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April 19th, 2015

Improving the Game: How to Make College Basketball An Even Greater Spectacle

NCAA Middle Tennessee Basketball

A few weeks ago, when March Madness was infecting the American bloodstream, the mainstream media’s oozy commentary coagulated around a common theme:

College basketball is just not that fun to watch.

Even major sports figures such as legendary UConn Huskies women’s hoops coach Geno Auriemma and Dallas Mavericks owner/Donald Trump-wannabe Mark Cuban lambasted the game, the latter blustering that the “horrible” state of college roundball was hurting the NBA.

Horse hockey.

As I’ve argued ad infinitum in these virtual pages, college basketball has swept past  the “national pastime” of baseball in capturing the country’s interest; and while football remains more popular, the gridiron’s hegemony is threatened from within by the growing concern about violence both on and off the field. And I would have expected that Mr. Shark Tank might have first checked out the financials before bleating that his league is better: While a respectable 18 million people watched the San Antonio Spurs clinch the NBA Finals last year, more than 28 million witnessed the final moments of 2015’s Big Dance — the highest ratings in 22 years — and one can only imagine what those numbers would have been had… well… need I say more, Cats fans?

Of course, college basketball’s ascendant popularity does not immunize it from critique.  While I’m a huge fan of well-coached, team-oriented defensive play, too many games over the past several seasons have degenerated into low scoring, inside-the-paint wrestling matches. Indeed, college hoops could benefit from several tweaks to enliven the action, lift scoring totals, and make the game even more thrilling to watch.

Here are a few of my thoughts — and let me know yours in the comments section below:

Shorten the Shot Clock
The 35 second shot clock, instituted in 1993, helped rescue the college sport from its doldrums, prompted most notoriously by UNC Coach Dean Smith’s success with game-stalling measures such as the four-corner offense.  (Helping make Smith the punchline of one of sport’s funniest jokes: Who was the only man to hold Michael Jordan to 20 points a game?)  But far too often in today’s game — especially in the most exciting late moments of a contest — so many of those 35 seconds are eaten up by point guards milking the clock, and then by risk adverse decision making that deters exciting play such as executing pull-up jump shots or cleverly exploiting defensive gaps. Point in case: Andrew Harrison at the end of the Wisconsin game… well… need I say more, Cats fans?

Transitioning abruptly to the NBA’s 24 second shot clock wouldn’t be prudent — with less talent than the pros, hurry up offenses would likely promote more unforced errors, turnovers and bad shots.  But 30 seconds (as with this year’s NIT experiment) seems to be a fair compromise that would encourage less uncontested dribbling, and more real basketball action.  And after an offensive rebound, let’s reset the clock to only 20 seconds, reflecting that the ball’s already in the front court.

Unclog the Lane

As I’ve droned on previously, basketball games at their finest are relentless exhibitions of artistry in action — colorful feats of intensely-rehearsed acrobatics, with the participants in near constant motion. Because the vertical plane is regularly pierced, basketball can provide rare, sublime moments of transcendental grace.  That’s why from an audience’s sensory perspective, hoops has no peer in major sport.

However, today’s defensive schemes too often clog up the lane and the area around the rim, slowing down the action with sumo-style grappling for position, incessant fouling (whether called or not), and worst of all, the elimination of angular movement and gravity-defying drives that make the sport so visually appealing and exciting.

Three reforms could go a long way toward unclogging the middle of the court and promoting the kind of hoops theater and music that brings crowds to their feet: (1) move the three point line back about two feet to international standards (22 feet, 17.5 inches around the arc, and 21 feet 8 inches at the corners) to bring defenses out from under the basket and discourage bad shooting; (2) expand the restricted lane from 3 to 4 feet to cut down on bruising collisions and inane wrestling matches; and (3) widen the lane by four feet to NBA standards, to spread out both offenses and defenses, and open the area around the basket for more future SportsCenter highlights.

Call Time Out on the Time Outs

Currently, there are up to 18 stoppages in every college game — four TV timeouts per half, plus up to five timeouts per coach per game.  Baseball has finally come around to understanding that unnecessarily lengthy games and constant delays are killing interest in the sport — it’s high time that the NCAA follow suit.

