successful writer. This is kind of like asking a football player about his rad interception after the game—I don't really know, it just happened. But no one likes that answer. So my second-best guess is that I read many different things over a long period of time, and written various things for public consumption all along. Eventually I'd cribbed my style from so many different people that the pastiche seems like something its own. Voila: writer with Voice.

Pratchett was the first and most painfully obvious theft of the Big Four. (The others: Bloom County author Berke Breathed, David Foster Wallace, and SI's Paul Zimmerman.) He had not yet made a successful transition to this side of the Atlantic, but I had a friend in high school whose aunt was in British publishing. She passed Pratchett along to him, and he doled the books out to me one at a time. I lost one once and was terrified that I would not be entrusted with additional precious objects. But my friend kept giving them to me. For a time afterwards my prose was littered with jaunty footnotes and anthropomorphizations of natural forces. A pale imitation of the real thing.

I kept some of that, toning it down, and as I was reading the internet's obituary of the man I found this, in his own words:

There is a term that readers have been known to apply to fantasy that is sometimes an unquestioning echo of better work gone before, with a static society, conveniently ugly “bad” races, magic that works like electricity, and horses that work like cars. It’s EFP, or Extruded Fantasy Product. It can be recognized by the fact that you can’t tell it apart from all the other EFP.

Do not write it, and try not to read it. Read widely outside the genre. Read about the Old West (a fantasy in itself) or Georgian London or how Nelson’s navy was victualled or the history of alchemy or clock making or the mail coach system. Read with the mind-set of a carpenter looking at trees.

This is what I've done. I barely read sports books. I get a lot of them in the mail, or at least I used to before people cottoned onto the fact that a review was not likely to be forthcoming. I read fiction, right now mostly science fiction, and I think it serves the site well.

Pratchett was endlessly creative and subversive, often taking hallowed but trope-laden fantasy novels apart then reassembling them into a half-parodic, half-genuine whole far better than the source material. He found a platform, then found that he'd rather make his own characters than repackage the frustrating ones he found elsewhere. He was excellent at this as well. He always maintained a healthy fear of hollow marketing—Pratchett elves are twisted creatures who live in a neighboring dimension that project an aura of glamour that iron disrupts. His most prominent and probably favorite character was DEATH, yes with the bones and the scythe and everything. He was simultaneously very weird and very kind and very upset, and I'll miss him.

If you're interested in trying him out, I recommend Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods.

YES OKAY. I did think to myself "by dang, Dave Brandon was selling Extruded Michigan Product" when I read that.

Leach + Ufer. Via Dr. Sap:

Enter the 30 second shot clock. The NIT is experimenting with that and an NBA-size restricted circle, both of which are changes I can get behind as a COLLEGE BASKETBALL CRISIS skeptic. Kenpom notes that the Vegas over/unders for opening-round NIT games differ from his numbers by…

Predicted total score of Tuesday’s NIT games

             Me      Market
Ala/Ill     126        136
GW/Pitt     125        136
NCC/Miami   117        129
UTEP/Murray 144        151
Mont/TAMU   125        134
UCD/Stan    140        148
Iona/URI    144        152

The difference here is an average of seven percent. Apply that to the average scoring this season of 66.85 points per game and you’d get 71.5. That’s over a point higher than last season when the scoring average was propped up by an increase in free throws early in the season. And it’s higher than any season since 1996.

…seven percent, which in fact precisely offsets the drop in possessions from 2002 (the first year for which Kenpom has data) to 2015. Kenpom also points out that the drop from 45 seconds to 35 resulted in just a two percent increase in pace.

If this year's NIT doesn't show a large negative impact on efficiency, I would expect the 30 second clock to become standard in the near future.

Miller says adios. Already covered by Ace when it happened; Miller releases his own reasoning on twitter. It sounds like he was just done with football. This kind of thing happens when you have a transition, and if Miller didn't have much of an NFL career in the wings (he didn't) it makes sense to just go be in the world… if the alternative you most closely associate with continuing is the last two years of Michigan football followed by a jarring change.

