Women > Men

April 6

I’m going to say something I never thought I would say: women’s hoops was more entertaining than men’s hoops this week. In their Final Four, the women gave you the lovely Skylar Diggins, the spirited champions, the Texas A & M Aggies, and games over 70 points. The men gave you … ugly.

I had a great time at the men’s Final Four in Houston … really, the trip of a lifetime, a terrific experience. I just wish the basketball was better. I got a close-up look at the hoops version of “Gangs of New York” : brutal and unsightly. The only thing missing was blood.

They say defense wins championships ? Well, you gotta put the ball in the hoop, too. Butler played terrific defense, holding UConn to 53 points, and 34 percent shooting from the floor.

The only problem was, Butler couldn’t hit the side of Reliant Field. They lose by a peach basket-like score of 53-41. A very poor advertisement for college basketball.

Some observations from around the nation …

Dan Wetzel: “It would be mean to describe last night’s game as ugly. Let’s just say it had a good personality.”

Stephon Johnson: “Tonight’s MVP? The rims. Played great defense tonight.”

Clark Kellogg: “It’s like watching paint dry.” Jim Nance: “That’s not fair to paint.”

I have never seen a game … high school, college, pro … even the Mupu School 3rd graders I coached in Santa Paula in 1980 … where a team shot 18 percent for a game.

My prediction of a Butler win would have looked great if the Bulldogs had even managed to shoot 30 percent from the floor. Too much to ask. If they were trying to hit the rim, they shot 80 percent.

Depth perception seemed to be a problem for everyone at cavernous Reliant, which Facebook friend Shaun Piersol says should be renamed “The Brickhouse.” Even in victory, Most Outstanding Player Kemba Walker went 5-for-19. Also, these were some of the tightest rims I’ve seen … the basketball acted like a superball.

UConn deserves some credit for tough defense: they made Kentucky miss a lot, too. Their length inside definitely bothered Butler. It bothered the Bulldogs to the point that they began missing easy shots, too.

Kemba Walker will be an NBA player but too often, the college game is a clang-fest. The one-and-done rule is a big reason. Too many talented players are gone after a year. Anyone who is any good goes pro.

Players should get the option to enter the NBA out of high school, but if they go to college they should be required to stay more than a year. Let them refine their game and actually try to get an education, and don’t make a mockery of college by having players attend classes for one semester and then check out.

That rule change would not completely solve the problem but I think it would help. Too many talented players also spend a lot of time with AAU teams, where they don’t get the quality coaching they need. We’ve got a lot of great dunkers and drivers, but few good all-around players.

Then, when players get to college, they have to adjust to a very structured game controlled by coaches. The coaches are the big-money guys, and the coaching cult gives them power.

They become control freaks to justify their salaries, and the free-flowing game basketball should be is strangled to death. Players are constantly looking over to the bench for instructions, turning the game into a half-court crawl.

Even John Wooden’s teams at UCLA didn’t take much time putting up a shot. They would employ the full-court press to pick up the pace and demoralize opponents, and back in an era of no three-point shots, they would often score 100 points. Of course, talent helps, as well.

Talent is lacking in college hoops, and the style of play is too stilted. And where are the shooters ?

One of them was standing at center court at Reliant Field during halftime Monday night, introduced as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2011: Chris Mullin. His era seems like a long time ago.

If nothing else, maybe Monday night’s snoozer was a wake-up call for college ball.


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