Link – Syracuse’s 2-3 zone works but it makes college basketball unwatachable

I don’t disagree with this, but let’s not blame Syracuse for the problems of all of college basketball.

“Syracuse’s zone exposes why college basketball is an inferior product compared to the NBA. Nobody can shoot. Coaches are too married to their precious offenses. The players are not given enough creative freedom. So, against a zone, teams invariably resort to whipping the ball around the perimeter for 25 seconds until they’re forced to jack up a contested jumper late in the shot clock.”

I compared Syracuse to Kentucky on Twitter over the weekend, not because Syracuse has a ton of top-level NBA talent, in fact that don’t and rarely ever do. But the genius of Calipari was recognizing that the best way to be competitive with the one and done rule was to go out and recruit a whole bunch of top kids every single year, and accepting that they’d leave a year later. He didn’t try to coach them beyond that, or make wholesale changes to their games, he just recruited more talent and let it play. It doesn’t always work, but they are much better than most NCAA teams.

Syracuse, and Jim Boeheim, also recognized the situation and took advantage, just in a different way. They recognized how college basketball was getting worse and worse at fundamental basketball. They can’t recruit with the Kentuckys, Dukes, Kansas, but they can compete by forcing teams to shoot well and move the ball. Most can’t do it. Most have played one on one matchups and have no idea how to attack a zone this good in an actual game.

I’m a Syracuse fan. I’m under no illusion that this is anything more than a mediocre team. But, the 2-3 zone they play forces teams to shoot and play good basketball to beat them. That has them in yet another Sweet 16 despite being a very mediocre team.

A lot of more talented teams are at home.

So yeah, Syracuse is playing ugly, ugly basketball. The fact that it works is why they do it. Don’t blame them for playing to their strengths, it’s what good coaches do.

Syracuse's 2-3 zone works but it makes college basketball unwatachable


Link – NBA making plans to get involved at high school level, once again

This has always made more sense than the one and done rule.

“A plan is expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school, providing skills to help them develop both on and off the court. It would ultimately open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League, sources said.”

Could it be that the NCAA’s current mess is creating a situation where the NBA commissioner is ready to cut them out of the elite basketball player development model completely? Or at least is willing to compete with the NCAA instead of trying to work with them?

And would it be better for the NCAA to get out of the elite basketball player development market and be a truly amateur sport again? There’d still be a lot of good basketball players, but this might take some of the money/influence out of their game, which the FBI might be forcing them to do anyway.

I think what we have now is going to look a lot different in a few years.


Link – College sports warn against moves to legalize betting

Oh I think we already know that this is going to happen.

“Noting that unpaid college athletes are especially vulnerable to large amounts of money flowing through their game and that “there is a serious concern as to where all this new money would go,” McMillen said that nearly 80 percent of the members of his group were opposed to legalized sports betting.

“These kids are on scholarship. Listen, we’ve seen point-shaving scandals before,” he said. “We’re concerned.”

They absolutely should be concerned. On the other hand, they should have been concerned about agents working with schools to get kids money and this latest news from the FBI shows that they did a pretty horrible job at finding that, so why should we think stuff like this isn’t already going on?

It will, however, be yet another case of everyone making money from college sports except the kids actually playing. So why shouldn’t they bend the rules a bit?


Link – College football heads in wrong direction with largest attendance drop in 34 years

Why? Lots of reasons I suspect, but let’s look at the easy one first:

“Bowl game attendance also declined for the seventh straight year to an average of 40,506 in the 40 games. That marks a 23 percent drop-off in average bowl attendance since 2010.”

The playoff has created three really interesting bowl matchups. The other 37 bowl games? Glorified exhibitions that are totally meaningless. It’s no wonder that fans aren’t all that interested in traveling and attending these games the way they used to be.

But what about the larger issue, the trend of fewer people showing up even in the regular season?

Yes, I’d agree that students don’t turn out the way they used to, and that’s part of it. They aren’t looking at football as a huge part of the college experience, although I suspect many of them tailgate and watch on TV. It’s just spending 4+ hours in the stadium doesn’t really interest them as much as it once did.

It’s also that many games college program fan bases are in “playoff or bust” mode, meaning that once it becomes clear this isn’t a playoff team, why bother showing up? Especially if you’re playing some FCS team that you don’t care about at all.

Also, tickets are expensive. That’s a lot to spend to take the kids to a game.

Lastly, football in general is going through a change within our culture due to head injuries. There are a lot of people questioning whether to even watch football any more, especially at this level where players aren’t even being paid for the risk they are taking. There’s some moral ambiguity in being a football fan in 2018, and that’s going to keep some people away.

Mostly though, I think young people simply don’t want to dedicate their entire Saturday to a football game. Given the pregame events, the length of games themselves, and the limitations on what they can do in the stadium, why not just watch on TV, or just catch the highlights later?

And that’s not good news for the NCAA.


Link – I’m the Wife of a Former N.F.L. Player. Football Destroyed His Mind.

Today, as we watch the Super Bowl being played and take our various rooting interests, will we see the guys on the field as human beings, or as sport gladiators?

The more we see stories like this, personalizing the players and the struggles they face post-football, I think the harder it is to watch the game and continue to simply view them as some sort of super-human “player”. Once that happens across society, I’m not sure what is left for football as big business. The more we learn about the effects of concussions, and the risk of CTE, can we continue to watch men do this to themselves for our entertainment? It’s a legitimate question. One I even have misgivings about to be honest.