As a good capitalist, I understand that there’s beer and wings and cars to sell.  But I suggest that the NCAA cuts timeouts by a third, and hires some modern-day Mad Men to offer some creative revenue-generating solutions. Perhaps we can eliminate some of the “incisive commentary” that prolongs timeouts and fills up halftime, and instead offer supplemental corporate sponsorship opportunities.  (One modest proposal:  TBS could replace Chris Webber’s blabbering with a highly lucrative product placement.  Perhaps Sir Charles can barbecue with a Weber grill?)

Retain the Talent

Of course, one of the most fundamental problems with the college sport compared to its Bird/Magic heyday is that the NBA’s one and done rule is stealing many of college hoops’ most talented athletes, often well before they are ready to go pro.  As I argued much more extensively here, we should move to a two-and-done system and provide small but meaningful financial compensation to our revenue-producing athletes.

The former, by encouraging the acquisition of a two-year associates degree, is in the best educational and long-term professional interests of most players. (And hey, it worked for Mark Zukerburg and Jordan Spieth!)  And the latter could provide athletes with some (but not too much) walking around money for the occasional restaurant jaunt or shopping spree, as well as the occasional luxury of flying parents in for exceptional games.

Not only would these reforms double the time a Karl-Anthony Towns would wear blue and white, but it would relieve the pressure on athletes who fear that staying in school would diminish their earnings capabilities — while providing some immediate relief to those true hardship cases that desperately hope to provide for their families.


UK Has Regained Some Momentum with Cheick Diallo

cheickdiallo

I’m assuming the visit with Coach Cal & Co. went well today. Evan Williams tweeted out earlier that Kentucky has regained some momentum in the race for Cheick Diallo. Although Kansas is currently tied for first with St. John’s in Diallo’s 247 Crystal Ball, he says that their momentum is waning.

Diallo was co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic and dropped 26 points and 11 rebounds while doing a little bit of this:

 

Diallo would obviously be a huge get for the Cats. Kentucky desperately needs another big man down low to play with Lee and Skal. Hopefully Cheick’s French connection with Skal will help sway him to the Cats?

 

In some other recruiting news, Evan Williams also says that it is looking like Brandon Ingram, who met with Cal a few days ago, will stay home in North Carolina and either go to UNC or Duke. We shall see…


Where to meet Karl Towns and Devin Booker

Want to meet Karl Towns? How about Devin Booker? You still have a handful of opportunities to catch both of them this week as they wrap up their autograph tours around the state.

Here’s where you can see them…

 

KARL TOWNS

Mon Apr 20 – Barley Corns (Cold Springs) 6-7:30pm

Wed Apr 22 – Wildcat Wearhouse (Fayette Mall, Lexington) 6-7:30

Thurs Apr 23 – Lawton Insurance (Bowling Green) 4-5pm

Sunday Apr 26 – Tin Roof (Louisville) 4-6pm

DEVIN BOOKER

Wed Apr 22 – Stultz Pharmacy (Greenup) 4-5:30pm

Thurs Apr 23 – Barleycorns (Cold Springs) 6-7:30pm

Fri – Stultz Pharmacy (Flatwoods) 4-5:30pm

Sat – Jack Burford Chevrolet (Richmond) 11am – 12:30pm


YAHTZEE!!

Three-star quarterback, Gunnar Hoak, committed to Kentucky during his visit this afternoon. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound prospect from Dublin, Ohio picked Kentucky after receiving his first offer during his first visit on campus last weekend.

Scout.com ranks Hoak as the No. 35 ranked quarterback in the class of 2016. 247Sports ranks him at No. 53 in his class and Rivals.com has him at the No. 32 prospect out of Ohio.

With Hoak’s commitment, Kentucky now has a total of 16 players committed for 2016.

Welcome to the #BBN Gunnar!

