The decline of college basketball is nothing compared to the decline in the quality of complaints about the decline of college basketball

"Dr. Naismith shot the ball clumsily. After a promising beginning, the sport is now broken."

“Dr. Naismith shot the ball clumsily, and overall quality of play in basketball has fallen off dramatically. After its promising beginning yesterday morning, the sport is now broken.”

My ESPN colleague Jay Bilas is one of the brightest guys I know, meaning he agrees with me about 95 percent of the time. (How I define “bright.”) And while it’s true he and I disagree to some extent on just how “broken” college basketball truly is in 2013, I have to concede that Jay has history on his side on this one….


Nobody knows exactly how these “new rules” will work out, but The Bilastrator believes they were absolutely necessary to help the game. Let’s not mince words here: College basketball had slowly and surely become unwatchable and unplayable, and the “tough defense” some were celebrating was nothing more than thuggery and fouling. Last season was the lowest-scoring season in over 50 years.
Jay, this week


There are zero great teams, zero great players. NBA teams are tripping over themselves to trade their first-round picks in 2011 not because of the absolute certainty of a lockout but because they don’t think anybody is worth top-of-the-draft money.

While that could very well make for overtimes and buzzer-beaters, a slew of upsets and charming Cinderella stories, it doesn’t mean that the quality of play is what it used to be. There’s not a team in the tournament as good as Memphis was three years ago. Fortunately for the carnival barkers, 80 percent of the folks in the office pool don’t know the difference between exciting and good.
Michael Wilbon,, March 15, 2011


College basketball is what it is, and it’s been getting worse since the NBA’s ill-advised change in eligibility rules, which made “one-and-dones’’ a viable option. John Calipari had four of them last year at Kentucky. In what could be regarded as some sort of coaching detox, he has weaned himself down to a mere two this year. Forget about continuity. Forget about team decorum. Forget about tradition. Forget about raising the jersey of a cherished four-year star. Roll ’em in, roll ’em out, and keep ’em eligible for one semester. That’s modern college basketball on some campuses.
Bob Ryan, Boston Globe, March 15, 2011


Quality of play in the Big 12 is severely lacking, and it’s only going to get worse in the next 2-3 years with Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State going through transitional phases.
Michael Jeffries, Draft Express, March 31, 2006


Q: Is it just me, or does the quality of play in the NCAA (Div. 1) continue to drop every year? I thought it would level off as it became commonplace to jump to the draft early, but it’s still getting worse.

A: I thought Michael Wilbon addressed this issue rather deftly in his Sunday column. The problem at the top level of college basketball is the lack of cohesion that results when the top players hang around college at the most two years, and often just one or not at all.
Matt Rennie, Washington Post, March 19, 2003


The implications [of top high school players going directly to the NBA] probably are worse for the college game, already reeling from droves of players leaving early. Not only are the marquee names vanishing overnight, coaches have to base a significant part of their recruiting on how long they can expect players to stay in school.

In addition to the diminishing quality of play, the trend rekindles the debate on some ethical questions. Are college basketball programs truly dedicated to providing education, or are they simply de facto minor leagues?
Vahe Gregorian and Nick Wishart, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 25, 2000


Teams are shooting worse and scoring less.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1999


Jay Bilas has a word to describe much of the college basketball he covers as a television announcer.

“Dull, a lot of it is just dull,” says Bilas, the starting center on Duke’s 1986 Final Four team.

Lots of people — even John Wooden — say the games frequently are less entertaining. The famous former UCLA coach sees less movement, therefore less action and less scoring.
Caulton Tudor, Raleigh News & Observer, March 9, 1997


There is relief for CBS in leaving a regular season in which ratings declined 17 percent to a 2.4, the worst ever for the network. The decline was caused largely by the increasing proliferation of college basketball, a 28 percent tumble in Big Ten ratings and having to compete with Fox’s football games.

Len DeLuca, CBS Sports’ vice president of programming, said the network will experiment with more quick “look-ins” at the progress of other games, among them games produced by regional outlets such as Raycom and Jefferson-Pilot, as it did last weekend; producing three regional games at once and staggering their starting times, and praying that Indiana and Michigan recapture their allure in the Big Ten Conference….

Through the miasma of the tournament’s afternoon games, CBS’s four sets of announcers presented a bag as mixed as O.J. Simpson’s legal team.
Richard Sandomir, New York Times, March 17, 1995


The talent of players has grown beyond the dimensions of the court, and referees need help keeping up with the action. The NCAA has tried to keep pace but often at the expense of the sport.

