College Basketball Has a “Quality” Problem

I love watching basketball.

But at the same time, basketball is not enjoyable if it’s “okay” or “decent” or “pretty good.” Obviously, it’s not enjoyable if it’s mediocre.

In other words, basketball is only enjoyable when the professionals play the game. That’s just the way it is. Some sports are not as fun to watch when the amateurs play the game, and basketball is one of them.

Recently, I’ve heard two common complaints about this year’s NCAA Tournament.

“The referees are calling too many fouls.”

Yeah, that’s because the players commit too many fouls. Why do they commit too many fouls?

Well, it was only four years ago that coaches and scouts pointed out that college basketball referees did not call enough fouls. Not to mention, the statistics showed that fouls reached historic lows, which led to a decrease in scoring.

Of course the referees are going to call more fouls.

“College basketball should go to six fouls.”

A typical 48-minute NBA game allows six fouls per player, which comes out to one foul for every eight minutes. A typical 40-minute college basketball game allows five fouls per player, which also comes out to one foul for every eight minutes. Adding another foul for each college player would not only further increase the number of fouls called, but it would extend the game even longer then it already does. It’s simple math.

So… do we blame the one-and-done players?

Look, if a player can make money playing professional basketball, they should take that opportunity and never look back. Not to mention, the increase in the salary cap only further entices these talented players to take the risk and play in the NBA, even if it means not playing as much right out of the gate.

Right now, the 18 and 19-year-old one-and-done freshmen are the most talented players in college basketball. On the other hand, the players who stay in school into their twenties are just not good at basketball or become exposed for who they truly are as players (EX: Grayson Allen). Just look at any 2017 NBA Draft big board.

The fact of the matter is that today’s college basketball players, while talented, are just not that good. The main difference between this era of college basketball and earlier eras of college basketball is roster depth. Previous eras of college basketball not only had talented college basketball players, but they had physically mature college basketball players.

As a result, quality of play decreases. So how does one fix that?

“Get rid of the one-and-done rule.”

Hold on a second… before the one-and-done rule, there was the “none-and-I’m gone” rule. Talented players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James never played a single college basketball game in their lives. Today’s extremely talented players would have gone straight to the NBA if not for the “one-and-done” rule.

Plus, will college basketball ultimately suffer because Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum only stayed in school for one year as opposed to not going to school at all?

The one-and-done rule has made college basketball better. Unfortunately, it has become a lazy answer for people who are trying to explain what is wrong with college basketball.

How We Watch the NCAA Tournament

It’s worth noting that the NCAA Tournament is a much different viewing experience than it was five to ten years ago because everyone has access to every single game. In the past, people could only watch the NCAA Tournament on CBS. Viewers trusted CBS to take them out to the close games, which was great because everyone could watch the exciting finishes of each game.

Now that everyone has access to all the games, it seems that people have ignored the fact that CBS often spared viewers from some pretty mediocre basketball. Most of the time, the end of an NCAA Tournament game is better than the real NCAA Tournament game.

“College Basketball is a lot like baseball.”

In both sports, it’s difficult to keep up with every single team throughout the course of a season. As a result, fans will make this relationship with one team and follow them for 162 games or 34 games, depending on the sport. Of course, part of the charm is watching the changes and evolutions of that team throughout the course of the season.

For example, this year’s Duke team started this season as the top-ranked team in the country and ended the season as the No. 7 team in country with eight losses. Think about all the obstacles the Blue Devils had to overcome from the first day of the season until the last day; head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s back surgery, Grayson Allen tripping players, top draft pick Harry Giles sliding down draft big boards due to injury, and losing three out of four games on two separate occasions.

When you think about it like that, college basketball could actually be pretty fun and interesting. However, that type of narrative thinking takes away from the real quality of the basketball.


The NCAA Tournament has a certain element of drama, but at the same time, college basketball is relying too heavily on the structure of a 68-team, single-elimination tournament. It is resting on the alleged, at times tiring, contrivance that is a single-elimination tournament.

In the end, college basketball is enjoyable. Just try not to focus on the “basketball” part.

Let me know you thoughts on this topic in the comments or send me a tweet @danny_shin131. Do you think college basketball has a “quality” problem?


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