I recently had a chance to interview Keene State men’s basketball head coach Ryan Cain, whose team is coming off an exciting NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight this past season in Division III. I asked him about where he thought the game of basketball is now, both in terms of quality and popularity. He also talked about how the Division I, II and III levels compare. I asked him about recent rule changes, some of which are obvious even watching games on television. In the not too distant past, the NCAA rules committee reduced the shot clock for the men’s game from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. The idea behind this was to further increase the pace and entertainment value of the game. The rules committee also changed how coaches are allowed to call timeouts and placed an emphasis on reducing physicality, which relates back to increasing scoring. I asked him about how the referees have handled any changes that impact their job, and whether or not these are consistently enforced. Moving to the future, it is quite possible more changes are coming down the pike. While many focus on the NCAA Tournament this month, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), where many mid-major teams or teams that just missed the NCAA’s compete, is using experimental rules that mirror the format the women’s game recently changed to. The NIT is tracking team fouls in ten minute segments, with teams reaching the bonus and getting two free throws at five team fouls. The team fouls reset at the midpoint of each half. This comes as close as possible to adopting the women’s format without fully doing so. Only the four 10 minute quarters are missing in the NIT’s experiment. I asked Coach Cain about his thoughts on the men’s game potentially adopting the women’s format in the future and also asked him if he could change anything about the game (and it did not necessarily have to be something we discussed), what it would be.
To listen to the interview, click here.
From when I was very young, it was pretty clear that I was a sports guy. Both of my parents were athletes in various sports, therefore, it was likely that I would like athletics in some fashion. Of course, simply because one’s parents do something does not mean that their kids are 100% likely to do the same thing. However, I have always had an interest in all kinds of different sports, both college and professional.
What really sparked my interest in basketball happened when I was much younger. Every year, around the first week or two in March, I would usually miss a few days of school and go to Rochester, NY to see part of my dad’s family. Coincidentally, for several consecutive years, the Big East Tournament was during the same week! Therefore, regardless of what we were doing, we always had the TV on with the Big East Tournament. The league was extremely difficult and featured many good teams over the years (we would root for Notre Dame), which resulted in many captivating and close games that we watched. After doing this once or twice, I began to look forward to the trip each year, and I felt it was special. Not only was it fun being with family members that I did not see all that often, the Big East Tournament just added more fun to the trip as we saw who would be playing in March Madness.
Those experiences really helped to spark my interest in basketball. From there, I followed collegiate basketball much more frequently and eventually rolled that into following professional basketball, namely the Celtics, as well.
A short time later, I started working at the games here at Keene State and have done so ever since. Not only are the NBA and Division I fun to follow, but I also am a strong supporter of the quality of athletics across the Division III landscape. Prior to working games at KSC, I attended some games as a fan, namely NCAA Tournament games that Keene hosted, that were extremely fun and featured an electric atmosphere.
The family trips to Rochester and going to those aforementioned games really spurred me into having more interest in basketball, which furthered the interest in sports I already had.
Last Saturday, for the first time ever, the selection committee for the Division I NCAA men’s basketball tournament gave a sneak peek of what to expect when the ever-popular March Madness rolls around next month. The committee, which is made up of athletic directors from various institutions, released the top four seeds in each of the four regions (top 16 overall) in a nationally televised production on CBS. The reveal is meant to give an idea of what the committee is thinking as the college basketball season heads down the homestretch, with conference tournaments and Selection Sunday rapidly approaching. The official NCAA Tournament field of 68 will be announced on March 12th. The idea and hope behind the early bracket reveal is that it will generate more buzz and discussion across the country about March Madness in the final weeks of the regular season. Furthermore, from the more practical side, this can give teams an idea of where they stand in the committee’s eyes. This is a far more accurate gauge than the weekly Top 25 rankings, which are not done by the selection committee. Teams now know if their resume is looking good or needs more work in the final games of the season. Some lauded the idea, as it takes after college football’s weekly ranking releases in the final weeks of the season leading up to the college football playoff. The hope is that the basketball reveal generates as much interest as the football one, which has been successful since its implementation a few years ago. Arizona coach Sean Miller said that revealing their thinking early holds the committee accountable for their decisions, no doubt stressing the importance of consistency between this reveal and the official reveal on March 12th. Others, such as John Feinstein, think this first-ever early bracket reveal should be the last one. He and others, including some coaches, think that it is simply a publicity stunt because so much can change over the next month in college basketball. In the past, some teams have gone from solidly in the tournament field (according to projections by bracketologists) to out completely in the final weeks of the season. Therefore, critics say that it is not of much use to know who the top 16 teams are right now, when things are no doubt going to change several times before Selection Sunday. Additionally, in revealing only the top four seeds in each region, the other 52 teams that will fill out the field are left in the dark as to where they stand, particularly mid-major teams and those schools who are on the bubble. Overall, I think revealing the top 16 early for the first time ever was a good idea, and there is a happy-medium to make both sides happy. Perhaps instead of revealing just the top 16, the committee should release their entire thinking in the future, including illustrating who is on the right and wrong side of the bubble when it comes to making or missing the tournament. Additionally, if it was feasible, the committee should release more than just one early bracket reveal. Revealing the bracket two or three times before Selection Sunday could help to nullify the concerns over how much the seeding will change over the course of the month since fans would be updated more frequently on the committee’s thinking at any given time. This would take after the aforementioned college football committee, which releases updated top 25 rankings on a weekly basis over the final several weeks of the college football season. I understand some would say the early bracket reveals would ruin the suspense and drama surrounding Selection Sunday, but if the committee and others in college basketball think revealing the top 16 of the bracket early is a worthwhile endeavor, they need to be all in. Given the wide-ranging opinions on each end of the spectrum, it seems those in college basketball are only half-in by revealing only the top 16 an entire month before the official bracket is released. As some coaches have said, so much can change in a whole month that it basically renders the innovate idea of the early bracket reveal useless. It will be interesting to see what comes of last Saturday’s release and what happens going forward. Will we see more early starts to March Madness?