The Voice: Demise of basketball being greatly exaggerated

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Maybe I have become a bit spoiled. After all, for the last 25 years, I have had a terrific seat to watch college basketball, specifically the Badgers. They have won a lot, including this season. They have won in dramatic fashion. The Big Ten regular season was thrilling, and around here, that still matters.

Sure, it would have been fun to see the Badgers put together a run in the NCAA tournament. However, with an early exit, I actually was able to watch more tourney games than I have seen in years. It was entertaining stuff. At least it was to me.

Not everyone shares that opinion. There are some, including popular national talk show hosts such as Dan Patrick and Mike Greenberg of "Mike & Mike in the Morning" fame who were underwhelmed by this year's Big Dance.

Monday night's title game aside, Patrick told his audience that outside of Florida Gulf Coast's run to the Sweet 16 and the drama of Louisville guard Kevin Ware's injury, there was little that he viewed as compelling.

On his ESPN Radio show, Greenberg expressed disappointment at the overall quality of play. In his opinion, it simply wasn't very good.

I am sure those two have company in their critique of college basketball. I just tend to believe it is not in such dire straits.

Yes, the game could use some tweaks. There probably are several reasons why scoring is down. One-and-done players likely have hurt both the college and the NBA game. Perhaps the college game is too physical. Maybe there are too many AAU games and not enough drill work in the summer.

I can buy all of that. Yet sometimes we conveniently forget that great games do not require high scores.

Remember the 1983 title game, when Lorenzo Charles dunked at the buzzer to give North Carolina State a shocking victory against Houston? The final score was 54-52.

Or how about a year earlier, when a young player named Michael Jordan hit a jumper to give North Carolina a one-point victory against Georgetown? The final was 63-62.

Then there was three years ago, when Duke hung on to beat Butler. The Blue Devils survived only when Gordon Hayward's half court heave bounced off the glass, then the rim. Final score: 61-59

Yes, scoring is down. Yes, watching teams get up and down the floor is enjoyable to watch. But to me it doesn't define whether a game is good.

I think Wichita State made for a heck of a story. Badgers fans might remember Shockers coach Gregg Marshall, who in 2006 brought a Winthrop team to the Kohl Center and took Wisconsin to overtime. This year Marshall guided a nine-seed to the Final Four. 

LaSalle had to win a play-in game, also known as a "first round" game. A 13-seed made it through to the Sweet 16. 

Florida Gulf Coast made us aware of Dunk City.

Michigan, while falling just short of the national title, needed a stunning comeback to get past Kansas in the Sweet 16. Ohio State had two game-winners at or just before the final horn.

All in all, the Big Ten fared well in the NCAA tournament. Four teams survived the first weekend, two made the Elite 8, and Michigan, a team that went 0-2 against the Badgers, went toe-to-toe with the tourney's overall No. 1 seed.

The college game isn't perfect, but there soon could be some changes to make it better. Earlier this week, ESPN's Andy Katz reported the rules makers are looking at expanding replay in the final minute of games. Sounds good to me. 

For several years, the physical nature of games has been an issue, specifically defenders who constantly bump offensive players off course (called, oddly enough "bumping the cutters"). We will see what, if anything, is done about it.

I would guess every sport has hot topics. Basketball has its share. But overall, the product remains pretty solid to me. Perfect? No, but still very watchable.

I just hope next year I get to see more of the tournament in person.

After all, I am spoiled.

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Matt Lepay's "The Voice" is featured each week in Varsity, the official digital magazine of Wisconsin Athletics. Subscribe to get Varsity delivered to your inbox each Thursday, download the official apps for iPhone and iPad or Android, and check out the complete Varsity archive on UWBadgers.com.
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