• Jim Sukup

Is dreaming a waste of time?

I once heard a clergy member say that he was a big advocate of wasting time. His reasoning was that people are too wrapped up in the various stresses, obligations and not-so-important trivialities of life that seem to consume us, and we are left with little time to relax and let our minds wander and dream about a perfect world.

While you might or might not agree with his philosophy, I decided to give it a try. Lo and behold, I ended up dreaming about college basketball. Somehow or another, I was the king of college basketball, and being the supreme ruler, I got to make final decisions regarding the rules and other basketball-related issues.

So, here goes ...

• If I were king, non-conference basketball events in November and December would be restricted to true tournament or round-robin formats.

It is tiring to scan some of the non-conference so-called “events.” One quickly finds that no matter which team wins the early, on-campus games hosted by the big-name schools, only the big guys get to advance to the neutral-game site, which is awash with television cameras and all of the related glamour. Meanwhile, the little guy is told to either get lost or go to a venue at another school or neutral site to play games against the other castaways.

• If I were king, the college basketball season would start on the day after Thanksgiving, with exceptions for true tournaments such as the Maui Invitational, which would begin no earlier than the Monday before Thanksgiving.

College hoops takes a back seat to college football until after Thanksgiving, and there are usually not many regular-season college football games scheduled after the last weekend in November. How to replace the existing two weeks’ worth of games before Thanksgiving to the regular season would be a problem, but one solution would be to simply play fewer games per season.

• If I were king, conferences would be restricted to a maximum of 12 schools, so teams would play more than half of their fellow schools twice in conference play.

Next season, the Atlantic 10, ACC, Big East, Conference USA, Mid-Eastern and SEC will all have more than 12 basketball-playing members. A 14-team league that plays 18 conference games means that any given team will play eight conference foes only once during the regular season. It is no wonder that the NCAA selection committee expresses concern that it cannot get a very good read on some teams in these conferences because they play only five teams in their conference twice per season.

• If I were king, the NCAA Tournament would revert back to a 64-team tournament, with no play-in games, and each qualifying conference would be guaranteed a first-round game.

In this scenario, there would be a cap of 32 automatic conference qualifiers and 32 at-large teams. A soon-to-be 350-plus teams in Division I averages out to about 11 teams per conference, a nice, but imperfect, conference number. (A perfect conference number is 10, where an 18-game double-round-robin determines a true conference regular-season champion.)

• If I were king, all Division I teams would be required to play at least one-third of their non-conference games as true away games.

One can easily compile a list of teams that will not play more than one or two true road games before they start conference play. In some cases, that number is zero. Many of those schools then wonder why they are having such a difficult time when going on the road in conference play after they posted a stellar non-conference record.

• If I were king, schools would be restricted to playing a maximum of two non-division I games per season.

If Division I teams had to play at least one-third of their non-conference games on the road (see above), schools that struggle mightily to get home non-conference games would not have to schedule up to four non-Division I home games. Other Division I schools would be happy to play at their place for what they might see as an easy road victory.

• If I were king, conference geography would be more important than schools grabbing for a bigger paycheck and more national exposure.

SMU is in the Big East? One must wonder what SMU has in common with Providence, Marquette or Seton Hall. You really look forward to that Nebraska-Rutgers rivalry in a couple of years, right? PLEASE!

• If I were king, one-and0done players would be a thing of the past.

There is absolutely no reason that high-school players should not be able to jump straight into the NBA if they so desire. One-and-done players make a mockery of there being any player continuity in college programs. Let me think, now – which players were on Kentucky’s roster two seasons ago?

If I were king, Street and Smith’s and The Sporting News college basketball yearbooks would be resurrected beginning next season like the good old days.

Nothing against Lindy’s or Athlon, but I looked forward with great anticipation to the specific day in October when Street and Smith’s yearbook went on sale. There was no better place to get complete schedules and much additional sought-after information, and it was the reference long before other yearbooks appeared on the newsstand and the internet became the method of instant gratification for updated college hoops information.

If I were king, the original version of One Shining Moment by David Barrett would be used on CBS’s conclusion to the season following the NCAA championship game. It’s the best.

Don’t believe me? Just go to YouTube to view and listen to the other versions by Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and Jennifer Hudson. I rest my case.

If I were king, the men’s selection committee deliberations would be televised live so that we could hear why the last few schools in the tournament were chosen and why others were left out. The voting is secret, but it would be quite informative to hear the discussions and to know what the vote totals were for those last few teams.

• If I were king, Jim Nance and Clark Kellogg would put some curveballs and changeups into the few questions they are able to put to the selection chair in the limited time slot allotted rather than lobbing up softballs and letting the chair get away unscathed.

Let’s face it, asking the selection chair questions like “Was this one of the most difficult tournament fields to put together?” or “What time did you begin deliberations this morning?” simply don’t cut it when it comes to questions about the most important college tournament in the country. Everyone deserves better.

• Lastly, if I were king, I would have a copy of ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcast where I first heard that the NCAA would be using the RPI beginning with the 1981 NCAA Tournament.

While time has muddled the details, it must have been in either January of February of 1981. The earliest print mention that I have found of the NCAA using a computer program to help in their selections was in an article by UPI on Jan. 12, 1981, but “rating percentage index” or the acronym “RPI” was not mentioned. The Feb. 15, 1981 issue of The NCAA News gave a general description of the RPI, the first mention of “rating percentage index” in the popular print media was in the Feb. 28, 1981 issue of The Sporting News, and “RPI” was used in an AP article dated March 8, 1981, which was Selection Sunday.

Of course, few if any of these suggestions and fantasies will ever come to fruition. There is simply too much money involved to implement them, or people do not want to ask, or answer, the tough questions.

OK, now you decide – was all of this a waste of time? In my opinion, it was not, because I can still dream, can’t I?