NIT Tournament to Experiment with 4 Quarters

Not all the news about March is about the Big Dance. Once again this year, the NIT tournament will feature several experimental rule changes in an attempt to improve the game play in college basketball. Of the experimental rules, none is more intriguing than switching from two, twenty minute halves to four, ten minute quarters. It’s a discussion that has lived within college hoops, at least on the men’s side, for some time now.

The critics have been there, and they were louder than ever after last year’s NCAA championship “foul-fest.” The NBA does it. Women’s college basketball does it. Men’s college basketball should be four quarters instead of two halves. With this change, teams will begin shooting two free throws on the fifth team foul of every quarter.

These experimental rules are being used in an attempt to better the on-the-court product. This rule, more than anything, will better the product. It will help the game flow, and it will just about eliminate games that turn into free throw contests when teams get into the bonus early in halves. If a team gets in the bonus early, they are at a huge advantage for the rest of the half. From a fan point of view, this is a rule you hope gets voted in.

Last year, the NCAA took a step in the right direction, attempting to use fouls and “segments” within a half. Each team had four fouls to give during each ten minute segment before entering the bonus. It was the right theory, but ultimately confusing. Moving to halves is much more similar to the rest of the sport and a lot more clear.

“The style of play in men’s college basketball is healthy and appealing, but the leadership governing the game is interested in keeping the playing rules contemporary and trending favorably,” – Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president.

In addition to moving to quarters, the other changes include extending the three point line 1.8 inches, to meet the current FIBA distance, widening the free throw line to 16 inches, the length of the NBA, and resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the full 30. Of these rules, the shot clock reset is the most exciting, I think that will make end of game settings a lot more exciting.

All these rules could have an effect on the game flow in college basketball. A wider paint and further three point line could prevent college hoops mirroring the NBA and becoming an extended three point contest. The twenty second shot clock reset on offensive rebounds can prevent teams from dribbling out the clock in end of game scenarios. And last but not least, turning halves into quarters will make even the most foul-filled games easier to watch and less choppy. These rules won’t be able to be voted in until 2019, but we can get a preview into the future of college basketball during this year’s NIT Tournament.

Sean Miller Caught Negotiating Pay for Play

This is huge. It was reported late Friday night that Arizona head coach was caught on wiretaps negotiating in a pay for play deal for freshman DeAndre Ayton. The conversations were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a runner for former sports agent Andy Miller of ASM Sports. The taps revealed discussions between the Wildcat head coach and Dawkins in which $100,000 would be sent to Ayton to ensure his commitment to school.

It’s been a rough year for Arizona to say the least. In September, assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was arrested in what was the beginning of this FBI investigation. They lost the commitment of Jahvon Quinerly when his name surfaced in reports in the Fall. This past week, star guard Allonzo Trier tested positive for a banned substance for the second time, though the school is appealing. And now this news with Miller. The hits just keep on coming.

This FBI investigation has been a black cloud around all of college basketball. It’s been an even bigger cloud over Arizona, who along with USC, Oklahoma State, Auburn had assistant coaches arrested back in the Fall. Richardson was arrested in September and was accused for accepting $20,000 in bribes and paying recruits to sign with Arizona. Becasue of this, Miller’s name has come up a lot when talking about the FBI scandal. And now we have our news.

Ayton is one of the best players in college basketball this year. He leads the Pac 12 in points and rebounds and is a sure fire top five pick in this Spring’s NBA Draft. He is a rare talent that Miller called a “once in a generation type player.” In conversations with Dawkins, Miller instructed him to deal directly with him when dealing with Ayton.

Earlier today we were given a list of names of players who received impermissible benefits from ASM Sports.While it was certainly buzz worthy news, it did not affect many head coaches because these deals were directly between players and their families, and Dawkins. This is different. This is Sean Miller, a head coach, working directly with a sports agent to pay for a player to come to campus. This is the big news many were waiting for. No one has any idea what happens from here, but it will be crazy.

Michael Porter Jr. Cleared for Madness

Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. returned to practice Friday, being cleared to play just four months removed from major back surgery.

Though positive news for the top-ranked 6-foot-10 freshman forward, it’s still uncertain he’ll dress for Saturday’s conference contest against Kentucky … or if he’ll be in playing plans for the remainder of the regular season.

But it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t.

News in November of his once thought of as season-ending surgery put a damper on his collegiate career outlook as the No. 2 overall prospect of the 2017 class (No. 1 before Marvin Bagley reclassified). But his absence wasn’t the know-all, say-all for his team. Mizzou has since survived the wild SEC this season, exceeding expectations of the team without the star. The Tigers are 8-7 in a competitive conference and 18-10 overall. So why scramble to fit Michael Porter Jr. into a game plan that has been working just fine without?