I don't think this is a major issue since Michigan finally has a lot of depth that is not any variety of freshman. It is an indication that the team spirit was worn down extensively over the past couple years. It's one thing to walk away from an NFL job—it's a job. It's another, or at least should be another, to do so when you could be a senior at Michigan. Hopefully Harbaugh can restore that difference.

But it could be a problem because… Graham Glasgow violated the terms of his probation and is suspended as a result. The nature of his violation is worrying:

Michigan offensive lineman Graham Glasgow has been suspended from the program, according to a UM spokesman, after testing .086 on a Breathalyzer given on Sunday and violating his probation.

Testing barely over the legal limit to drive is not a big deal if you are not driving… except this test was done at ten in the morning. That is a red flag.

If Glasgow comes through this okay and gets a handle on things, the OL can sustain Miller's departure by sliding him back to center and inserting Erik Magnuson with little loss of efficacy. If Glasgow flames out, then things start to look a bit thin.

Harbaugh is hands on. Knuckle placement.

Hearing about it is one thing.

But seeing your head coach lying on the ground during practice to demonstrate the proper center-quarterback exchange technique?

Well, things get real at that point.

"He's really hands on with everything," the Michigan junior running back said with a smile Thursday. "When I first saw him (on the ground like that), I was like 'why is he doing this?' But I asked the centers the next day if that helped them and they said it did, they said that was the first time anyone had showed them something like that.

"So, I enjoyed it."

"…and barely avoided bursting into laughter like Derrick. RIP Derrick."

More people. Erik Campbell returns to staff as a… guy… who does… things. Probably works with film, breaks down opponent tendencies, that sort of thing. Michigan also added Cleveland St. Ed's head coach Jim Finotti as their Ops guy.

Obligatory. John Oliver on the NCAA:

It's a racket. Related: here's Andy Schwarz on Purdue's "internal services" sleight of hand. Long story short, Purdue takes profit from the athletic department and pretends it's an expense they are paying for. In this way it appears like the Boilermakers are not in the black, helping the NCAA cry poverty.

Finally. Bill Raftery, at 73, gets to call the Final Four. Raftery manages to bring the enthusiasm Dick Vitale does without being a braying nonsense merchant; he is one of the chosen few media people who can be utterly himself without getting in trouble for it and still be awesome. (Another: Scott Van Pelt.)

On long practices. Joe Bolden:

“I would say it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been on the football field, other than a game with a rain delay like Utah last year,” said senior linebacker Joe Bolden. “To me it flies by. If you tell a high school or college kid that they’re going to have a four-hour practice in pads they’ll think you’re a bit crazy. But at the same time, you don’t think about it when you’re out there. Your body can take a lot more than you think it can. If he wants to practice six hours, and it’s (within the practice time cap), then we’ll practice six hours.”

This man was not one of the Big Four influences. A nation realizes that those rabid anti-Rosenberg Michigan fans were probably right all along.

Etc.: Engineering your bracket. MGoGirl basketball post mortem. Jordan Morgan has a foundation now. John Harbaugh talking to the team. Enter another Glasgow. A comprehensive look at when to foul late in basketball games.

Bacon on Harbaugh's "weapons-grade intensity." Related: Pretty much.

There Is No College Basketball Scoring Crisis

There Is No College Basketball Scoring Crisis

Submitted by Brian on March 16th, 2015 at 12:28 PM

"College basketball is facing a crisis. It’s time for an extreme makeover."

-Seth Davis, 3/2/2015

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[Bryan Fuller]

After a one-year surge in offense spurred by a sometimes-enforced focus on contact and the virtual elimination of off-ball charges, college basketball largely reverted to its old rules this year. The result: a fractional dip in scoring to new lows and sustained outcry from announcers and newspapermen alike.

Damn things like "division," full speed ahead:

Is college basketball in crisis?

Scoring is down. Pace is at an all-time low. Some teams are winning with defense, which is fine, but far too many others are surviving simply because — let's face it — they miss fewer shots.

Damn things like "bothering to look at even one stat," full speed ahead:

[Colorado head coach Tad] Boyle said several factors, including the way the game is officiated, has led to lower scoring. Teams also tend to do the same things offensively, which makes defending them easier. But for the most part Boyle boiled it down. "Better shooting, quite frankly, would really help," he said.

