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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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