Hoops Hangups

Barry Laminack: The problem with college basketball

If only the rest of the season was as exciting as March Madness. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

March is here and that means March Madness is right around the corner. That also means that everyone has to get back to acting like they like and care about college basketball (but we all know that's not true). Let me get this out of the way first, I don't hate college basketball. I watch the NCAA Tournament like everyone else.

Every year the tournament has crazy finishes, drama, and some fun games there is no denying. The problem is the rest of the year. Outside of the big matchups (Duke vs North Carolina, et al.), it seems that college basketball isn’t all that popular. Sure in pockets of the country where there are few pro teams this may not be true, but when it comes to major sports cities it seems that college hoops fails to capture the interest of fans.  

When you watch the average college football game, you’re likely to see several future NFL stars on the field. When you watch the average college basketball game you're likely not going to see any future NBA stars (or players for that matter) during the game. Here is where you tell me about all the “talent” in the tourney, but I’m just not buying it. In fact, I did some research. And the numbers each NBA draft class is putting up over the last 5 years is pretty bad.

Below are some numbers from the last 5 draft classes currently in the NBA (to really spare you from just how bad it actually is, I’m only using the top ten picks in each year).

These are the combined career averages for the top ten picks in each of the last 5 NBA drafts:

Career Averages for the Top 10 Draft Picks (Per Game)

Draft Yr 

 FG%

 3P%

 FT%

Minutes 

 Points 

 Total Rebounds 

 Assists

2017

 0.394 

 0.330 

 0.682

 24.89

 9.68

        4.21

2.66

2016

 0.458

 0.326

 0.681

 22.94

 9.29

        4.02

2.24

2015

 0.440

 0.294

 0.749

 25.62

 11.72

        5.14

2.07

2014

 0.440

 0.312

 0.729

 26.52

 11.9

        5.06

2.57

2013

 0.449

 0.327

 0.753

 24.91

 10.5

        4.25

1.85

AVG

 0.436

 0.318

 0.719

 25.0

 10.6

        4.5

2.3

As you can see, over the last 5 years the average top ten pick in the NBA is averaging 10.5 points per game, 4.25 rebounds per game and 1.85 assists per game for their career.

That’s terrible.

Looking at the first round as a whole, in each of the last 5 years, here is a break down of career average scoring per game:

1st Rd Players Points Per Game Average

Draft Yr

 0 - 9.9 pts/g 

 10 - 15.9 pts/g 

 16 - 19.9 pts/g 

 20+ pts/g 

2017

 21

 8

 1

 0

2016

 25

 4

 1

 0

2015

 23 

 4

 2

 1

2014 

 16

 12

 1

 1

2013

 21

 6

 3

 0

Out of the 150 players that have been drafted in the last 5 years, 2 are averaging 20 or more points per game - Joel Embiid (22.3) and Karl-Anthony Towns (21.3). The main reason I think NCAA basketball isn’t a good watch (outside of the tourney) is that there are too many teams in Division I basketball.

Basketball (more so than any other major team sport) is the kind of sport where having 1 really good player can completely change the dynamic of a team. There can only be 30 first round picks (and 60 total draft picks) in a year. That means of the 5,265 players in Division I that fill roster spots, less than .0114 percent of them are NBA caliber. (I say “less than” because not all 60 draft slots are filled with NCAA talent, some are from overseas).

But Barry, not all 5265 players on an NCAA men’s basketball roster are eligible for the draft!

Well, the NCAA estimated that 3.6% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2016 NBA draft, so my point still stands.

In Conclusion

Shrinking the number of Division I schools would mean that more teams would have more talent and deeper rosters. More talent and deeper teams would make the regular season games more compelling and fun to watch.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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