Seth Davis had a major SI piece decrying the decline:

The more things change, the more they ... get worse. College basketball is slower, more grinding, more physical and more, well, offensive than it has been in a long, long time. The 2014-15 season is shaping up to be the worst offensive season in modern history. Through Feb. 22, teams were averaging 67.1 points per game. That is the lowest average since 1952. The previous low for that span was set just two years ago. This more than reverses the gains that were made last season, after the rules committee made adjustments to clamp down on physical defense and make it harder to draw a charge. Thanks to lax enforcement by officials and a foolish decision to reverse the block/charge modification, scoring declined by 3.79 points per game. That is the steepest single-season drop on record.

As of late, the fretting has spread to the athletic director level, as those ADs look at their attendance figures. All of this looks at the state of the game today and shakes its head sadly at what we've lost.

And it's all nonsense.

College basketball has barely changed

The thing about college basketball is how little it's changed over the past 13 years. Kenpom has data back to 2002 showing an eerily static state of play, with a slight trend towards more efficiency.

Things that actually seem to have a trend are bolded:

Stat 2015 2010 2005 2002
Offensive efficiency 102.1 100.8 101 100.9
Possessions per game 64.8 67.3 67.3 69.5
eFG% 49 48.8 49.3 49.1
TO% 19.1 20.4 21.3 21.5
OREB% 31.1 32.7 33.8 34.1
FTA/FGA 37.1 37.7 36.5 37.6
3PT% 34.3 34.2 34.6 34.5
2PT% 47.8 47.7 48 47.8
FT% 69.2 68.9 68.7 69
Block% 9.6 9.2 8.8 8.5
Steal 9.4 9.8 10.4 10.3
3P/FGA 34.2 32.6 33 32.1
A/FGM 53.1 53.5 55.7 55.2

Shooting has remained shockingly static, as have all the individual components—despite the three point arc moving back slightly during this sample. Offensive efficiency has in fact increased even without the rules changes that a panicked committee instituted two years ago, implemented after a season (2013) in which offensive efficiency was a half-point worse per hundred possessions than it was in 2002.

Only a few things have actually changed: there are fewer turnovers and steals as teams take care of the ball better; there are fewer offensive rebounds as more teams adopt the Wisconsin/Michigan model of preventing transition opportunities at all costs. And there are fewer possessions.

That's it. Games are in fact getting shorter in terms of time spent doing the basketball. Free throw rates remain essentially constant as the denominator shrinks. There are fewer balls flung out of bounds, stopping the clock. Little that happens during the 40 minutes the clock is actually running has changed in 13 years. There are 7% fewer possessions. That is about it.

This holds at all levels. Major conference stats from leagues that had approximately the same membership over the course of these 13 years (ie, not the Big East) show the same broad trends, albeit with the additional jitter inherent in a much smaller sample size. The ACC has plummeted from the country's second-fastest league to #23:

ACC 2015 2010 2005 2002
Offensive efficiency 104.2 100.4 104.9 106.3
Possessions per game 63.3 67.8 70.5 74.2
eFG% 49.1 47 50 51.9
TO% 16.9 20 20.2 20.2
OREB% 31.4 35 35.2 33.7
FTA/FGA 33.8 36.5 38.9 37.7

The Big Ten is less dramatic but similar:

Big Ten 2015 2010 2005 2002
Offensive efficiency 104 102.8 103.2 102.4
Possessions per game 62.3 62.3 62.8 65.1
eFG% 49.3 49.5 50.6 50.9
TO% 17.3 18.9 20.6 21.3
OREB% 30.2 30.8 32.3 32
FTA/FGA 33.4 33 34.4 37

The Big Ten has shown some degradation of shooting as fewer fouls are called and effective field goal percentage slips, but the large decrease in turnovers has offset that.

The Big Twelve has undergone a dip in efficiency…

Big Twelve 2015 2010 2005 2002
Offensive efficiency 102.2 103.9 104.7 105.6
Possessions per game 64.7 69.1 65.4 70.2
eFG% 48 49.4 50.5 50.2
TO% 19 19.2 20.4 19.2
OREB% 33.7 32.6 33.9 34.9
FTA/FGA 39 39.5 36.8 33.5

…but again, we are talking about a league losing approximately one basket per game. Hardly a crisis. The Big Twelve still shows the overall slowdown and hints at the reduction in TOs and OREBs as well.

