Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: New Rules!

For those out of state, let me pass on a note of caution - Boulder is slowly turning into Seattle.  I'm not talking culturally, though, I'm talking climate.  It's been raining non-stop here for the last few weeks, inching towards record territory.  While not a true echo of the scene a few September's back, when the heavens opened up to dump 20 inches on top of my house in a matter of days, I'm starting to forget the last time I saw the sun, and am beginning to fret over the status of the softball season rumored to have started with the last flip of the calendar.

Of course, I shouldn't be complaining.  Any water is welcome in the West, and I do not dispute that we need as much as the clouds can spare.  But is it too much to ask for an occasional sunny day?  Or at least enough of a dry spell to allow me to mow the damn lawn again?


Today in the bag, I'm talking the new rules proposals in college basketball, priming the start of the conference finals in the NBA, and recapping the start of the same in the NHL.

Click below for the bag...

The hoops rulebook preps for a facelift - 

We all know that college basketball is imperfect perfection.  Much like democracy, the sport is the worst... except when compared to the alternatives, but is often in serious need of a nudge back on course.  The simple fact is that Division I basketball has become an uncomfortable watch in recent years, with money-ball like efforts to grind the game to a halt taking over for actual skill and talent.  The result: scoring as low as it's been since the Korean War, field goal percentages at rec-league levels, and pace just fast enough to stay ahead of a slug.  With scoring falling in 13 of the last 15 years, calls for a radical new approach to the game itself have been gaining serious steam, and we may finally see some fruit born from the pervasive discontent.
The 35 second clock may be going the way of the dodo, but that's not the most important proposal.
Just this past week, the NCAA announced a package of rule changes aimed at reversing this trend, and putting the fun back in college basketball. Released by the Men's Basketball Rules Committee, the list is not perfect - it falls short in a few areas that I would really like see change - but stands as a solid step forward for the sport.  If all are approved, you would see the following changes this winter:
  • A 30 second shot clock
  • Physical contact and freedom of movement rules more akin to 2013-14.
  • An extended charge-restricted arc, out to 4' from 3'.
  • A reduction of timeouts from five to four
  • Coaches could no longer call timeouts during live play
  • An exemption turning coaches timeouts into media timeouts before the four-minute breaks
Now, none of this is final, and the NCAA could pull an NCAA by screwing any or all of this up, but you have to like these proposals.  The shot clock tweak will get the most publicity, but that's just superficial.  Without concrete changes to the way the game is officiated and managed from the bench, it's meaningless. Essentially, this boils down to a basic concept: basketball should not be wrestling.  It should be about speed, athleticism, and free movement (*cue boilerplate Bill Walton rant*).  Anything designed to open up play - reducing hand checks, holds, rubs, moving screens, the 'Duke charge,' etc. - should be seen as a positive.  Further, anything taking the tyrannical choke-hold of over-coaching out of the mix is a cherry on the sundae.  Fewer timeouts means fewer opportunities to micromanage.  Essentially - let the players play. 
What will Sean Miller do without all his timeouts?
I just wish they had gone farther.  Get rid of the 2-3 zone with a defensive three-seconds call.  Open that damn lane up so someone can actually get to the rim.  Try the quarter system and add a foul to the mix.  Take a preemptive step and eliminate the hack-a-Shaq. Essentially, make the game even more like the NBA.  Some of you may scoff, but the style of play in the NBA right now is refreshing - and I'm not just talking about made mid-range jumpers.  Having endured the slog of a college season, to see teams in the playoffs aggressively attacking the basket, finding open men off the dribble-drive, and genuinely playing team basketball (I said it) has been as refreshing as a cool drink at Wall Drug.

College basketball ain't broke, but it's missing some parts.  Here's hoping that the NCAA takes these changes, and continues to tinker in future years while sticking to the emphases above.  The road back to respectable play will be long, but in the end worth while.

