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Is college basketball actually in shambles?

Feb 5, 2013, 2:53 PM EDT


It seems like this season, there has been a lot more talk about what is wrong with college basketball and how we can fix the sport to make it more popular and mainstream. That talk went viral on Monday, thanks to these comments from the Austin American-Statesmen:

Count Plonsky and myself among those who earnestly wish the start of the college basketball season would be pushed back until early December to give that sport a more fair shake in exposure as it tries in vain to compete with college football and the NFL for the public’s consciousness. “We have to start sliding the season back until football calms down,” Plonsky said. Added Dodds, concerning the one-and-done superstars, “The sport of basketball is in shambles.”

Sliding the season back won’t work. The NFL season doesn’t end until the beginning of February, and with the BCS playoffs coming, college football might be reaching their tentacles further into the New Year as well. By pushing the season back, March Madness will only be forced to share the spotlight with the start of baseball seasons and the NBA playoffs.

That’s not exactly the best way to promote the game.

The bottom-line is that college basketball is going to be a niche sport. Darren Rovell said in a recent interview with The Big Lead that the top five most popular sports are the NFL, College Football, the NBA, MLB and Nascar. He’s probably correct. Pro sports are always going to be more popular than college sports. Football dominates because there is one game played every week. Fans look forward to it all week, and those games usually happen on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The same thing can be said for Nascar races.

College hoops as the potential to be better and more popular, but the two biggest issue the sport faces right now are out of its control. Realignment is butchering the local rivalries and traditional conference foes we’ve come to know and love. The Big East has been gutted by realignment, and the most historic programs in the best hoops conference in the country bolted. All that has been due to football’s impact on the college sports landscape.

The other problem is the one-and-done rule, which is the result of a rule implemented by the NBA. Having those kids on campus for one year is better than not having them at all, but it creates a problem: with the exception of the occasional Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony, freshmen, regardless of how talented they are, are generally not ready to step on campus and dominate. Just look at what’s happening with Kentucky and UCLA this season. They had loaded recruiting classes, and they’re probably not going to win their conference.

They’ll be a dangerous tournament team, but that’s because it took them four months to finally figure out how to play. If those kids spend two years on campus, the early season hoops will be better.

But they won’t be.

Which only drives home the point that college basketball cannot do away with March Madness.

How many sports can dominate the attention of every fan across the country for an entire month? College basketball does that. Every March, all eyes turn to college hoops as fans settle in to cheer for the bracket they filled out and, secondarily, their alma mater. That’s a key right there. March Madness brings in fans that are there to watch more than just their team’s game.

I don’t agree with Dodds that basketball is in shambles.

But I do believe the sport needs to be improved. To do that, the most talented players need to spend a longer period of time on campus, the overall level of play needs to be improved, and the games that occur throughout the month of December need to be more relevant.

More talent and better play in bigger games will equal more eyeballs.

Changing the one thing that college basketball does better than any other sport is not the answer.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. rich859 - Feb 5, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    As someone who lives in Lexington, I have no clue what this story is talking about. Make college basketball MORE popular???

  2. thebadguyswon - Feb 5, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    It seems just fine to me.

  3. Jeff - Feb 5, 2013 at 11:01 PM

    I’ve heard a lot of great things about college this year, and nary a thing wrong with it.
    I love the college game far better than the NBA game.
    My problem with the college game are kids leaving early.

  4. brotherlove2012 - Feb 5, 2013 at 11:36 PM

    That one and done thing is making the game much less interesting. The gap between the majors and mid-majors as far as getting top recruits seems to be widening every year. What makes the college game attractive to me is the variety of systems and the coaching aspect of the game, But now as top athletes are leaving earlier, it’s the players quality that is suffering, and it’s also ruining the pleasure of seeing a team progressing over a couple of years.

  5. LPad - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    Is there a reason why every sport has so-called experts that thinks people can only follow one sport at a time?

    I’m a football, basketball, and baseball fan, pro and college except college baseball. I have no difficulty in watching my teams play. I am fully aware that basketball starts in October and November and am capable of watching both sports and football. I do not need to wait until after the superbowl to realize that college basketball exists.

    You want to improve college basketball replace some of these awful refs that pay more attention to getting in tv timeouts instead of the game with some that will call a loose ball foul when someone jumps on a player that slipped with the ball.

  6. indianaviking - Feb 6, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    Wait, NASCAR, NBA, MLB and College Football are more popular than College Basketball? Since when?

    – Joe in Bloomington, IN

  7. critter69 - Feb 6, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    At least Dauster didn’t directly go with a “where are the superstar players we need to pump up to pump up the popularity” BS.

    Dauster – people have a favorite college team, and they follow that team for years and years, even decades. There is a four year limit on how many years a player can play college basketball, so the ‘superstar’ five years ago is no longer there, yet the fans still root for the college.

    And it’s fun to watch a so-so or even good player gain experience and become a major force in the game. And remember, not every great team has one superstar, but many times is a collection of very good players who play as a team, not as a supporting cast to a superstar.

  8. coach1959 - Feb 6, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    C,mon, this game would be much better to watch — and develop some team/player loyalties — if the players had to be at least two years out of HS to play pro. Three years would even be better, but one step at a time.

    • jacksprat57 - Feb 10, 2013 at 2:55 PM

      So, it’s your opinion that the “right” of overweight frat boys to count coup on their rivals matters more than the rights of (mostly) indigent young men of color to earn their daily bread? Drop dead.

    • jacksprat57 - Feb 10, 2013 at 2:55 PM

      @coach 1959 So, it’s your opinion that the “right” of overweight frat boys to count coup on their rivals matters more than the rights of (mostly) indigent young men of color to earn their daily bread? Drop dead.

  9. firstcauseproject - Feb 11, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    The players don’t get paid, and their endeavor is one of the biggest cash cows’ in entertainment. If they’re old enough to go to war, they’re old enough to decide that their talents are fit to earn money from–especially if their income background dictates they seriously need a way to support themselves or their families. We can’t stop them from taking their talents to the open market any more than we can stop any other high school graduate from doing as they see fit…

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