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College Basketball: Myron Medcalf Worries About The "Casual Fan"

This hand-wringing about entertainment for the casual college basketball fan is getting old.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Myron Medcalf (with whom I rarely fail to take exception) posits the question, "Is Virginia’s style "bad for the game?" My reaction to this is a gigantic roll of the proverbial eyes:

That casual fan cares about entertainment. There’s nothing entertaining about a 25-15 half of basketball. It’s even difficult for the game’s true supporters to digest.

That solution must involve upgrading the sexiness of the sport. A multitude of proposals and suggestions that could "open up" the game might help, including the possible introduction of a 30-second shot clock. There’s also chatter about altering defensive restrictions.

This just makes me sad. If casual fans cannot enjoy tough defensive effort, they can casually change the channel to another team. I think Virginia is doing great. They would be just as good if we cut the shot clock to 24 seconds. What are you going to do, outlaw a sagging man-to-man defense? If Medcalf had his way, we’d be watching the NBA All-Star game every night where defense isn’t just optional, it’s actively discouraged.

This is the kind of commentary that, in my view, is risibly unserious, as is every argument that uses "sexiness" or its equivalent as a cornerstone of a raison d'être. Perhaps he wrote it so that it would be justifiably mocked. I am personally sick of the "but it’s not entertainment!" argument, and I invite all "casual" fans not entertained by college basketball to STHU and GTHO.

I hate to be so dramatic, but this is probably the third article I’ve seen recently complaining about low scoring, and the simple truth is that the low scoring around college basketball is 100% attributable to the change in how the game has been officiated in the last 30 years, with vastly more contact allowed and freedom of movement curtailed. That has allowed zones and sagging man-to-man defenses to become more and more effective. As the athletes get better and taller, this trend is only going to accelerate.

So if Medcalf and his ilk want a more watchable game, I suggest he write a missive to the NCAA and ask them to change their completely counterproductive arrangement with the basketball referee’s guild and move them all under the employ of the NCAA. That way, they could set the standard for how the game is to be called and enforce it, just like the NBA does. They can’t do that in the present arrangement, because the officials tell them what they are going to do, not the reverse. That's reality, not the fantasy of "emphasis."

So Wahoo fans, consider me a full supporter of your stye — I think it’s impressive and good for college basketball, because it shows that you can field great teams without nine McDonald's All-Americans. You have a perfect right to scoff at the inanity of this Medcalf blarney, and I’ll join you in doing so. And for the "casual fans" finding college basketball unwatchable, I hear it’s Cricket season in Australia.

[Editor's note:  A previous version of this article misspelled Myron Medcalf's last name.  We regret the error.]