Like with every spring, the NCAA Tournament has dominated TV coverage and headlines this year, putting men's college basketball front and center in the national sports landscape. Legendary UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma doesn't take that as a sign of the game being in a strong place, however.
Speaking during a teleconference before Auriemma's Huskies appear in the women's Final Four, the nine-time national champion criticized the men's game for being outdated:
"I think the game is a joke," Auriemma said. "It really is. I don't coach it. I don't play it, so I don't understand all the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator, forget that I'm a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it's a joke."
Auriemma specifically called out the declining quality of offense in the men's game, which has seen a significant drop in scoring over the past decade. "Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor," he said, pointing out that baseball and football both changed their rules to encourage more offense.
"The bottom line is that nobody can score, and they'll tell you it's because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense," Auriemma said. "College men's basketball is so far behind the times it's unbelievable. I mean, women's basketball is behind the times. Men's basketball is even further behind the times."
The tournament may still be popular, but Auriemma says the game could be more entertaining: "People have to decide, do I want to pay 25 bucks, 30 bucks to go see a college scrum where everybody misses six out of every 10 shots they take, or do I want to go to a movie? We're fighting for the entertainment dollar here, and I have to tell you it's not entertainment from a fan's standpoint."
Many college hoops fans might not agree with Auriemma, but the coach makes a few good points. The New York Times reported last month that the NCAA scoring average was the second lowest it had been since 1952, with teams playing at a much slower pace. This year's possessions per game average is "easily the lowest since 2002, and probably the lowest since at least the 1940s," according to the same report.
The college game's 35-second shot clock, which is significantly longer than the 24-second clock used in the NBA and international competitions, could be a primary culprit. Even in the NCAA Tournament, it's not uncommon to see teams milk a dozen or more seconds off the clock before actually running a set, which as Auriemma said, isn't necessarily fun to watch.
These are far from the first comments calling out the men's college game for its declining entertainment value. Seth Davis, for example, noted in Sports Illustrated in March that the men's game is facing a crisis and needs an "extreme makeover." But until the NCAA decides to implement changes, we'll surely hear more of them.
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