Around the NBA Playoffs - 

Houston 113 - Los Angeles 100 -

Huh?  What?  Houston?  There must be some mistake...  I swear the Clippers had this series sewn up with a 3-1 lead earlier this month, built off of back-to-back blowout wins that had everone penciling LA's other team into the Western finals.  And now, thanks to three straight stunners from the Rockets, the Fightin' Balmers are home for the summer?  The Clips have never been a franchise of hallowed tradition, more often associated with the ugly side of sports than the glorious, but even I thought they had bypassed their propensity to choke.  Not so, apparently.  A lackluster effort in Game 5, followed up by a double-digit collapse in the second half of Game 6, turned into a white-wash in the deciding Game 7.  This loss will stick with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and crew for a long time, and may end up costing Doc Rivers his job.  Yeesh, how very Clipper of them.
Harden ascendant.
Cleveland 94 - Chicago 73 - 

Speaking of facepalm-worthy efforts, My Bulls, who were a final-second shot from LeBron in Game 4 from going up 3-1, and a strong final two minutes away from stealing Game 5, head to summer vacation early after a humiliating implosion in Game 6.  On home turf, in front of an expectant crowd, and with Cleveland hobbled significantly with injuries, they disintegrated into a pool of inner tension and sideways glances.  In the wake, there's dissension in the ranks, public calls for a massive turnover, and embarrassment all around. Ugly, ugly, ugly. If this is indeed the end of the Tom Thibodeau era, it goes out without much to speak of.  Cleveland, on the flip side, looks primed, with a little health, to move into the Finals...

Atlanta 94 - Washington 91 -

... because the Hawks don't look, on paper, at least, to pose much of a threat.  I've been thoroughly unimpressed throughout their run this spring, and the capper of their six game struggle with Washington did little to boost my confidence.  The Wizards, in fact, were a heart-beat away from forcing a Game 7 here, as Paul Pierce's potentially game-tying three went in just after time had expired.  Washington was in it throughout this series, making all but one of the six games close, and losing the last three by a total of nine points.  If Atlanta has to struggle with the Nets and then the Wizards, they can't possibly have enough in the tank to out-last 'Bron-bron, right?
Pierce left it a little too late, and Atlanta survives.
Golden State 108 - Memphis 95 -  

Last, but not least, the Warriors seem to have righted the ship at just the right time.  After dropping Games 2 and 3 against Memphis to start the month, they went on a tear, closing out the series with three-straight wins by an average of about 17 points per.  The reversal has everyone expecting a 'gentleman's sweep' over Houston.  That seems like the short-sighted answer to me, however, and the head-to-head matchup of the MVP finalists in Golden State's Steph Curry and the Rockets' James Harden should prove to be more entertaining than that.

Around the NHL Playoffs -  

Tampa Bay 6 - New York 2 - 

Well, the Rangers finally got to play in a game that was decided by more than a single goal. Unfortunately for them, it was because a barrage of tallies from the Lightning turned Game 1 into a laugher long before the final horn.  While New York lead in most statistical categories, Tampa made every opportunity count, scoring four times in power play situations (three standard, one short-handed).  Special teams were definitive.
Can anyone (or anything) stop Tyler Johnson?
While I'm on the subject, the Lightning's Tyler Johnson scored a natural hat trick to build his team an early lead, moving him one step closer to the Conn Smythe.  He has already found the net 11 times in these playoffs, including four multiple-goal games.  Usually a goaltender's award, I'm starting to inch into the Johnson camp for the Smythe, simply because he's the scoring force behind Tampa's continuing onslaught of the scoreboard.  As they continue to rack up the goals, it's only fair to look to the leading scorer for honors.  Still a lot of hockey to be played, however.

Anaheim 4 - Chicago 1 -

My Blackhawks got their run in the Western final off to a sorry start thanks to an inability to capitalize on numerous scoring chances when it mattered most.  A solid win for the Ducks, but I saw a number of opportunities for the Hawks to get back in this one, especially early in the third period.  Kudos, then, to Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen, who turned away 32 Chicago shots to help hold onto the lead.
Runblad couldn't cut it for Chicago in Game 1
One big problem for the 'Hawks going forward will be how they replace the injured Michal Rozsival in the defensive rotation.  If the results of Game 1 are any indication, the need is pressing, as Anaheim repeatedly took advantage when spot-starter David Runblad was on-ice.  His errors lead directly to goals, forcing yet another change. They'll try again with Kyle Cumiskey in Game 2 this evening - hopefully with better results.

Happy Tuesday!

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