College basketball: Slow, boring, nobody watching, and it’s somehow the fault of UVA basketball

basketball1What an impossibly boring college basketball final weekend. Wisconsin barely broke 70 in beating #1 Kentucky, and we had to be impressed with the Badgers’ effort, because, hey, 70.

Kentucky, hyped at 38-0 coming into the Final Four, couldn’t get out of the 60s in beating supposedly up-tempo Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. And then Duke, in beating Wisky for the national title on Monday night, yep, couldn’t get out of the 60s.

And then you look at the number of possessions per game. Notre Dame-Kentucky had 58 possessions per team; Wisconsin-Kentucky had 59.

Wisconsin-Duke? Try 60.

Zzzzzz.

This sounds like that team from Virginia that has put a stranglehold on a once-great sport. UVA basketball averaged 58.4 possessions per game in 2014-2015, eliciting calls from sportswriters across the country to ban the Cavs, or at least make them irrelevant by forcing tempo changes to college basketball, specifically in the form of a change in the shot clock.

Reduce the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30, and teams like UVA have no chance to bore down on the college game.

Except …

Nobody would confuse Kentucky (63.5 possessions per game), Notre Dame (63.9 possessions per game) or Duke (66.0 possessions per game) with UVA.

And yet when it counted, with a championship on the line, the games slowed down, and with the ‘Hoos having been dispatched surprisingly early, by virtue of a historically bad shooting afternoon in the Round of 32, it wasn’t their fault.

Whatever the case, what Virginia has wrought on college basketball has ruined the game. Lower possessions, lower scores, why would anyone want to watch college hoops anymore?

Which makes the TV numbers from the past couple of weeks interesting when you put just a little thought to the matter.

The Duke-Wisconsin championship game drew a 9.1 rating, 28.3 million viewers and a 27 share, making it the most-watched title game in 18 years. The tournament as a whole wrapped up with the highest viewership for March Madness in 22 years, with an average of 11.3 million viewers tuning in at any given time.

But nobody is watching. That’s what we’ve been told the past couple of months. Because the game has gotten boring, is broken, is in desperate need of fixing.

UVA is boring, anyway, playing at 58.4 possessions per game. The Dukes, Kentuckys, Notre Dames, Wisconsins, they can play at 58, 59 possessions a game, and it’s not boring, somehow.

Got that? Good. Because Virginia is going to be preseason #1 in a few months. Expect a lot more of the same.

– Column by Chris Graham



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