College basketball is fine when college basketball is being played

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There is no college basketball scoring crisis. There is a college basketball actually-playing-basketball crisis.

It is not particularly surprising that athletic directors will leap at any explanation they can get their hands on to explain ever-slower games and declining attendance, even if that entails flogging a measly 7% decline in the number of shots as the end of basketball. It's not surprising because the alternative is finding the true culprits: the athletic directors themselves.

The athletic directors are the ones signing the contracts that see every timeout, and there are a million timeouts, followed by a commercial. They're the ones who implemented the ridiculous review system that stops play for minutes at a time to not give someone a flagrant foul or arbitrarily decide to overturn or not overturn an out of bounds call that was already pretty arbitrary.

They are the ones responsible for this:

Overall, the last 60 seconds of the 52 [most recent 2014 NCAA tourney] games combined have taken five hours, 44 minutes, and 51 seconds to complete. (That's including the five bonus final minutes from overtime games.) 5:44:51 is 605 percent longer than realtime; the average final minute took 5:57 to finish, with a median of 5:29.

That is insane.

Maybe people were inclined to put up with that when the alternatives were watching Hee-Haw or silently playing chess in a room with one very loud ticking clock. Not so much these days.

The problem is with the product. Fix the product. You might make less money right now, but with a better product you will be better off in the long run. Here's how you fix the product:

  • Coaches must sacrifice a digit to call a timeout. The timeout signal is now a head coach handing one of his freshly snipped fingers or toes to the referee. Until such time as the coach has too few fingers to manipulate the shears, he must snip the fingers off himself. Afterwards his wife or children must.

…what? "Too extreme," you say? "This is barbaric," you say? "I will not condone this sort of behavior in our society,"  you say?

Fine. Fine.

  • Severely reduce the number of timeouts. Ideally this is one, like hockey. More realistically you need to cut them down to three. Timeouts benefit nobody except megalomaniac coaches. They drastically lessen the immediacy of frantic finishes. By allowing teams in the lead to avoid five-second calls, tie-ups, and turnovers after getting trapped they reduce the chances of a trailing team coming back.
  • All remaining timeouts before the last five minutes take the place of media timeouts. The timeout-ten-seconds-of-play-timeout thing is an awful frustration in the middle of the game.
  • Media timeouts are every five minutes, not four.
  • If you want to shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds, okay I guess. I was previously opposed to this since it would lead to more ugly late clock shots from college basketball outfits without guys who are particularly good at isolation, but the stats over the 15 years suggest that basketball could withstand a slight dip in efficiency okay.

You'll give up some money initially, but increased competition for fewer spots will make up some of it—you're still the only live game in town these days—and increased ratings from being less positively insufferable to watch will support the rest. As a side benefit, people will be more inclined to watch your games when they consist largely of game instead of t-shirt cannon.

The game is the same. It is eerily the same. If there's a difference it's in the stuff in between the game.

Death To The Charge Change, And Other Rules

Death To The Charge Change, And Other Rules

Submitted by Brian on May 12th, 2014 at 11:31 AM

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They did call this, but no one knew why or how

You guys! I'm super pumped that I wasn't the only one spasming at the injustice of it all when someone—anyone—tried to take a charge last year. Obvious charges were blocks. Obvious blocks were blocks, except sometimes you got a hilarious charge call off an obvious block despite the new charge-hating regime. John Beilein muttered about it politely, and I was reverse Otto.

Turns out that everyone hated it, and now the NCAA is (probably) rolling the change back, because everyone hated it. Here is the realtalk reason why:

Byrd said NCAA national officiating coordinator John Adams and other officials conceded that the upward motion element made it “nearly impossible to teach (officials) how to call it and it was nearly impossible to call it with any consistency.” …

…"It just was very difficult for an official, and a defender for that matter, to know when [that happened]. The great part about when he leaves the floor, it’s really the only definitive act, the only definitive instance an official can determine. And the upward motion was subjective.”

