The 2012-2013 college basketball season has been dull and boring. College basketball is simply……dead.
There are no dominant teams this year; no powerhouses; no familiar phenoms; no clear cut number one NBA draft pick. For a sport that has provided so many legends, so many thrillers, and so many memorable moments, college basketball seems to be on life support.
Make no mistake. Fans still attend games and the sport still makes money but the product is in the dumpster. It's presented as a million dollar product but its just bargain bin quality.
How does one fix it, you ask? Here is how.
1. Get rid of the 'one and done' rule
I was a fan of this original ruling because I love seeing the best basketball players play college basketball. It's fun seeing top talent play in front of rowdy crowds, to play in one and done tournament formats and play for a coach that they can't get fired. However, its not working.
The 'rent a player' system has become a joke. Kids who have no interest in playing college basketball are being forced to attend one year of college before bolting to the NBA. Then the process starts all over again. The best players are leaving the sport so quickly; we barely get to know them. Look at Kentucky for example.
It’s a completely different roster almost every year. Fans around the country will never see star players stay all four years like Tim Duncan and Patrick Ewing did in the 80s and 90s. Heck, the best player of all time, Michael Jordan, even stayed three years in college. Fans need familiarity with players, to grow with them, and to follow them for three or four years. You wouldn't expect a cable television show to be successful if they constantly changed the cast every season, would you? No.
Follow the model of college baseball. You can enter into the pros straight out of high school but if you attend college, you must make a three year commitment. This fixes the problem.
2. Push the start of the season to mid December
Football is king and hardly anyone notices that college basketball season is even going until college bowl games and the NFL playoffs finish up. Not every fan base is Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina. Those fan bases may follow recruiting, attend every regular season game and watch every minute of play with nothing but passion. However, that is a small fraction for an entire sport.
The sooner that fact is realized, the better off they will be. If the basketball season can be pushed back to around early to mid December, it will capture more casual fans or simply the more devoted football fans. Why waste marquee out of conference match-ups on a small viewing audience? Push the schedule back to grab a larger audience to limited competition. Its no different than a studio carefully picking the release date of their movie, so that it doesn't have to compete with a juggernaut franchise and limit their profits.
3. Get rid of conference tournaments
The biggest knock on college basketball is that many believe the regular season is meaningless. Its hard to deny those claims. If you can finish fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association like Virginia Commonwealth did in 2011, but still advance to the Final Four, your regular season is meaningless.
Every year there seems to be a team in a mid-major conference that dominates the regular season yet loses their conference tournament and doesn't get an NCAA tournament bid as a result. This isn't just a small conference issue either. We see this in major conferences too. The worst of all are teams with losing records managing to get automatic NCAA tournament bids simply by getting hot during the pointless conference tournament.
Look at Western Kentucky last season. They were 15-18 but won the Sun Belt conference and got to advance. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee finished with a 25-6 record and won the regular season by a country mile, but in the end it meant nothing because they lost in their conference tournament. Three months worth of conference games were made all worthless due to one week in March.
This model seems to be reflective of the NCAA's revenue. 90 percent of their entire basketball revenue comes from the tournament in March. Once again, the regular season is meaningless. If the NCAA wants to prove otherwise, then start rewarding the performances of an entire year; not just for a week. Do away with the conference tournaments and give the regular season champion, the automatic bid.
And last but certainly not least….
4. Limit the number of teams in the NCAA Tournament; not expand them
The NCAA should try to be limiting the amount of teams in their postseason tournaments but they continue to want to expand it. North Carolina athletics director Bubba Cunningham, has actually pushed for the inclusion of a 128 teams. That's right….128 TEAMS! That proposal would be laughable if it weren't realistic.
The entire NCAA tournament started out at eight teams in 1939. Then it gradually went to 16, 22, 24, 25, 32, 40, 48, 52, 53, and then in 1985 it went to the 64 team format that was so successful. Since then, the NCAA has added a 65th team and now 68 teams. Its only going to get worse. Their greed knows no bounds.
They aren't concerned with the quality of the product; just their profits. Eventually every team will get in and it will be like tee ball, where every kid gets a trophy. You think the regular season is meaningless now? See what happens if they continue to expand the postseason tournaments. This format will make it even more difficult for the best teams to win the championship.
64 teams is the perfect amount. Anything more is ridiculous. If college basketball wants to have any chance of surviving, it needs to stop expansion. A tournament of 80-128 teams will absolutely kill the one thing the sport has going for it.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter@JoshuaCaudill85 or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
Photo Credit: getty