Tag Archives: Kris Dunn

Six is the Magic Number

As a lifelong College hoops fanatic, I’m typically resistant to any significant changes to the rules. However, when the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel released the rule updates which were being put in place for 2015-16, it was the first time I can recall agreeing with the changes.

I had my concerns about reducing the shot clock, but 30 seconds is a sweet spot I can live with; and for years, I’ve been shouting to the rooftops to change the 10 second rule. The NCAA did the right thing, and no longer resets the 10 second count if the team in possession calls a time out while still in the back court. Those were the two most significant adjustments to the actual game play; and two months into the season, college basketball is largely unchanged, with some nice enhancements via the rule modifications.

Despite the improvements brought about due to this year’s updates, the one rule change which should have been pushed to the front of the line was to increase personal fouls from five to six. Now, that was proposed, and is in experiment mode to some extent this coming post season; however, it won’t be in play come NCAA Tournament time. Giving players a little bit longer leash would have been a major upgrade to college hoops, and I’ll tell you why.

Across the sports landscape these days, officiating is under heavy fire. Whether it’s college or pro, football, basketball, baseball, you name it; officials in every sport are, let’s just say, not very well liked. Of course it’s not always warranted, but college basketball has its fair share of really poor referees. And more than any other sport, college hoops seems to have more officials, who inject themselves into the game, and think they’re part of the show.

What does any of this have to do with adding a sixth personal foul? It has everything to do with it. Allowing each player an additional personal foul will reduce the impact the officials have on the outcome of the game. I’m not suggesting that by adding that sixth foul, poor officiating shouldn’t be addressed. However, you can’t very well discipline a bad official during the game. So let’s clip their claws a bit.

Scaling back the damage caused by quick whistles will do wonders for the game and the viewers. Even on nights when the refs want to impose their will on both teams, guys who normally would need to sit on the bench for the last 10-15 minutes of the first half, will now have new life. While the constant stoppages will still be annoying, at least the fan favorites will still be on the floor.
That brings me to my next point.

College basketball has a popularity problem, particularly during the regular season. So let’s keep the stars on the floor. There isn’t nearly the amount of true “stars” in college hoops, as there were in decades past. Many teams are carried by one or two strong players, with a bunch of role players around them.

Take the Providence Friars as an example. Last week, Kris Dunn got two first half fouls against Butler. The inability to keep him on the floor, led to a 12 point deficit. While they were able to climb out of it, and ultimately win the game, his absence put them in peril. Dunn needs to be on the floor producing highlight reels, not walking on egg shells trying to avoid picking up number three.

More and more college freshmen are hanging around for one year, until they bolt for the NBA. With such limited opportunity to watch these rising stars play, we need to reduce the possibility of having them saddled with early fouls, planted to the pine.

Ben Simmons is one of the most hyped freshmen in recent history. Given that his LSU Tigers squad has been underwhelming thus far, there’s a distinct possibility America won’t see him in the Big Dance. In the meantime, we run the risk of flipping over to the rare, nationally televised LSU game, and having Simmons nowhere to be found if he gets slapped with a couple early fouls. College ball needs the stars and future stars out there showing off their talents.

A while back, my esteemed colleague Hollis Mclain III wrote a piece explaining how the new rules would narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots. You can check that out here after you finish this post. I personally disagree, and feel that by and large we won’t see much difference than we have in recent years. However, I do believe that adding a sixth personal foul will actually widen the gap; and that’s a good thing. Allow me to explain.

As I stated earlier, by adding another personal foul to each player’s arsenal, we’re drawing power away from the referees; and keeping the best players on the floor for longer periods of time. Over time, the cream will rise. More skill and physical talent will eventually wear down lesser opponents. It will also provide the viewing audience with a better basketball experience.
This won’t be as evident during the regular season, though it will certainly have an impact. Come March, when the games are being played on the biggest stage, that’s when it will really show. Rather than having a top seed sweating it out against some double-digit nightmare because their best player picked up two quick ones, coaches will be able to keep their stars in the game, thus avoiding the scare.

Look, I’m all for the VCUs, Wichita States, and Butlers of the world making a deep tournament run. I enjoy watching a 14 or 15 seed pull off a stunner. However, when we get down to the Elite Eight, and the Final Four; it’s time for the little guys to go, and let the big boys play. This rule change would increase the likelihood that as the NCAA Tournament progresses; the top teams have their best players at their disposal, allowing the tournament to take proper shape.

I love college basketball above any other sport, and I certainly don’t want to see it mirror the NBA game. But adopting the six personal foul rule permanently, like the NBA, is the right move. Ultimately I believe it will be put in play. Since it wasn’t done this year, it needs to be done sooner rather than later, for the good of the game.

Photo: ATrumbly/Flickr

Jinxing Your Team One Pick at a Time

50%. That’s roughly the number of people who are picking Kentucky to win it all on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge. That has to be by far the highest in a while. I’m actually a little surprised that it’s that low. The next highest team picked to win it all? Wisconsin at just under 10%.