Amen. Even if you want to reduce the viability of the charge as a defensive strategy, you have to do it in a black and white way. Personally I've never felt charges were out of control. If I was NCAA God I'd conjure forth a flood to wipe away the face of the association, and then afterwards I'd leave charges pretty much as they are with two exceptions:

  • It's automatically a block if you take the contact when the player is on his way down. These kinds of calls evaporated last year due to the rule change but may come back now that they're rolling it back. If you can't close enough while the guy is still going up, it should be a block, as impeding a guy's landing is dangerous and you didn't really play defense if the ball has been gone for a beat or two by the time you make contact. Any play that a ref would award a bucket and then an offensive foul should be an and-one.
  • Flops are fouls. Simulation should be penalized as it is in soccer and hockey. Note that trying to take a charge is not simulation. The event against Tennessee above is definitely Jordan Morgan trying to take a charge. It's not simulation since Stokes ran him over with his shoulder down. Morgan is in a precarious position if Stokes does not and may end up falling over if he guesses wrong, in which case he should get called.

The new guideline:

In order to take a charge, the alteration will require a defending player to be in legal guarding position before the airborne player leaves the floor to pass or shoot. Additionally, the defending player is not allowed to move in any direction before contact occurs (except vertically to block a shot).

Improvement, certainly. Even so I'd simplify way you make the determination: if you get plowed in the chest while square and moving perpendicular to (or away from) the guy with the ball it's a charge. A lot of people are still bitching about the Morgan call against Syracuse because they've seen it in super-slow motion and in that Morgan is not dead still the entire time. As long as a guy isn't leaning or moving into the defender (and he gets there when he' still on the floor), it should be a charge. Make it as easy as possible to call. If this is too charge-friendly, extend the circle to NBA dimensions and ruthlessly call floppers.

But whatever, man. I'll take it. As far as impact on Michigan goes: it's a positive for anyone who relies on positioning and smarts over being the Sultan of Swat. So thumbs up.

The rest of the basketball rules chattering went well, at least from my perspective: it sounds like they're going to try to wrest a single timeout away from coaches and are pondering this change:

Committee members also recommended an experimental rule involving timeouts, with an eye on potentially using this in the Postseason NIT. In this proposal, when a team calls a timeout within 30 seconds of the next scheduled media timeout (first dead ball under the 16-, 12-, 8-, and 4-minute marks), that timeout will become the media timeout.

Yes, please.

Meanwhile, there wasn't much support for widening the lane or reducing the 35-second clock. Widening the lane is increasingly pointless in today's shooting-heavy game; shortening the shot clock without reining in zones and making everyone an NBA player leads to more ugly shots and little else.

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RIP TO DA NIX

The one other thing that seems like maybe a big deal are a series of changes to (or at least increased emphasis on) various aspects of post play:

A defensive player pushing a leg or knee into the rear of the offensive player shall be a personal foul on the defender;

Is this not already the case?

An offensive player dislodging a defensive player from an established position by pushing or backing in shall be a personal foul on the offensive player;

This is the most extreme change, and it's hard to see it getting called. Backing a guy down is a time-honored tradition. Meanwhile, preventing that is some advanced defensive juju that remains possible—Morgan managed it very well. Suddenly removing that from the offensive guy's arsenal severely limits his ability to do much unless the post feed puts him in a spot he wants to shoot from.

This seems like the kind of rule that gets called a ton early in the season, gradually evaporates in the second half, and then is quietly rolled back.

A player using the “swim stroke” arm movement to lower the arm of an opponent shall be charged with a personal foul;

Okay. If I am interpreting this correctly they're emphasizing that the off arm can't be used to bat away hands when a guy tries to get a shot off. Hard to see this getting called much even when it happens since refs are trying to track 30 other things. It's unclear, though. Do defenders do this?

Post players using hands, forearms or elbows to prevent an opponent from maintaining a legal position shall be charged with a personal foul.

This seems like a point of emphasis thing on something that's already an foul, and that cuts both ways.

Unlike the offense-friendly hand-check changes of a year ago, these seem slanted to the defense. The one change obviously in the offense's favor seems way less impactful than removing the ability to back a guy down. If my read is correct those changes are pretty good for Michigan, which posts up about twice a season. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is probably thrilled with all of this.