College basketball has deteriorated

By Steve Sell
January 08, 2015

Kansas’ Big 3 — Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State — were on TV simultaneously Wednesday night.

As I flipped around the channels, I thought I was watching a horror show trilogy. I couldn’t determine which game was the worst and none of them certainly was the best.

Kansas trailed Baylor 22-18 at the half. Kansas State was just ahead of TCU 22-19 and Wichita State found itself on the wrong end of a 28-27 score.

That’s three games and no teams scoring at least 30 points in 20 minutes. It was excruciatingly painful to watch as shot after shot clanked off the rim. It was like three trips to the dentist in one.

I think NBA star Kobe Bryant may be on to something. Bryant recently was quoted as saying that European players who come to the U.S. possess far more skills than the Americans. Bryant said AAU basketball has degenerated to the point where players are judged by how high they can jump and not on their ability to shoot and handle the basketball.

I think the uber-bright Jay Bilas is one of the best college basketball analysts around. He’s moved to the top rung of the ESPN ladder, as Dick Vitale seemingly has been relegated, probably because he’s 75 years old.

But Bilas falls into the trap of using the term “athleticism” far too much. “He’s a great athlete,” Bilas says infinitely. Of course he’s watching great athletes. They wouldn’t be playing college basketball if they weren’t great athletes.

But you don’t hear Bilas and other analysts point out how great a player shoots it or defends. I used to be college basketball’s biggest fan, but because of the one-and-done rule there are many players who enter the NBA now without the proper preparation and you don't see the great teams of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s because college is nothing more than a one- or two-year inconvenience. Most of these freshmen who get drafted do so because of their leaping ability and length or the ferocity of their dunks. I loved college basketball games when the teams were scoring in the 70s and 80s. Now 70 points seems to be an offensive explosion.

Where have all the shooters gone?

The Kansas Jayhawks generally are in the Top 10 in the country in field goal percentage, but right now they are ranked DEAD LAST in the Big 12. Bill Self has somewhat changed his recruiting philosophy in the past few years, going more for the high-profile recruit with great jumping ability (Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre to name two) instead of going for the 25-50-ranked players. While the Jayhawks can wow the crowd at times, the basic fundamentals of shooting and passing have been slighted. Give me the days of Tyrel Reed, a Kansas kid who was hardly in the class of a Wiggins or Oubre, but did all the little things right.

Maybe KU, K-State and Wichita State can take a page from the McPherson High boys’ book. The Bullpups have been playing the game as if James Naismith invented it. Because of their skillful ballhandling and execution, they shoot better than 55 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from 3-point. They are better than 75 percent from the line.

Here’s how the Big 3 shot it on Wednesday:

• KU —  24 of 51 overall, 5 of 17 from 3, 3 of 6 at the foul line

• K-State — 16 of 42 overall, 4 of 10 from 3, 22 of 29 at the foul line

• WSU — 22 of 51 overall, 4 of 15 from 3, 15 of 22 at the foul line

You don’t see these teams running a lot of sets. There’s a lot of 1-on-1, unlike the Bullpup boys who seemingly score a basket off the extra pass or perfectly set screen.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe the teaching aspect has gone out of the college game. All I know is that I’m going to have to get the Tums out if I continue to watch, as the games are causing my stomach to turn.