 


Mychal Mulder Will Visit UK Next Weekend

(H/T northpolehoops.com)

(H/T northpolehoops.com)

Late last night we learned that Kentucky has offered JUCO SG Mychal Mulder out of Vincennes University. Last season, he shot 44.7% from the arc and went 80% from the charity stripe, averaging 15.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg. He also has a Kentucky connection; his head coach at Vincennes is Todd Franklin, a bluegrass native. The VU Trailblazers went 67-5 over the last two years and was the #1 undefeated team in the NJCAA before being taken out in the Sweet Sixteen. According to Ben Roberts of Next Cats, Mulder will be in Lexington next weekend for a visit with UK.

Watch Mulder work:

Here’s one where he dunks on James Young:


Coach Cal is Meeting with Cheick Diallo Tonight

Photo Under Armour/Kelly Klein

Photo Under Armour/Kelly Klein

According to Andrew Slater of 247 Sports, Calipari and Kenny Payne will be up in Centereach, NY this evening to meet with five star power forward Cheick Diallo. In case you missed it, Diallo was named the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic where he dropped 26 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. He also has offers from St. John’s, Iowa State, Kansas, and Pitt.

 


NBA Cats: Day 1 Playoff Recap

USA Today | Tom Szczerbowski

USA Today | Tom Szczerbowski

The NBA Playoffs are full of former Cats.  The funny thing is, all of them played yesterday.  James Young’s Celtics take on the Cavs at 3:00, but I doubt he will be getting too much PT.  A rainy Sunday without the Cats might be rough, but they sure were smooth on Saturday.

Wizards 93 –  Raptors 86

Coach Cal took Drake’s seats to watch John Wall and Zard Nation steal Game 1 in overtime on the road in Toronto.  Wall didn’t have his best shooting day, going 5-18 from the field and missing a game-winner as time expired in regulation, but he flirted with a triple-double with 10 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds.  Patrick Patterson had a decent day, getting 10 points and grabbing 5 boards for former Cat Dwane Casey.  If you were wondering, Chuck Hayes did not play.

Bulls 103 – Bucks 91

My main man Nazr Muhammad didn’t get any PT, but his Bulls got the Dub.

Warriors 106  –  Pelicans 99

Anthony Davis was pretty average for three quarters, until Anthony Davis decided to start being Anthony Davis.  His 20 4th quarter points are a career-high in a quarter.  He finished with 35 points, 7 boards, and 4 blocks.  If you don’t know, now ya know.  But if ya wanna know more about his awesome playoff debut, scroll down to the story a linked from USA Today.

Rockets 118  –  Mavericks 108 

Karen Warren | Houston Chronicle

Jones bowls over Rajon Rondo to get to the basket for the layup.  (Karen Warren | Houston Chronicle)

The Real T. Jones had a REALLY good night for the Rockets, helping Houston win Round 1 of the Battle for Texas.  In 34 minutes, Jones had 19 points, second only to James Harden’s 24.  He earned many from the charity stripe, going 7-11, while scooping 9 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists.  Rajon Rondo didn’t play up to par, only handing out 5 assists and failing to grab a rebound, areas he usually dominates during the playoffs.  Rondo scored 15 points on 7-16 shooting.


Za’Darius Smith to the Packers?

@Packers

@Packers

Even though anything before the draft is simply speculation, the Green Bay Packers apparently love former Cats.  Today they Tweeted out the above video made by the official website, chronicling Z’s rise to stardom.

Big Z is currently projected to go in the 3rd or 4th round in next week’s draft.  If the Pack don’t snatch him up, the Carolina Panthers seem pretty interested too.


Time is Running Out to Renew Your Football Season Tickets

@Josh4re5t

@Josh4re5t

Take it from me: you don’t wanna miss out on this football season.

After spending a Spring watching the Cats do work, the BBN has to be prepared for the most exciting season we’ve seen in years.  You can go to a bar or watch comfortably from your couch, but I promise you it won’t be as beautiful as the football within the walls of the New Commonwealth Stadium.  I’m geeking just thinking about it.

So don’t wait, renew your season tickets before Wednesday, April 22nd.

