How we can improve college basketball

Making referees full-time employees: just one change Jay Bilas believes needs to be made. AP Photo/Tori Eichberger

What’s wrong with college basketball? It is a question that is asked frequently.

The Bilastrator has the answer.


Nothing is “wrong” with college basketball. It has always been a great game, it is still a great game, and it will remain a great game. But I don’t want just what is good for college basketball; I want what is best for college basketball. Right now, the game is not the best it can be. As great as the game is, it can be better.

When this topic is broached, one generally hears something along the lines of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In my judgment, that phrase is often uttered by people who might argue for sticking with the rotary phone, short shorts and plain white Chucks. There is a difference between “fixing” something and “maintaining” something -- a difference between breaking something down, and adapting or changing it, so it can evolve with the times.

The game wasn’t “broken” with peach baskets and ladders. But it adapted. The game wasn’t “broken” without a shot clock, a wider lane or a 3-point line. It just changed and adapted as was necessary, and the game is better for it.

As of late, college basketball has been glacially slow in its evolution. As the global landscape of basketball shifts, the college game stands pat. We like to believe that college basketball is different from everything else, that it is "our game," and that, somehow, it is immune to change. That's nonsense.

The rest of the world has adapted and made the game better. College basketball has not, and so our game has fallen behind. We are behind the times, and by not “fixing” our unbroken game, the game has broken down in certain areas.

A while back, a friend said to me, “If you prefer college basketball to the NBA, it’s not for the basketball.” I believe he is correct. The NBA and international leagues provide a better game on the floor and better rules and better overall play. What college basketball has is better environments, and better atmospheres, and better passion. In other words, what is auxiliary to the game is better in college, but the college game itself is not quite as good as its professional competitors. The good news is, with some proper maintenance, we can -- without much difficulty -- adapt and improve the college game.

Of the rule changes that college coaches have said they wish to see, here are the ones, in order of priority, that I believe the game should make. Of course, these are just my opinions, and I may be wrong (but you know I’m right).

I covered a lot of these ideas in last season's college hoops preview issue of ESPN The Magazine, but have some new thoughts to share, as well. If you're looking for someone else's take, check out Jeff Goodman's recent piece on the rule changes college coaches want to see most.