Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma had a handful of ideas to improve the women's basketball game including lowering the basket to 7.2 feet. Coaches in the Southeastern Conference react to this idea and give their thoughts on the quality of the women's game. (Holly Warlick, Gary Blair, Andy Landers, Amanda Butler)
So I was raising the baskets in our gym to get ready for a volleyball match, and I thought of Geno Auriemma’s chat with reporters when he tossed out the idea of lowering the rim in women’s basketball.
It’s not a new idea, and it’s not just about women dunking. It would be easier to score, and Auriemma and DePaul coach Doug Bruno (together two of the most respected coaches in the game) both think it would make the girls’ and women’s game much more entertaining.
As our backboards were going up, operated by whining machinery with keys that don’t really fit into the on-off switches, I looked at the six baskets and how they operate. I watched the baskets grind their way to the ceiling, and it was pretty clear that each of the six would have to be replaced if they were to be adjustable.
Now Bruno claims that there is technology that would allow us to lower the backboard two feet (or whatever the amount is), but it sure isn't going to be cheap – or easy. Every backboard in the country would have to be modified in order to make them adjustable. Powered ones would require the purchase, installation and upkeep of new machinery, and poles stuck in concrete would have to be replaced with new poles that had a mechanism that would allow the backboards to slide up and down.
So let's multiply that by every high school in America. And every middle school. And every elementary school.
I don't completely disagree with Auriemma's and Bruno's points (though some I find harder to swallow than others), but the practical ramifications of having girls use different height on baskets than boys are enormous -- and much more so than volleyball (you just a different set of hooks on the poles, or adjustable poles which are a lot less expensive than adjustable baskets).
On top of that, I’m not sure that all that expense is really even necessary. For example, Bruno and Auriemma argue that women don’t shoot as well as men – but if you strip away the names and compare statistics for men's and women's basketball, really the only difference is assist/turnover ratio. Both genders shoot right around 63 percent from close to the basket, and shoot the pretty much the same everywhere else as well. So what’s the advantage of lowering the rim? Dunking?
Dunking is really irrelevant in terms of the quality of the game, and its greatest value within the game is that it’s a very high-percentage shot. The entertainment value of a spectacular dunk is real, but how many of those are we really talking about? And will a few spectacular dunks on lower rims really win over any new fans?
The biggest difference between the two genders playing the game, after all, is ballhandling/decision-making, and that will not be impacted by a lower rim.
Another point Auriemma and Bruno make is that they believe (despite the statistics) that women miss more layups and close-in shots, and a lower rim would solve that problem.
But the easiest way to get those chippies to fall is for officials to realize that men are stronger than women, and thus can absorb more contact and still finish. But the game is called almost precisely the same in that regard, and the result is that women miss layups after contact that would not cause a man to miss -- but the whistle doesn't blow.
If officials paid more attention to advantage gained than how the game is called in men's and boys' games, and protected female shooters around the rim more, the percentage of missed female layups would go down.
So all in all, I see little reason to lower the backboards, and no way to pay for the enormous costs associated with the massive retrofit of millions of backboards. Now if we could wave a magic wand and have adjustable backboards (more than the rims have to move) on every court, indoor and outdoor, in America, I would be willing to be convinced that maybe it was a good idea.
But lacking that magic wand -- or a $10 fix per backboard – this is an idea that just won’t fly. Or dunk.
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