Players’ leaving early continues to be bane of college hoops

CHICAGO — After spending an entire evening watching every conceivable television channel replay again and again just how humiliating and miserable Glen Mason and the Minnesota football meltdown was Saturday afternoon, I needed something else to occupy my miniscule attention span.
Turns out I subjected myself to further punishment. Watching Indiana coach Mike Davis field a couple thousand questions — on the same topic, just worded differently — was frightening. Trying to listen to Big Ten commisioner Jim Delany talk made me twitch.
But I was able to record what the man who makes listening to Al Gore sound more like Marvin Gaye had to say. In his flatlining, monotone voice, it was impossible to tell that anything he said was of any real significance, nor that he was addressing problems in the Big Ten and college basketball.
Delany expects the game to become wide-open again. Thank heavens, because there are only so many times you can vomit from the nauseating pace college basketball used to fly at.
The goal here is to crack down on the physical play, bullish defense, grabbing, pawing and beatings defenses put on.
“The game has shifted the upper-hand to the defense and to physical play,” Delany said. “This year we’re really going to make an effort to enforce contact.
That’s the way the game is being taught, and the mindset has become one of bigger and stronger, not necessarily skilled and faster. This is a game of skill, but I don’t think people knew just how good Michigan State’s defense was.
“I like the NBA’s improvements in officiating in the post with calling charges and even outside the lane.”
Yes, sir, nothing beats aesthetics like the No Baskets Allowed league. NBA teams do score more than college. Barely. They hit and beat up on each other more than Axl Rose in a hotel room.
The defection of college players to other locales, however, is a far bigger concern. Delany estimated that 70 percent transfer away from their original schools at one point in their NCAA career.
“Everyone focuses on people going to the NBA early,” he said. “I’m more concerned about the 70 percent who move around and ask why?”
Okay, let’s ask why? Why don’t college kids — especially males — stay four years and get their degree? Why do college kids weed out schools, as Spartans head coach Tom Izzo suggested, “because they want to star, not just start?” Why do kids not bother going to college at all, even though they’re enticed with a full scholarship and perks galore?
I’m thinking the NBA might have something to do with that. College is a waste when the world is telling you to go pro and a first-round selection equals an income this sportswriter will never see.
Playing college basketball for Hofstra for four years is not playing for Duke for two. Playing four years of college football at Loyola-Marymount does not equal two seasons at Florida State. So kids just want to move where they’re accessible to the NBA’s pipelines.
We’re dealing with issues far beyond the scope or reason of a single theory.
“A lot of people blame the parents who push their kids out, same with coaches and even agents,” Delany said. “There are a lot of reasons, but each is a different case and there is not a single cause.”
The cause is the lure of the pros. The problem is keeping underclassmen who have little to absolutely no business being in the pros. And so the kids who refused to play for a school in which they couldn’t be the star or even start their first season alone, are now all-too giddy to sit on the bench and do nothing, or do very little, just to be in the pros at age 18, 19 and 20. No college degree, but man, you should see how many cars they have.
All the while, college basketball is left without any real player-coach-fan identity, and the NBA brings in these rug-rats, dilluting the leauge and the game where mediocrity is enough to be celebrated.
“This is a man’s league, and a lot of times, this isn’t a game, it’s a job,” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said last January.
“They don’t stop and check your I.D. before you enter. You’re going up against people eight, ten, or twelve years older than you. They don’t cut you any slack. If anything, they’ll go right after you.”
And Delany should go right after them.

Mark Heller is the associate sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]