|Would a rim that's a few inches -- or even a foot -- lower do good for the women's game? (Getty Images)|
It's not often we write about the women's game on this blog, but when we do, it's usually because an issue transcends the sport.
This time, that's not the case. We're dealing with the very nature of the game that is women's basketball, and UConn coach Geno Auriemma has proposed a change that would forever alter the way that it's watched, played, scouted and strategized.
It's so simple that I can't believe we haven't heard this come up more often. There are already distinct differences between the two kinds of major collegiate basketball: The women's ball is smaller than the men's; the women's 3-point line isn't as far out as the men's; there is no 10-second halfcourt rule in women's basketball; men get a 35-second shot clock (though it should be shorter), and women get 30.
So why not consider bringing the tin down a few inches to increase verticality, offense and aggressiveness in the women's game? Here's what Auriemma told CPTV in Hartford (via the Hartford Courant):
"What makes fans not want to watch women's basketball is that some of the players can't shoot and they miss layups and that forces the game to slow down," he said. "How do (we) help improve that? Lower the rim [from 10 feet]. Do you think the average fan knows that the net is lower in women's volleyball than men's volleyball? It's about seven inches shorter so the women have the chance for the same kind of success at the net [as the men]."
Auriemma equates the volleyball equation to basketball.
"Let's say the average men's player is 6-5 and the average woman is 5-11," Auriemma said. "Let's lower the rim seven inches; let's say 7.2 inches to honor Title IX [instituted in 1972]. If you lower it, the average fan likely wouldn't even notice it.
"Now there would be fewer missed layups because the players are actually at the rim [when they shoot]. Shooting percentages go up. There would be more tip-ins.
"This spring, I plan on proposing [to the rules committee] that the NCAA allow programs to keep their teams together in order to play scrimmages against an opponent, with the lower basket, with a 24-second shot clock and an eight-second backcourt rule, and see what happens.
The lowered rim is the headline item, but Auriemma is essentially offering up wholesale changes to the women's game. Big-time changes. Eight-second backcourt rule? Swoon. (The NBA has this, and men's college hoops should also institute it, with the clause that a timeout can't bail a team out of resetting the ref's count in the backcourt.)
And a 24-second shot clock? Damn. That's really reaching for a complete turnaround of the women's game. I think 30 works just fine, but maybe he's offering up as many tweaks as possible in order to get something to change to improve the visual component of women's basketball.
Auriemma, who coached the U.S. women to another Olympic gold medal in August, is the most decorated coach in the women's game today. He has seven national titles and is regarded by many as the second-best coach in the history of the game to Tennessee legend Pat Summit, the all-time winningest coach in basketball history.
This is a matter of practicality, and Auriemma's completely right. It won't downgrade the game's style of play; women's basketball will still remain a methodical tactic. But you put even one of his proposed changes into the rulebook, and it's a smoother game. The game needs a jolt. It needs an easier-on-the-eyes product and more scoring.
Auriemma doesn't stop at on-court changes. He's looking at women's college basketball as a whole and sees an issue. He sees women's hoops suffering the same passion fallout that, say, the NHL has inherited. Auriemma makes the case for this now because he sees the popularity of the women's game waning. Ten years ago, the Alamodome was able to bring in huge crowds for the Final Four. Now, the women's tournament is heading back to arenas -- and even those aren't selling out.
He thinks the women's game should have a select annual site or two, like how Omaha always hosts the baseball College World Series. That way, the women's game gets an identity attached to its championship weekend. Not a bad idea. (He suggests San Antonio, which makes sense.) And he also wants a Friday/Sunday finish to the season instead of Sunday/Tuesday. That's good, too.
"The system is not working, and when something isn't working, you should work to make changes," Auriemma said on CSTV. "If the changes don't work, well, at least you tried. It's a lot better than just complaining about everything all the time."
If anyone can implement change, it's Auriemma. These are doable, intriguing and beneficial alterations that the man proposes. The NCAA and the ambassadors of women's college basketball would be wise to consider all of them, then be sure to put into practice at least one as soon as possible.