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College Basketball: Is "Flopping" Becoming A Problem That Must Be Addressed?

Flopping and exaggerating contact has become an epidemic in college basketball. Is it time to consider some changes?

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

I’m throwing this one out for discussion because it was a direct result of the Kentucky game. The other day, Rick Pitino made it clear he was benching starting point guard Chris Jones for the ridiculous flop he pulled during the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals game Saturday. In case you missed it, here is the video:

I think that was a good thing for Pitino to do. What I question is whether it wouldn’t have been better to keep that reason in-house.

Calipari has very rarely, if ever, embarrassed a player like that. Yes, Jones did the wrong thing and benching him was the right thing for Pitino to do about it. Coaches don’t want to be seen as condoning or encouraging bad behavior, and trying to fake injury is manifestly bad behavior, at least in the opinion of your humble correspondent.

But I think Pitino would’ve been better off keeping that out of the media. I can’t see what good it does to further embarrass Jones. He’s already having to suffer endless re-runs, social media mockery and claymation parodies — all richly deserved, to be sure.

Still, you have to ask the question if that wasn’t more than enough without adding a public reproof by the coach on top of it. He didn’t break any rules or any laws, such as many players who get suspended for "violations of team rules," a.k.a. pot smoking, and nobody goes in front of the cameras telling the world about their indulgence.

I think what we have here the principle of marginal productivity in effect, sometimes known as the law of diminishing returns. It’s hard to see what additional value Pitino gets out of further embarrassing a guy by announcing the reason for his discipline. But perhaps I’m wrong about that, and I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. I have found, however, that public embarrassment is a very effective tool, combined with a private reproof, appropriate punishment, and leaving the public to speculate on the reason.

Finally, I think we might need a rule against overt, obvious flops. They are becoming an epidemic in college basketball. We see, even on Kentucky’s team, a tendency for players to exaggerate contact or use body movements to suggest contact when there is little or none. Perhaps overt flops, like the famous ones by Greg Paulus, or this one, should result in a technical foul against the player.

I am not advocating stopping the game to review such incidents — I think it is a judgment call that should be made live, or if detected on a routine review for something like the situation in the UK-UL game where there was a routine review for flagrant contact that was precipitated by the flop. Officials use the same sort of judgment for hanging-on-the-rim technicals, so why not flopping?

According to Jerry Tipton, officials can call a technical foul in such circumstances already, which I knew already. The question is, in cases of flopping that stop the game or create a delay, why aren’t they calling it? That would obviously not address the block/charge flop, but hey, baby steps. It wouldn’t take much to convince me that the block/charge call is tough enough without forcing officials to decide if it were a flop or not.

Also, the stupidity of the 20-second replacement technical not being called boggles my mind. Of course it should be called — if it were, games would be finished sooner. Instead, replacement is allowed to take absurd amounts of time in which coaches call their teams over for effectively a near one-minute timeout. This practice is wrong and should be a point of emphasis. We have enough time-outs for commercials and what-not, for heaven’s sake.

Perhaps the best way to address this flopping problem is through the coaches themselves. If coaches will teach their players to play the right way and not put up with this nonsense (kudos for having the right idea there, Pitino), and stop setting bad examples by breaking rules themselves (like the player replacement boondoggle and getting out of the coaches box), I think college basketball would be better off. I also realize that coaches will probably take the position that anything they can get away with that helps them win within the rules is fair game, and they have families to feed. Whatever. That’s the stuff rule changes are made of.

Anyway, what do you think? Is flopping a problem that needs addressing? If not, why not? If so, how would you do it?