The Tigers travel to play a struggling Kentucky squad Saturday. Even if Michael Porter Jr. were to contribute minutes to the team, Mizzou wouldn’t need to work miracles to earn a ‘W’ in Cat country. Missouri travels to play a docile Vanderbilt group Tuesday before the Tigers wrap up the season at home against Arkansas March 3. Missouri is a dominate 12-3 at home, and can easily go 3-0 to finish the regular season of conference action. The Tigers are in a six-way tie for third now in the SEC.

The other factor in this is the possibility of Porter playing alongside his brother, and for his dad, at least once this year. Family is a big piece for Porter, whose brother Johntay reclassified to 2017 just for the chance to play with Michael. One collegiate game on the court with his brother and dad would mean the world to Porter Jr.

Missouri set itself up nicely postseason play creeps up. The addition of a healthy, talented Porter Jr. gives the Tigers a scary edge as March Madness approaches. But there Is no need to rush the freshman in.

Making the Case For and Against Vacating Wins

The concept of vacating wins as a form of punishment has been a debate for a few years now. Some people understand the reasoning behind it. Others think it’s dumb and does nothing to punish a program. There are certainly valid points for both sides. Taking wins away doesn’t erase what a team once accomplished. At the same time, it can affect a head coach’s or program’s legacy, to an extent. Let’s take a look at the argument for and against vacating wins as a penalty.

The biggest, and really only argument made against taking away wins is that you’re not really taking away wins. These wins already happened, it’s a part of college basketball history. Sure, Louisville has to take down their 2013 banner. But as Kevin Ware said on Twitter: “Still got this fat a** ring…” Yesterday, Rick Pitino technically lost over 100 games and went to two less Final Fours and a National Championship. Most record books will still have Louisville as 2012-13 National Champions. The only difference is, there may be a tiny asterisk next to it. In reality, most kids growing up 30 years from now will have no idea Louisville had wins and titles taken from them from 2011-2014.

But if vacating wins isn’t the answer, what is? Many think postseason bans and loss of scholarships is a better answer than vacating wins. The argument on the surface makes sense. News comes out that a program cheated or violated NCAA rules, and people want to see immediate punishment. The problem is though, when a school is found guilty, it’s often by a coaching staff, or player who is no longer a part of the program.

Think back to Derrick Rose and Memphis. By the time a decision was made, Rose, and John Calipari, were gone. Think about Louisville yesterday. Rick Pitino is gone, no players who violated the rules are a part of the team. Why should they get punished? Why would you take scholarships away from David Padgett for actions made by Pitino and his staff?

Truth is there is no perfect answer. Did Rick Pitino’s legacy change with the NCAA ruling last night? Absolutely. But are people going to “forget” or pretend Louisville didn’t win that National title? Not a chance. You can’t punish the current team for something a past coach or team did and taking away wins doesn’t erase what that team accomplished. We want to know your thoughts. Is vacating wins a proper punishment for a team that breaks the rules? Is there a better option? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with us.

De’Anthony Melton Withdraws From USC

In some unsurprising news today, USC guard De’Anthony Melton withdrew from school to pursue his NBA career. Melton sat out all season after being linked to the FBI case in the Fall. In January, USC announced that he would miss the remainder of the season, more news that was not surprising at the time. It’s weird to say a player is trying to better his career by leaving school mid-season, but there is no reason for Melton to remain on campus.

Prior to the FBI news in September, Melton was a projected first round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. He was a well-rounded player for the Trojans last year, averaging 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his first, and last, year. He was also good for almost 2 steals (1.92) per game. Melton was expected to be a key contributor to a USC team that was thought to compete with the top of the conference and then make his leap to the professional level. Obviously, that did not go according to plan.

“I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving upon my weaknesses for competition at the next level.”

The FBI probe left Melton in an interesting position. In his statement via Twitter, Melton said he reached a crossroads. Ultimately he chose to leave school to focus on improving his individual game. I agree with this decision. Staying in USC won’t help him as much as training on his own will. USC is playing to get into the NCAA Tournament, not to get players ready for the NBA. Anyone associated with, or around that program should have that goal in mind. It’s hard for Melton to have that mindset while being stuck to the bench all year long.

At the same time, he hasn’t played all year. He’s entering the NBA Draft not having been seen by scouts in live game action in over a year. He can perform well in individual workouts, but he’s at a slight disadvantage compared to most players entering the Draft. There’s just not as much tape on him. He’s also not someone like Michael Porter Jr, who was highly touted for such a long time. Melton was touted the Swiss Army knife for his versatility as a freshman, but there’s no second year tape to back this up anymore.

Melton was thought to be a late first round pick prior to the start of the college basketball season. Many recent mock drafts have left him out of their first round, but there will be so many changes that you should not read too much into that right now. I think while this news is unsurprising, it’s the right move for Melton as he sets his sights on the NBA. It will be interesting to see where he lands in June’s draft, and how much he can improve his stock in individual workouts after missing his sophomore year.