So what teams are capable of knocking off Kentucky? I’d say short of some surprise team going 15-22 from 3 against them, only the other Top 5 teams. Wisconsin has a pretty good shot. They’re extremely balanced, play ultra-efficient on offense and have player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky. And though it is a different Kentucky squad, the Badgers were one shot away from beating them in the tourney last year and won’t be intimidated. Wisconsin’s possible Elite 8 opponent Arizona also has as good a shot as anyone. They have experienced guards, play elite defense, and have the bigs to match-up with Kentucky’s size. At least to the point anyone could match their size. Duke (gulp) is probably the only other team that has a realistic shot, if for no other reason than they come closest to matching Kentucky from an NBA talent stand point, and they also have the 3-point shooting to match.

Ultimately do I think Kentucky will go down? On to the picks…


SWEET 16

Kentucky over West Virginia
Too much size, too much talent, too much everything for West Virginia to pull off the upset here.

Wichita State over Butler
Regardless of what their seed says, the Shockers are really good. They were in the Final Four two years ago and were undefeated last year until running into a Kentucky team that made the championship game. Key players from those two teams lead this year’s group and they move on here despite Butler’s edge inside.

Wisconsin over Arkansas
I like Arkansas to get past North Carolina because of their edge on defense and having the best player on the floor (Bobby Portis) but that won’t be enough to get them past Wisconsin. The Badgers are simply too good and Arkansas didn’t really challenge the only elite team they played in SEC play (Kentucky)

Arizona over Baylor
Rico Gathers can match up with Zona but I don’t think Baylor has anyone else to match the Wildcats’ size. Close for a while, but Arizona wins relatively easily.

Villanova over Louisville
I don’t think Louisville is that good, but I’m not sure anyone else they’d play before this point is great either. With the quality of competition increased immensely, the Cardinals fall.

Michigan State over Providence
Providence has two great players in Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton that will carry them to this point. However, I think the Spartans have the ability to take one of them away and down the Friars. Having one of the best coaches in the country won’t hurt either.

Duke over Stephen F. Austin
Duke could get a scare from San Diego State (if SDSU gets through St. John’s) but even if the Aztecs hold Duke 20 points below their season average, I don’t think they can score enough on offense. Every year there are one or two surprises in the Sweet 16. I think Stephen F. Austin is that team this year, but their Cinderella run will end here as the Blue Devils’ talent proves too much to overcome.

Iowa State over Gonzaga
I admittedly have little feel for this part of the region. The Cyclones are obviously talented enough to beat Gonzaga, and after recent years I refuse to believe the Zags can make the Final Four until they actually do it.


ELITE 8

Kentucky over Wichita State
The Shockers have the guards to play with Kentucky (and probably have the edge there) but they would get slaughtered on the boards. Kentucky wins fairly handily.

Arizona over Wisconsin
While I hate it when people use rematch to describe two teams that played a previous year, this is about as close as it gets. Wisconsin returned virtually everyone from last year’s Final Four team and got huge improvement out of players like Nigel Hayes. These two teams played basically dead even last year in a game Frank Kaminsky dominated. He’ll have to do the same because this Arizona team is better than last year’s. They replaced defensive standout Aaron Gordon with Stanley Johnson, who can take a game over, and their defense is just as good. The difference this year is Arizona will have Brandon Ashley, who missed the tournament last year due to injury.

Michigan State over Villanova
The Spartans are battle tested after having played almost 1/3 of their games vs Top 10 teams. Villanova seems like the likeliest one seed to bow out earlier than hoped and with only one day in between games, I’m going with Tom Izzo.

Duke over Iowa State
The Cyclones have the offensive firepower to keep up with Duke and have some good wins this year. But I think Duke has just enough of a size advantage, and Iowa State’s 3-point defense (217th in the country) will be a problem against a Duke team that has four regulars who hit at least 38% from beyond the arc.


FINAL FOUR

Kentucky over Arizona
Arizona has the size to match Kentucky. They have solid guard play. What they don’t have is outside shooting and it will be hard to score on Kentucky in the paint. This would be a close, low-scoring game with Kentucky ultimately securing a return trip to the title game.

Duke over Michigan State
The Spartans defense isn’t as stingy as usual and when these two teams played in November, the Spartans gave up 81. They can’t afford to play at Duke’s pace, and the Blue Devils have too much talent on offense for Michigan State to overcome.


NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Kentucky over Duke
Duke has what you’d want to beat Kentucky except for defense. The Blue Devils defense has been anything but great this year. On the flip side, the Wildcats have the NBA level talent down low to match Jahlil Okafor and limit him the way other teams cannot. Kentucky completes its undefeated season.

Here are the bigger first round upsets I see going down:

13 Valparaiso over 4 Maryland
11 Ole Miss over 6 Xavier
12 Stephen F. Austin over 5 Utah
13 Eastern Washington over 4 Georgetown

Jason is on Twitter at @Jlindy87 or you can e-mail him at [email protected]