With eight home games, the only thing that worries me about New Commonwealth is that I’m afraid Patrick Towles might break the Air Raid Sirens.


USA Today: The Warriors are Scared of Anthony Davis

Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP

Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP

In his first playoff appearance, Anthony Davis has the tall task of knocking out the one-seeded Golden State Warriors.  They aren’t just your typical one-seed, they’re historically great.  The good news: so is Anthony Davis.

We remember the Naismith POY; we remember the National Championship win and Final Four MOP; we remember the gold medal in London.  Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut might not be so familiar with his past.  After getting yappy through the first three quarters were Davis was held in check, the Warriors paid a price for the jaw-jerking, almost costing them the game.

While most of Game 1 supported the argument that this will be a one-sided series, Davis’ 20-point fourth quarter was enough to remind Kerr & Co. that he’s not the kind of talent you want to antagonize. Davis, who was contained by Warriors forwardDraymond Green through three quarters (15 points on 6-of-13 shooting and one rebound) of his playoff debut as the Warriors led by as many 25 points, woke up in the kind of way that the Warriors simply don’t want to see.

USA Today Sports’ Sam Amick said Steve Kerr is doing everything he can to keep his frontline from poking the unibrowed dragon.

Davis’ late surge was exactly the kind of thing Kerr is trying to avoid, and his don’t-wake-the-sleeping-giant approach has clearly made its way throughout his locker room.

Unless Draymond Green wants to be on a poster, I think it’d be in his best interest to keep quiet.

Game 2 is tomorrow at 10:30 on TNT.

USA Today: Warriors are scared of Anthony Davis, and that’s good


Nigel the Parrot’s Sunday Morning Links

Long gone: African grey parrot Nigel, pictured, had been without his British owner for four years and had picked up Spanish instead

Meet Nigel, an African grey parrot who called California home until he mysterious flew away in 2010.  Before he left, the parrot mimicked his owner’s British accent.  It was a long journey home, but after four years he has been reunited with his owner Darren Chick.  Unfortunately he lost his British accent, but he did find the time to pick a new language — Spanish.

Get out your brooms!  The BatCats swept Tennessee over the weekend.  Ka’ai Tom deserves credit, but he can thank me for getting things started off on the right foot Thursday when I consistently let Rocky Top’s centerfielder, Brody, know why he was going to lose (spoiler: it’s because he played for that awful, terrible school).

It is going to be a sad day when Jon Stewart hangs up The Daily Show mic.  Regardless of your beliefs, he’s changed the way news is viewed and helped a generation become more aware of what in the hell is going on around the world.  From the Guardian, Jon Stewart: Why I quit The Daily Show.

A Cubs fan made a smooth move by catching a foul ball with her cup of beer.  Instead of spilling her beer, she just chugged it like a champ.  

People are still butt-hurt over Britt McHenry’s tow truck rant, especially at ESPN, with some hoping she’ll get the proverbial ax.  Why this is still a story, I’ll never know.  I just hope there aren’t cameras at UK Parking.  Those people are the absolute worst.  I can’t condemn her actions because I’ve probably shared similar words with the worst people on Earth.  The only difference is that her salary can afford to pay the ticket/tow, whereas UK Parking siphons whatever money you haven’t spent on tuition, books and beer to fund their evil empire.

Steph Curry proved that Anthony Davis is in fact a human being.


April 18th, 2015

Saturday Night News and Views

wheres-waldo

Forget ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Kentucky’s new favorite game has become ‘Where’s Coach Cal?’ Cal has been out and about going here, there, and yonder trying to fill the holes left in next year’s team by the mass exodus of seven players to the NBA draft. Yesterday, Cal was in North Carolina; today he was in the Great White North. Where to next, Cal? Any speculation, BBN?