Link – #DamWorthIt Campaign at Oregon State focuses on mental health

Good for them. This is an important message for everyone, but to see college athletes, especially college athletes in the Pacific Northwest after the apparent suicide of a football player at Washington State, speaking out, can only help.

Oregon State athletes are leading a campaign to propel mental health awareness in college athletics into a national discussion.

Titled #DamWorthIt, the purpose of the initiative is to boost sensibilities of mental health in sports and remove the stereotype that athletes are invincible. The campaign is being pioneered by former Oregon State gymnast Taylor Ricci and current men’s soccer team member Nathan Braaten.


Link – Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski found dead in apparent suicide, police say

Such sad news from the PAC12…

“Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, 21, was found dead Tuesday in an apartment in Pullman, Washington, according to police.”

Proof, once again, that whatever depression or struggles he was dealing with know no limits. Even quarterbacks from nationally ranked college teams can be dragged down by suicidal thoughts.


The Islanders Have Some Serious Free Agent Problems Coming Up, and it’s Not Just Tavares

As I write this, the New York Islanders are in the midst of dropping their third straight game, and none of them have been competitive. Fans are giving up hope, and calling for Garth Snow‘s head again. I’ve spent some time recently looking at the John Tavares free agent situation and noticed something that will not make Isles fans feel better, unless you want to take solace in the fact that this team will, by necessity, look different next year, regardless of what happens with Tavares.

Here’s the Isles large scale problem. They have a little over $40 million in contracts already counting against the salary cap for 2018-2019, but that only represents 12 players. Now, Bettman expects the cap to increase next year, which is somewhat good news, because the Islanders have some potential problems coming up.

As it stands right now, they have 8 pending UFAs and 5 pending RFAs.


John Tavares

Josh Bailey

Nikolai Kulemin

Jason Chimera

Calvin deHaan

Thomas Hickey

Denis Seidenberg

Jaro Halak.


Brock Nelson

Shane Prince

Alan Quine

Ryan Pulock

Scott Mayfield

See the problem here is even if Kulemin, Chimera and Seidenberg walk away, and my money is that they do unless Kulemin wants to sign a short term deal for much, much less money, you have a limited pot of money from which to sign not just your franchise player, but your second best player this year, 2 of your top 5 defensemen and a starting goalie. On the open market, Tavares could easily get a contract in the neighborhood of $10-11 million per year. Bailey could get $6-7, deHann could easily get $5.5-6, and starting goalies easily run you $6-7. There’s another $30 million in cap hits. And you only have 16 roster spots taken. Sign Hickey, and re-up Nelson, Pulock and Mayfield for 10% increases at the very least, and you’re tying up $7-8 million more, and only have 19 contracts. (If you’re keeping score where in the neighborhood of $72 – 74 million for those 19 contracts)

That can only mean that either they’re going to be a bunch of kids playing on ELC salaries next year, or some of these guys are not going to be signed. I know a lot of fans want to see a big splash trade to improve the Islanders defense this season, but the truth is the Islanders, lacking a definitive answer on Tavares and Bailey re-upping,  can’t really take on a big salary.

Personally, I see the offseason going one of two ways. Tavares comes back and the Isles hope for more improvement from their kids and keep the team relatively intact. Some role players get changed out but the core of the team is pretty much the same. Or, Tavares doesn’t sign, and the team turns into a full rebuild, again. I say that because if he doesn’t I think Bailey leaves as well, Halak is allowed to leave, and barring some big time free agent signing, the team has no choice but to turn it all over to the kids.

The bottom line is that unless Islander management can get some team to agree to take on some of these contracts, there’s not a lot of cap space to play around with in a trade. We’re going to find the Islanders fighting to create cap space next season, or become a cap-floor team again when everyone abandons ship. Either way, I don’t see where this team gets remarkably better next year.

Can we get anyone to take a Clutterbuck or Griess contract? I don’t know about that.

What do you think will happen? Where would you create cap space?




Link – Ohio State football: Nothing wrong with Denzel Ward’s decision to skip Cotton Bowl

I agree, getting hurt in a bowl game could cost a kid millions of dollars. All to play in a game that really doesn’t mean anything. What is the real-world difference between Ohio State or USC winning this game?

It’s not nothing, but it’s not a whole lot either. We should let these guys who’ve made a ton of money for their programs decide for themselves if it’s worth the risk.


Link – How LaVar Ball’s new basketball league could actually end up being a good thing

I’ve long been a supporter of a minor-league of sorts for football and basketball where kids who have interest in college can play. So, I’d agree with this:

“If somebody, even LaVar Ball, can create a league that offers a real alternative then maybe schools can go back to focusing on true student-athletes and the country’s best basketball players can focus on being basketball players.”

Unlike college football, which I suspect would see a massive decline in fan interest, and money, if the best football players skipped college, I don’t think fan interest in college basketball would wane significantly. Sure, there’d be less NBA fans watching to check out potential draft picks, but I don’t know how large that audience really is. March Madness would still be March Madness. That has never really been about individual players ass much as it’s been about small schools, the tournament feel, and brackets.

This could end up solving one of the biggest headaches the NCAA has right now, one and done’s and recruiting violations around those players. And they’d have freaking LaVar Ball to thank for it.

Oh the irony.