I’ve always been a proponent of change if the intent is to smooth some of the ragged edges or to improve the quality of play….

The flaw, though, is the enforcement of the rules. Example:

Each year officials have allowed a greater degree of physical play.
Jeff Davis, Fresno Bee, April 3, 1990


Basketball’s rules need a general overhauling, from the opening whistle to the final buzzer….

The irrationality of basketball surfaces when one considers the final two minutes of a ballgame when the clocks, generally, are shut off and intentional fouling — a willful, deliberate violation of the rules — becomes an acceptable strategy, encouraged by coaches who, presumably, are charged with the educational aim of molding character among young, impressionable men and training them to play the game of life by the rules….

While I am one who can take basketball or leave it, one of the reasons why I can leave it is that the game has, in its final, terminal moments, deteriorated into a parade of foul shooters. Up and down the floor the players traipse. A game, spunky, highly competitive team that has trailed by a point or two, making a game of it for 36 minutes, suddenly loses by 12 without yielding a legitimate basket in the interim. 
Pat Livingston, Pittsburgh Press, December 25, 1982


Although he doesn’t like the idea, Al McGuire, coach of the second-ranked Marquette Warriors, is predicting a steady decline in major college basketball in the United States. 

“I’d say that in 10 years the students will be picketing the coaches instead of the athletic departments,” McGuire told an interviewer Monday….

McGuire, whose teams have chalked up 20 victories or more in each of the past 10 seasons, said rising costs and budget pressures would gradually cause a phase-out of big basketball programs.
“Al McGuire Sees Decline in Basketball,” Associated Press, February 24, 1976


College basketball scoring the last season underwent its sharpest decline in the 66-year history of the game.

This was revealed today with the release of final statistics compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic association service bureau. The figures showed a 5 per cent drop in point production….

The drop is attributed entirely to less free throws, since the average number of field goals in a game (51.6) was identical to last season’s figure.
“Statistics Show Cage Scoring Suffers Decline,” The Spokesman-Review, April 8, 1958


Blame it on television, the international situation, or repercussions from the “fixed” games scandals, but attendance at college basketball games showed a decline today for the season just ended as compared with a year ago.

The sock in the basketball pocketbook was felt especially in the big city arenas, where the crowds just didn’t rush the gate as in years gone past….

The south and the midwest showed a gain, but only because of big new fieldhouses at Kentucky and Kansas State.
“College Basketball Shows Big Drop in Attendance,” wire services, March 16, 1951


Because of the so-called “two-minute rule,” college basketball ranks are split today in the greatest civil war the sport has known since the old-time center jump was out-lawed. At least six major conferences are in open rebellion.

Gus Fan has been caught in the dizzy middle of the turmoil. Frequently he must wait for an announcement at the start of the game to find out what rules are being used; in fact, in doubleheaders in such arenas as the Chicago stadium and Madison Square garden in New York, the folks have been treated to two games under two different sets of rules….

Pete Newell, coach of highly-rated University of San Francisco, groaned “Anything, but anything would be an improvement.”
“College Basketball Ranks Split by Two-Minute Rule,” wire services, January 22, 1950


Ever Since College Basketball Moved Into Big-Time Sport, Gamblers Have Been Trying to Bribe Players to Throw Games — With Sad Results
BEATING Uncle Sam out of money won by betting on sure things is nice work if you can get away with it. But many of the fixers who ply the unsavory trade of corrupting athletes to insure their ill-gotten gains scurried back into their rat-holes recently when the New York District Attorney’s office set a trap that caught four of their number red-handed trying to bribe a college boy to throw a basketball game at Madison Square Garden last January.
Dan Parker, Milwaukee Sentinel, May 8, 1949


BONUS counter-example! It’s not all gloom and doom….

Ned Irish, acting president and maestro of basketball at Madison Square Garden, delivered a paradox Wednesday. He said the quality of the hoop game, particularly in the east, had been improved indirectly this season by the loss of many college players to the military services.

“Because of the war drains on college basketball squads,” he declared, “most of the schools permitted freshmen to play with the varsity this season. And the current crop of freshmen, particularly in the east, was the best ever to hit the court. These youngsters brought a lot of pep to their teams, and plenty of ability too.”
“Cage Material Better in East,” Milwaukee Journal, February 17, 1943

Here’s hoping Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle display plenty of ability in 2013-14. Show some pep, youngsters!