Mike Thorne, Jr. committed to Illinois.
Thorne, a 6’11” 270 lb grad transfer, who was on Kentucky’s radar to fill the void WCS and KAT will leave behind has decided to finish out his college career at Illinois. Speaking of recruiting news…

Cal met with Brandon Ingram last night, Jamal Murray today.
Kentucky met with five star SF Brandon Ingram last night and Nike Hoop Summit star Jamal Murray today. As of right now Murray, a 6’4” combo guard is in the 2016 class, but a reclassification could be possible. We shall see…

Kentucky has offered Mychal Mulder.
According to Sonny Bairos of CanadianBallers.com, Coach Cal has offered Mychal Mulder, a 6’4″ JUCO shooting guard out of Vincennes Junior College. Mulder averaged 15.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg last season and will have two years of eligibility to work with. He also has offers from Wichita State, Mizzou, Creighton, Minnesota, Georgia Tech, and Indiana.

Skal Labissiere speaks French with Cheick Diallo.
Our favorite Haitian is trying his best to get Cheick Diallo to come to Kentucky. The two were roommates at the Nike Hoop Summit and according to this piece by Adam Zagoria, Skal is recruiting him in French, which Diallo appreciates, “I’ve known Skal a long time. It’s not even now. Ever since I came here [from Mali] I know Skal. Nike Hoop Summit, was the same roommate so we always talking French.” How quickly can a person become fluent in French? Asking for Cal.

NBA Cats balled out today.
Every game of today’s NBA playoffs included at least one former Cat. John Wall’s Wizards defeated Chuck Hayes & Patrick Patterson’s Raptors in overtime, 93-86 with Coach Cal in attendance (in Drake’s seats). Golden State beat Anthony Davis’ Pelicans, 106-99, in AD’s playoff debut. But….

According to ESPN, those 35 points are tied for the 5th most in a playoff debut over the last 40 years. This also happened….

He’s a beast I tell you!

Kentucky softball team beats South Carolina…. and then South Carolina beats Kentucky.
It’s been a long day for the Kentucky softball team. After beating South Carolina, 2-0, to even the series earlier today, the Cats couldn’t get it done in the second game of the double header. After eleven innings, the Gamecocks take down the Cats, 7-6. Kentucky’s next game will be against the Dirty Cards in Lexington on Tuesday at 6pm. #BeatLouisville

Cats sweep the Vols!
Can’t help but be a little excited that the baseball Cats swept the Lowdown, Dirty Snitches this afternoon with a 5-3 win. This is the first time in three years that the Wildcats have swept a SEC series and the first time they have swept Tennessee in program history. Trey Huntsman has the full recap of that here if you want to take a look.

Churchill Downs has banned selfie sticks.
Yes, that’s right. Churchill Downs has banned selfie sticks for the Derby next month. While they do encourage people to take selfies, they have banned the selfie sticks for the safety of others and for the horses. The ban will continue after the Derby and apply whenever live racing is happening.

Willie as a cowboy is the best thing you’ll see all day.

Willie Cauley-Stein and his cowboy hat made an appearance at the UK Rodeo Team’s Cowboy Up for a Cure this evening. Cowboy Up for a Cure is really cool event that the UK Rodeo Team throws to raise funds for kids battling different forms of pediatric cancer. To find out more about it or to donate, head over here.

Updated list of autograph signing tours:
WCS:
April 21st- Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass, Simpsonville, 6-8pm
April 22nd- Wildcat Wearhouse, Owensboro, 6-7:30pm
April 23rd- Wildcat Wearhouse, Hazard, 6-7:30pm
April 24th- Wildcats & More, Dry Ridge, 6-8pm
April 25th- Wildcat Wearhouse, Fayette Mall, Lexington, 6-7:30pm
April 26th- Towne Mall, Elizabethtown, 2-3:30pm
April 27th- Sheppard’s Fan Shop, London, 5:30-7:30pm
April 28th- Barleycorns, Cold Spring, 6-8:30pm
April 29th- Sports Den, Somerset, 5-6:30pm

Harrison Twins:
April 19th- Tin Roof, Louisville, 5-6:30pm
April 20th- Simpsonville Outlet Mall, Simpsonville 6-7:30pm
April 21st- The Kentucky Shop, Florence, TBA
April 22nd- Sleep Outfitters, Somerset, 6-7:30pm

If you want to get Devin Booker and Karl’s autograph, time is running out.
Devin Booker’s final appearance will be tomorrow at the Elizabethtown Mall, 2-3:30. KAT is also making his final appearance this weekend in Dry Ridge at Wildcats & More, tomorrow 4-5:30.
You still have a few chances to see Dakari and Trey. They will be at Barleycorns in Cold Spring, Ky noon-1:30 tomorrow and Wildcats Sports Apparel in Nicholasville on Tuesday, 6-7:30.

