Photos C/O Sachi Chan 

There is a tendency in basketball to think big. It used to be true that the bigger the player was, the greater the advantage. Think of Shaquille O’Neal. He was one of, if not the, most dominant player in National Basketball Association history. Quite frankly, the reason why he was so dominant was because he was bigger and stronger than everyone else. Makes sense, right?

While it might be true that height is an asset in a game with a ten-foot net, there are ways to challenge this. With the increasing move from the paint to the arc, teams are looking for other opportunities to make buckets.

The value of height in basketball was challenged following the recent NBA trade deadline, after which the Houston Rockets became the smallest team in the league, with no players over six foot seven. This is very different from the rest of the league. Only the tallest player on the Rockets meets the league-wide average height of six foot seven.

Remarkably, a total of 11 per cent of the league is over seven feet tall, so you’d think the six foot seven center on the Rockets would have a tough time guarding opponents.What the Houston Rockets are doing is referred to as small ball, and to any Ontario University Athletics fan, this is very familiar.

OUA teams have been playing small ball for quite some time. Out of the teams who choose to disclose the height of their players, only 25 players in all of the OUA are over six foot seven. The average height between all 25 players over six foot seven comes in at six foot eight and a half. In addition, the OUA has only two players who are seven feet or taller. To give context, there is a minimum of 15 players per team and a total of 20 teams in the league, with the largest rosters reaching just under 20 players. 

Clearly, the OUA is a much smaller league than the NBA, which recruits top-notch talent from around the world. However, the OUA is still significantly smaller when compared to other collegiate level athletics associations. The National Collegiate Athletics Association, for example, regularly hosts talent above seven feet on many of their division one programs,. 

The OUA’s shorter roster leads to faster-paced games that are focused on shooting or quick cuts to the hole rather than focused on slow, grinding out offence with bigs backing down the defence. The big man is more or less non-existent for the OUA. In fact, there are even teams without any players over six foot five, like the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. Having shorter players means that scoring can't come from big men with their backs to the basket. Instead, these teams must rely on skilled shooting.

The smaller teams and faster pace does make for exciting basketball, and certainly higher scoring games due to more three-point shots, but is this good for basketball? With the NBA getting perpetually smaller and the OUA looking the same, we have to ask ourselves, is this the future of basketball?

It very well could be, especially if the OUA embraces the strategies of teams like the Houston Rockets.

Positionally, the OUA plays to traditional roles of basketball. While there are exceptions, the majority of centers in the OUA play like centers of the past like Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O’Neal, and leave the shooting to the guards. These are the fundamentals of basketball, but rules are meant to be broken and the innovative are rewarded.

Let’s look at our Marauders to see how they shoot from three. They do not prioritize three-pointers, with top scorers Jordan Henry and Kwasi Adu-Poku taking less than a third of their attempts from beyond the arc. But should they continue this way? Working on the three-pointer is a tough task, but well worth the time.

Pounding the paint is tried and true, but with the emergence of smaller teams and the continuing reign of the three-pointer in professional leagues, the OUA has room to adapt. They could benefit from taking  advantage of the smaller skilled players they inevitably have and go all-in on small ball.

In order to be more successful, coaches could stand to benefit from taking notes from the pros and start experimenting more from the three-point line. This could help to crack the scoring code that many famous players like Steph Curry and James Harden use, and ultimately lead to long-term success.

Any team in sports history that was ahead of the curve has been considered a wild card, whether it was “Dr. J” dunking or the Golden State Warriors changing basketball by making their team all about the three ball. As they say in Vegas, you have to bet a lot to win a lot. In this case, the OUA should play small to win big.

 

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Scott Hastie

 

Silhouette Staff

 

 

 

It’s over. My passion for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has come to an abrupt end after years of my being a huge fan.

 

I watched nearly every game of the tournament, followed the conference championships closely to try and pick the perfect team to make the run to the national championship game.

 

Selection Sunday was the best day of March, with weeks of scepticism about bubble teams and number one seeds finally coming to fruition.

 

But this year, March Madness does not feel the same and I could not bring myself to watch games past the second round. If it were not for the bracket challenge I had entered, I would have no idea which teams were playing at this point.

 

I would only hear about incredible performances through what I saw on Twitter, not because I had watched the player.

 

But what happened? Why is my love affair with the Madness over? I honestly can’t put a finger on one single issue that caused the change of heart, but I’m able to name a few that contributed to my March Madness break up.

 

Maybe the game is just not exciting as it once was. The shot clock in NCAA men’s basketball is 35 seconds and that’s frankly too long. The ball is passed around like a hot potato, with coaches trying to run the same play for their best player over and over until there are single digits on the clock.

 

What the viewer gets is bad shot attempts, resulting in low scoring games, and a poor quality product. The buzzer beating shot at the end doesn’t make up for the other 39 minutes of boring basketball either.

 

March Madness also focuses too heavily on the losers and not the winners, and that makes the tournament about failure rather than success. One of the most memorable moments in tournament history was the end of the Fab Five era, with Chris Webber calling for a timeout, drawing a technical foul and eventually losing the game.

 

But who did they lose to? It’s a good question and taking it a step further, how many NCAA championship finalists can you name from the past five years? I struggled to even name last year’s finalists, let alone eight other teams.

 

Personally, I enjoy seeing a team win a championship and secure their place in history as the best team of that given calendar year. But in March Madness, are they really securing a place? Will the champions even be remembered?

 

One of the most overrated aspects of the tournament is picking brackets. Every year, people put in an incredible amount of time to find the best teams and the best upset candidates. In reality, most of us have not paid any attention to college basketball all season and it’s impossible to learn about 64 teams in the time between Selection Sunday and the beginning of the tournament.

 

Besides, we all have that friend who can barely name any premier basketball schools, and who will get lucky and beat us in the bracket challenge anyways. So why waste all the effort and money?

 

The biggest issue that was on my mind before this year’s tournament even began was the issue of player compensation. Paying college athletes is not an issue that just affects basketball but every single sport in the NCAA. The March Madness tournament generated $771 million dollars from its TV contract in 2011, and the players who created the product received exactly zero dollars for it (at least legitimately).

 

While most of the players are receiving scholarships from their universities, they are not free to get a part-time job to pay for necessities like new clothing and gas in their cars so they can get to practice. Yes, they are receiving a free education but they are generating millions of dollars and receiving none of it, being promised money later on in life when they start their careers.

 

Would you spend thousands of hours, working hard, travelling across the country, and generating astronomical revenue figures, for money that you are not even guaranteed to receive? I know I wouldn’t.

 

The NCAA exploits young men and women and buying into the March Madness allows the organization to continue to get away with this.

 

Maybe once some of these issues become resolved I’ll fall back in love with the Madness, but it’s hard to tell. People are always going to love picking brackets and mocking teams like Duke when they lose. The NCAA is going to fight to the death to keep their gravy train going and as long as TV revenue figures continue to grow, we will not see any major rule changes like the one needed for the shot clock.

 

You guys can have your March Madness tournament, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it. I’ll be over here with the NBA, watching meaningless games and not missing out on a thing.

 


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