Is your team out of college football playoff contention? Want your March Madness bracket to be informed by the whole season? Genuinely enjoy watching NCAA basketball? College basketball is back, and whether you tuned in for election results or the Champions Classic last Tuesday, there were some big (and not so big) match ups on opening night. In addition to watching the games, here are some of the stories we’ll be following this season:
- G-league: With the NBA’s announcement of new G League “Select Contracts” for players who are not yet NBA eligible, we now have even more questions about the future of elite talent in the NCAA. Select Contracts will allow players who are at least 18 years old to play in the G League before being eligible to enter the NBA draft. In addition to their $125K contracts, players will be allowed to hire agents and to profit from endorsement deals – so whether you’re on Lebron’s side or Jim Boeheim’s, the G League Select Contracts certainly elevate the conversation. With the first contracts coming available for the 2019-2020 G League season, it won’t be long before we will begin to know how this changes the dynamics of recruiting in high school.
- TV viewership: The 2018 NCAA men’s championship game, aired on TBS networks, saw a 28% drop in viewership from the 2017 game. Meanwhile, viewership of the NBA has risen for both regular season and tournament games, and viewership for the WNBA and women’s NCAA basketball have steadily increased in tandem. As the men’s NCAA championship bounces from network to network, it’s not surprising to see changes in viewership year to year, but is there something else going on here besides the competitiveness of a particular game (in 2018, Villanova dominated Michigan 79-62)?
- FBI Investigation: Possibly the biggest story taking place off-the-court this season is the ongoing investigation and trials of apparel executives and agents allegedly involved in committing wire fraud with several universities. In October, three men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, with two additional trials scheduled for February and April. To begin to address the investigation’s findings, the NCAA has announced a number of rule changes, including requiring school administration to participate in investigations and bringing in independent investigators – but we’ll likely need to wait a few recruiting cycles to understand the true impact of these changes.
- Pace of play: Three years ago, the NCAA reduced the time on the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds in an effort to speed up the pace of play and for some, make the game more fun to watch. This summer, the NBA went even further, reducing the time put on the shot clock after an offensive rebound from 24 seconds to 14 seconds. (Meanwhile, shot clock discussions are happening in other sports as well – including men’s lacrosse and high school basketball) While this and other possible future rule changes could certainly increase the pace of play, the jury is out on whether these changes will combat established coaching and playing styles.