Meridian Star

November 13, 2013

Ouch, my ears!

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Last Thursday, the Meridian Community College basketball team started its 2013-14 home slate by earning a spilt against East Mississippi Community College. Basketball fans from across the area packed Graham Gymnasium expecting to see former five-star EMCC forward Devonta Pollard put on a show against the Eagles.     Instead, fans got 40 minutes of basketball hell as referees called touch fouls on both teams nearly every time up the court.

    For the record, the Lady Eagles pulled out a 57-52 win while MCC’s men fell, 82-76, as EMCC pulled away on a 17-4 run to close the game.

    As hard as the men’s loss must have been to swallow for the Eagles, the real losers last week were the few thousand people whose ears might still be ringing from incessant shriek of a whistle.

    The men’s game totaled 58 fouls and 75 free throws between the two teams as the packed crowd began to groan and moan by halftime, pleading the officials to “let ‘em play.”

    The only problem was, the referees weren’t calling a bad game at all. They were simply implementing the new “no-touch rule” that has reared its ugly head this season across college basketball. The rule was designed to increase points by creating a less physical, more free-flowing game.

    Both games were certainly less physical, but free-flowing—hardly. After all, it’s hard to establish any kind of flow when you reach the 1-and-1 five minutes into the game.

    “Literally, if your body touches their body its a foul,” EMCC head coach Mark White said after the game. “That’s how ridiculous it is. What’s crazy was both teams were playing zone.”

    If watching the glorified free-throw contest wasn’t bad enough, fans were stuck braving the whistles for almost five hours for both games. While the NBA has had talks to find ways to fit its game within a two-hour time slot, college basketball seems intent on extending its games another 30 or 40 minutes.

    I can’t even imagine the television nightmare college basketball must be for major sports networks. Imagine trying to schedule a prime-time doubleheader two hours apart. If either team played a lick of defense in Game 1, you’d be lucky to catch Game 2 a half an hour into the game. Then again, under the same foul calling, that might only be five minutes into the first half.

    “I’ve told my coaches it won’t last,” White said. “I’m not going to change what we are doing. It won’t last but two or three weeks. Who wants to watch that? Think about what would happen with a TV game with media timeouts every four minutes.

    “The NCAA thinks it’s smart, but they do no research. Scoring has gone down 10 straight years, that’s what they want to say. Well, that’s because the skill level has gone down 10 straight years... Scoring’s not going to go up because you call more fouls. People are going to play zone and its going to slow the game down. Who wants to watch that.”

    Certainly not me. But, until the college basketball big-whigs change their minds or national T.V. ratings do it for them, this is the college basketball we are stuck with — zone defense and a bunch of loud noises.