All the experts agree -- College basketball is ill and the diagnosis is dire: Hardcore Fan Syndrome. This is the state of affairs in which a sport caters only to its actual ("hardcore") fans, without any thought for the non-fan ("casual fan"). Without drastic, immediate intervention, death is assured and imminent (within 500 years, according to calculations on Kenpom.com).
Let's face it: You and I, the hardcore fans, we're pretty much fine with college basketball. Sure, it could use a tweak here or there, but if nothing changes we're still going to be here watching and chatting.
But whither the casual fan? Or, more like it, the casual fan withers. Or, even more apt, the casual fan left with her -- your girlfriend. And there she is, partying behind velvet ropes backstage at the Kanye show with all the other casual fans.
What's that, you say? Your girlfriend's back there? Sorry, chump -- lots of people's girlfriends are back there.
There's only one way to get her back, only one way to heal the game: transform the game we love into something that appeals to the casual fans. The truth hurts, but this is a "good for the many outweighs the good for the few" thing. You've seen Wrath of Khan, right? If that classic film is any guide (and it is) it will all turn out fine: our corpses will be shot onto Planet PED and we'll be reborn with new, more casual sensibilities. Everybody wins.
So the game must change, that's obvious. That's the easy part. But how? We have to put ourselves into the mindset of a casual fan here. What does the casual fan want? I don't claim to have all the answers, but here's a start for discussion purposes.
Dribbling: What's the point?
Basketball is the only sport with dribbling, and for good reason -- it's stupid! Bouncey-bouncey-bouncey. Yeah, we get it, the ball is round so it bounces right back to you. Here's an idea: just hold on to it. Carry it around. Run with it like a man, just like every other real sport (soccer and racket sports obviously not included in this category).
Admittedly, abolishing dribbling will make defense harder. Correct. That's the point. But to help the defense out a little bit, they will be allowed to make much more contact. Indeed, if they are able knock the ball carrier over, that will count as a steal and the ball will be awarded to the defensive team. While we're at it, since the ball won't need to bounce any more, it should probably reshaped to make it more aerodynamic (for passing, see below) and easier to carry in one arm.
Offensive fouls: Nope
Look, things are gonna get rough around here because there will be no offensive fouls, at least not by the dribbler -- er, ball carrier. In order to keep everything safe, full padding and helmets will probably be required. But that will just allow us to up the violence factor, and violence equals eyeballs.
Scoring: Why is the basket so high? Why is there a basket at all?
It's the sport's dirty little secret that basketball is a tall man's game. Why? Because that darn basket is so high. This is a problem because casual fans like to watch feats of athleticism and, unfortunately, tall people are just not that athletic. You know how they always say "height is a talent"? That's because they have to come up with some explanation for why we even let these clumsy giants out there. So the basket must be lowered.
But when you really start thinking about it, a natural question arises: why is there a "basket" at all? I know it's called "basket ball," but the basket is just an anachronism -- that's what happened to be around when Dr. Naismith was hanging out at the Y that fateful day. There's no good reason, other than blind devotion to tradition, to keep the basket in basketball at all, at least not as the primary means of scoring. (Note well: football has nothing to do with feet; casual fans seems to like little absurdities like that.)
So, to take basketball away from the pituitary freaks, I'd recommend there be an area at each end of the floor -- let's call them the "basket zones" in a nod to tradition -- and that a team be awarded points simply for carrying or passing the ball into the other team's basket zone. This would reward true feats of agility, speed, strength, power, and athleticism. Not just height.
I do think it would be a good idea to keep an actual basket as a sort of backup method of scoring when a team finds itself unable to get into the basket zone proper. I'm thinking a basketzone score (let's call it a basketdown) could be worth six points, and that the backup shot into the old basket (can keep the existing name of "field goal") would be worth three points. Those are nice big numbers that will ensure high final game scores, which are very attractive to casual fans. Also, to make sure that basketdowns are favored over field goals, the scoring team would get an opportunity to tack on one extra point via a free-throw attempt.
Shot clock: Unnecessary
Frankly, that basketball had to concoct a time limit on offense in the first place shows how deep the sport's flaws run, from a casual fan's perspective. Time should never run out on the offense. Fortunately, with the new rules on carrying the ball and the new method of scoring in the basketzones, a shot clock will become a thing of the past -- as long as one additional rule is adopted: a limit on the number of passes. I'd propose that each team be limited to four passes per possession. That sounds about right. I suspect most teams will try for a field goal on their fourth pass, but we could get some interesting fourth-pass scenarios to break down on Twitter.
We can DO this
So, that's a start at least. I confess we'd have to work out some wrinkles caused by these tweaks, but nothing is insurmountable. Please let me know your ideas -- working together, I'm sure we can fix basketball so that is almost perfectly suited for the casual fan.