 
That’s it for me tonight. Roush and I will be around tomorrow to see y’all through to Monday.
Sleep tight, BBN.

 

@JC_KSR


Watch Thon Maker and Skal Labissiere go head-to-head

Bummed out over Mike Thorne not coming to Kentucky to eat some space next season? Maybe this video of Skal and potential Cat Thon Maker battling it out will help ease your roster woes. A lot of people have been praising Labissiere’s sweet stroke and now you can see it in action thanks to a rad edit by the folks over at CityLeagueHoops.

Watch the big men work.


Skal and Diallo making a French Connection

Coach Cal may have not made an appearance at the Jordan Brand Classic last night but he still had three top recruiters on the scene. According to Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog Skal Labissiere, Charles Matthews, and Isaiah Brisco were all pushing for the Mali native to join them in Lexington next season. Skal was even doing so in Cheick’s native tongue of French. Here’s a bit from Zagsblog and Isaiah’s response to learning a second language.

English is not Diallo’s first language, and he appreciates speaking French with Labissiere.

“I’ve known Skal a long time,” he said. “It’s not even now. Ever since I came here [from Mali] I know Skal. Nike Hoop Summit, was the same roommate so we always talking French.”

Isaiah Briscoe, who nearly brought the East to the win en route to 22 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, doesn’t speak French, but would love to have Diallo join him at Kentucky.

“I would like for Cheick to come to Kentucky, I mean that would be good,” Briscoe said. “Skal, Cheick, me, Charles [Matthews] I think that’s a good class.”

Will he work on his French a little?

“Not happening,” Briscoe joked.

[Zagsblog: Kentucky Signees Recruiting Diallo to Lexington]

Diallo is meeting with St. John’s Chris Mullin and our old assistant Slice today and Coach Cal will be paying him a visit later this week. Could Coach Cal bring this French Connection to campus next season after they’ve been dominating all the all-star games? I certainly hope so.

Oui Oui.


Previewing Tonight’s NBA Action

Milwaukee @ Chicago; 6 p.m. on ESPN

Via CBSChicago

Of player taken in the 1998 NBA Draft only four remain on an NBA roster: Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Paul Peirce, and Nazr Mohammed. That’s not a bad list to be  part of for Kentucky’s 17 year vet. Still, this looks like this playoff run could be Nazr’s last. The veteran has been used seldom this season as he provides some backup minutes for Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

His team today will take on the Milwaukee Bucks who are in the playoffs in-part to Brandon Knight winning a bunch of games before the trade deadline. The Bucks are young and fun to watch but ever since they dealt BK I haven’t kept up with them at all. Chicago won the season series 3-1 and with Derrick Rose finally back in the playoffs I don’t see them losing this series. Bulls in 6.

Dallas @ Houston

Last year the Rockets dropped their opening two games of their playoff series at home to the TrailBlazers and were never able to recover. This year the law firm of Harden, Howard, and Jones are going to make sure that doesn’t happen against their in-state rivals from Dallas. After missing much of the year with various injuries Terrence Jones has played well when healthy. He’s averaging 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2 blocks on a team that doesn’t need him to do a whole lot. After being dominated by LaMarcus Aldridge last season, I think Jones has a breakout series this year.

For Rajon Rondo and the Mavs it’s one last chance to figure things out. Dallas had the association’s best offense before Rondo was acquired and since then have had chemistry issues putting the pieces in place. He’s back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 so maybe that will inspire the all-star point guard to bring back the stellar play he displayed back in those Celtics runs. Now a break for Dirk rapping.

Houston won the regular season 3-1 and I think they take a tough series in 7 games.

Which former Cats will you be pulling for?