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Volume 23 No. 24
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College basketball’s transition game

From scheduling to streaming, changes to college basketball aim to bring more energy and attention to the game.
Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images

Advocates and critics alike have been screaming for changes to college basketball since 2017, when the FBI announced arrests and indictments from a two-year investigation.A side of college basketball was exposed through wiretaps and court testimony that left an array of prominent coaches desperately fighting to protect their jobs and defending their programs, as well as the sport at large.

Two years later, college basketball is driving forward like Zion Williamson — full speed ahead with the goal in sight.

Some of the sport’s most high-profile programs — including Kansas and North Carolina State, both of which have been served a notice of allegations — remain under an intense investigation by the NCAA. But the game has found a way to persevere.

“For a lot of years, college basketball was what it was. It didn’t change a whole lot,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball who is entering his eighth season with the governing body. “And now all of a sudden, a lot of things are changing around it, and the game needs to change. I still think the bones are good. Attendance is strong. You’ve got more TV partners and more games in more windows. Scoring is up. The attractiveness of the game is still very high.”

College basketball is evolving in ways that will make the game look significantly different in the future. Many of those changes will be implemented this season and more are coming in 2020-21.

Conferences are trying new strategies around scheduling at the start of this season. Most notably, the ACC is opening with conference games for 14 of its 15 schools this week. The conference anticipates that having the defending national champion, Virginia, start its season with an ACC game at Syracuse will send a charge through the sport. 

Similarly, this year’s Champions Classic will feature — for the first time — the unanimous top four teams in the preseason AP and coaches polls: No. 1 Michigan State will play No. 2 Kentucky, while No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Duke open the double-header at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 5.

The State Farm Champions Classic will feature a stout lineup — the top four teams from preseason rankings.
Photo: getty images
The State Farm Champions Classic will feature a stout lineup — the top four teams from preseason rankings.
Photo: getty images
The State Farm Champions Classic will feature a stout lineup — the top four teams from preseason rankings.
Photo: getty images

A key rule change that will move the 3-point shot back to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches is expected to create better spacing on the floor and more opportunity for movement.

On the sideline, the NCAA is seeking more ways to introduce new technology to the sport. Tablet computers likely will be replacing the white board in the huddle in coming years.

Live stats will be permissible on the bench area as part of an experimental phase this season, and more innovations are coming with the potential for coaches to have access to game video during the action.

Those are just the alterations to the game on the court. The NCAA continues implementing its new summer calendar and recruiting events, as recommended by the Rice Commission.

Changes also are coming on the media front, where more games will be streamed this season than ever before.

“We’ve implemented a lot of change pretty quickly,” said Judy MacLeod, the Conference USA commissioner and chair of the NCAA’s basketball oversight committee. “Now we need to see where it goes and how we might need to adjust.”