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.

Ed Oliver skips bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft. Houston Cougar Football Facebook

The regular season is over for Houston football, but a lot has occurred since last week. Let’s take a look at what to expect for UH:

The Armed Forces Bowl

Houston (8-4, 5-3 in AAC) will face Army (9-2) at Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas on Dec. 22. The Black Knights are ranked No. 22 in the Top 25 AP Poll, mostly due to their prolific triple option rushing attack which ranks third in the nation. They are on a seven game winning streak since losing to Oklahoma. The Big 12 Conference Champion struggled at home against Army, but would later win in overtime. Army averages 300 yards per game on the ground this year, making them the third team (Navy, Memphis, Army) that Houston will face that is ranked within the top five in rushing. The matchup is not good for a depleted Houston defense. The Black Knights will play Navy this weekend, a conference foe of the Cougars who has had a terrible season. Army vs Navy will be the only college football game this weekend, where you can get a sneak peak of what to expect if you haven’t seen the Black Knights play all season. Plus, the uniforms for this game are always pretty cool.

King vs Milton

Houston comes into this bowl game with their heads hung low after what most consider to be a disappointing season. Injuries, most notably those to D’Eriq King and Ed Oliver, sidetracked the Cougars from heading into the AAC Championship game after Memphis blew them out in Week 13. King and UCF QB McKenzie Milton were both nominated for AAC Offensive Player of the Year, of which Milton took home for a second straight season. Milton humbly gave King an honorable mention by saying, “Shout out to D’Eriq King who is just as, if not, more deserving of this honor. Promise we’ll both be back better than ever!” King played only 11 games, where he reached 50 total touchdowns, 14 of which came from the ground, threw for 2,982 passing yards, and rushed for 674 yards.

Ed Oliver Denies Bowl Game

The All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver decided to sit out his final bowl game to begin preparing for the NFL draft. He announced his decision via twitter where he thanked the University of Houston, the coaching staff, and his teammates. He finished by saying, “To all the fans, thank you for your relentless support. Forever I will be a Coog!” Oliver’s decision came about a week after he publicly announced that he will be playing in whatever bowl UH was assigned, even after he had to be benched for tweaking his knee in Week 13 vs Memphis. He missed four games this season after suffering from an uncalled chop block against Navy. In his three years in Houston, Oliver accounted for 193 total total tackles, 54 of which were tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, 14 passes defended, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one blocked kick. He was the first underclassmen to win the Outland Trophy in 2017, which is awarded to the best college interior lineman. This season, Oliver won AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Coaching Changes/Extensions

Houston still doesn’t have a defensive coordinator. Mark D’Onofrio was fired after the Memphis game for managing one of the worst defenses in college football, and also one of the worst defenses in the history of the program. The UH defense allowed a total of 412 points, being the fifth most allowed points in a season in school history, while also allowing 5,862 total yards. It seems like Houston is in no rush in finding a replacement.

Kendal Briles accepted a contract extension from UH after interviewing with Texas State for the head coaching job vacancy. He was also widely considered for a SEC offensive coordinator position of which was not disclosed by sources. The new three-year deal is worth $2.1 million, making Briles one of the highest paid assistants in the nation. Offensive line coach Randy Clements also enjoyed a new three-year extension. Consider both a package deal. The Houston offense averaged 46.4 points per game, rushed for 2991 yards, and passed for 3611 yards, making it one of the best offenses in the nation.

AAC Bowl Matchups

Armed Forces Bowl- Houston vs Army

Military Bowl- Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech

Gasparilla Bowl- USF vs Marshall

Birmingham Bowl- Memphis vs Wake Forest

Independence Bowl- Temple vs Duke

Cure Bowl- Tulane vs Louisiana Lafayette

Most Notable AAC Bowl Matchup

Fiesta Bowl- UCF vs LSU

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