The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 8, 2013

More fouls, less points mar college basketball

ATLANTA — The nets are down and the confetti stopped flying. It’s safe to open your eyes again, basketball fans.

Yes, 2012-13 has been one ugly season.

Scoring hasn’t been this low in decades and the same for shooting percentages. Foul calls also are way down, which turned much of this year’s action into something more like wrestling with occasional breaks for free-throw shooting.

Long delays for video reviews, confusion over the charge-block call, hand-checking, arm-blocking and an endless string of TV timeouts added to a feeling among even basketball lovers that many nights were hard to sit through.

“It doesn’t take long, if you’re really watching, to see what’s happening and say, ‘Oh my God, this is awful,”’ said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the state of the game.

The season capped off by the Michigan-Louisville NCAA title game Monday night has been one marked by amazing parity – something the leaders of most sports strive for, but one that may have played into the muddle that has become college hoops.  

At one point, the top spot in The Associated Press poll changed for five straight weeks. Only one top-seeded team, Louisville, made it to the Final Four and there were two No. 4s and a No. 9; overall, this was only the fourth time since seeding began in 1979 that only one top-3 seed made it to the sport’s biggest stage.

Better coaching, better preparation, more good players and the willingness of many of the best ones to enroll at less-heralded schools all played into the evenness. As early as junior high, players in the same age bracket go against each other on traveling AAU and All-Star teams. When college rolls around, the intimidation factor is gone. If today’s dynamic were in place in the 1970s, almost every player at the Final Four would’ve played against Bill Walton at least once.

“Some of these guys couldn’t score, so is that ugly?” said Bill Raftery, one of the sport’s most effervescent color commentators. “Some would prefer high scoring and free-wheeling, but preparation is such that it’s not going to be that way. And the kids all know one another, so they’re not in the least bit in awe of an opponent. You get Wichita State playing Louisville and they don’t really give a damn. It’s just another team to them.”

It can make for unexpectedly close games and exciting finishes – see No. 1 Louisville’s come-from-behind 72-68 win over that plucky underdog, No. 9 Wichita State, in the national semifinals.

Still, the overall product suffered this year and the statistics back that up:

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