Klee: Hype, not hand-checks, the issue in college hoops

By: Paul Klee
December 6, 2013 Updated: December 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm
photo - Kansas' Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Towson Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won the game 88-58. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas' Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Towson Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won the game 88-58. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) 

BOULDER - The new hand-checking rule in college basketball is a good thing.

Clutching and grabbing isn't defense. It's hockey. Once the NCAA has made its point and coaches adapt instead of vent, these soaring foul counts will revert to the norm.

Next up, let's extend the 3-point line. The 3-point shot should be a challenge, not another way to even the playing field. Right now, 20 feet, 9 inches is too close.

Then the NCAA must ditch the transfer waiver, where a player can use a personal hardship to play immediately for another school. There are exceptions, sure. But let's identify the true hardships and use common sense to decide which are which.

"Frankly, the transfer rule is like free agency finding its way into college basketball," Colorado coach Tad Boyle told me.

Sweet. Now that we're all in agreement over these advances, here's what I really want to change about college basketball to make it a better, more sensible place:

Blow up the hype machine. Light a stick of honesty dynamite. Stop building up teenagers into something they're not. It hurts the kids first, the coaches second.

Stop tweeting about his handle, hops and high ceiling. Tell me if he can dribble, pass and shoot - and if he can't.

"The hype machine that you're talking about is real. It's there," Boyle said. "It kicked into gear when the Internet came. You've got blogs and chat rooms and rankings and web sites. Now we have Twitter. Social media has exacerbated the hype machine."

What's the hype machine? It was born on the grassroots level. It grew wings when analysts, most of whom don't know the difference between athletic and talented, were granted credibility because they built a website that sells subscriptions.

There's as much honesty in the evaluation of high school players as there is in recruiting them. That's not much.

"It does kids that are hyped a disservice," Boyle said. "It's not their fault. It just is."

It just needs to be readjusted. When CU hosts Kansas on Saturday, the hype machine makes a pit stop at Coors Events Center. The hype machine carried KU freshman Andrew Wiggins to the top of the college game before he played a college game.

Wiggins averages 14.3 points - not bad for a freshman, eh? - yet folks wonder why he isn't his own team's leading scorer.

Can't we just accept he's a joy to watch and soak in his one season in college?

Here's the issue, courtesy the hype machine: Recruiting analysts convinced fans that Wiggins was a flawless prospect, a virtual lock for the No.?1 pick in the 2014 draft.

But they rarely advertised the holes in his game. Hype, not honesty, sells those subscriptions.

Outside the blue-chip prospects, the end result is a kid being labeled overrated, even while he never asked to be rated. The coach failed for the kid not living up to the ranking, even while the kid was never as good as his ranking.

Of the top 50 scorers in college basketball, only four are freshmen. The hype machine is the reason 99 percent of college freshmen are overvalued.

It's not because they stink. It's because they were rated too high and poorly evaluated before they got there.

Colorado's roster shows two sides of the hype machine. Star guard Spencer Dinwiddie went overlooked by the Southern California schools. Now CU is operating as though Dinwiddie will enter the NBA draft after his junior year, Boyle said.

"Those kids that aren't part of that hype machine and aren't highly ranked, who believe and have the drive, it pushes them," Boyle said. "That's motivation."

Then there's Xavier Johnson, who, as a high school sophomore, was billed as a sure-fire star. But his rankings dropped, and UCLA and USC dropped off.

"That hype machine with Xavier - and he didn't stop working hard - it turned on him," Boyle said. "And we ended up with a hell of a player."

On the list of coaches I want leading a program, KU's Bill Self is at the top. Boyle isn't far off. Not for how they recruit talent, but for how they evaluate talent.

"There's definitely a difference between the two," Boyle said.

Boyle played his college ball at KU at the same time Self played his college ball at Oklahoma State. Their relationship is how CU and KU agreed on a home-and-home series that ends with the Jayhawks' visit to Boulder on Saturday.

"We'll revisit (another series) down the road," he said.

One more change, if that's OK. Let's scrap the NBA's age-limit restriction. It's un-American. Allow the best prospects to draw a paycheck straight out of high school.

"It's a little bit of a farce," Boyle said. "If we're going to say these kids are going to college to further their education, then let's mean it. I think baseball's got it right."




Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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