Thamel On Future Of NCAA Basketball: "If They Are Not Worried, They Should Be"

"If there’s ever going to be a time in our lifetime where the game changes significantly," Thamel said, "this is it"

The DA Show
April 03, 2018 - 12:32 pm

USA Today Images


Villanova (36-4) capped a historic run to its second national championship in three seasons Monday, putting a nice, shiny ribbon on an exhilarating 2018 NCAA Tournament.

But make no mistake: change is coming to college basketball – and, perhaps, sooner rather than later.

“There should be a lot of changes,” Yahoo! Sports senior writer Pete Thamel said on The DA Show. “The game’s in a horrible place. The threat of the feds looms. If there’s ever going to be a time in our lifetime where the game changes significantly, this is it.”

What changes could be coming, you ask? Lots. Agents and advisors could become more involved with student-athletes. Some type of compensation model for image and likeness could materialize. The enforcement process, which Thamel said has been "laughably toothless for two decades,” also needs to improve.

“There’s a handful of other areas that we need to see changes on,” Thamel said. “It’s hard to say the game is irrelevant on the Tuesday after a great NCAA Tournament, but let’s come back to November, we don’t know who any of the players are. The one-and-done is going to change. I don’t know when – it may take a few years – but those are the primary things that we’re going to see.”

While change needs to occur, it may not come about as quickly as Thamel and others hope.

“These are problems that have evolved to where they are over decades,” he said. “You could have a lot of really smart people in the room, (but) I’m just skeptical if they can find the solution and implement it in a timely manner to reverse a generation of trends. . . . I think the people who have a stake in the game at a macro level are worried because we could wake up some morning and there could be 10 more coaches arrested. The FBI investigation is still looming. They know the sport’s not in a healthy place. They know what the regular-season ratings and relevance are. So, yes, I do think from the big picture, if they’re not worried, they should be.”

As for Villanova, which became the first team since UCLA in 1968 to win both Final Four games by 16+ points, Thamel offered nothing but praise.

“From one to six, it might be the most dominant (run to a championship) I’ve seen,”  Thamel said. “Obviously the Kentucky team in ’96 stands out. They did not win the title game by as many points as that, but has anyone ever done that? Has anyone ever won by an average of 17? I don’t think so. That’s a big number.”

The Wildcats didn’t benefit from chaos, either. They played No. 5 West Virginia, No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Michigan on their way to a title.

“They could have been beaten by a Duke, maybe, because Duke probably had better players,” Thamel said. "But (Villanova was) by far, hands down, the best team. They had a lull in the middle of the year. They didn’t guard great. They maybe lost their edge like some teams do in a long season. But I think this will be remembered as just one of the great all-time teams of our lifetime.”

It’ll be interesting to see if other teams try to mimic Nova’s small-ball approach. All of its players can dribble, pass, and shoot, which is an effective formula to winning a championship – on any level.

“They’re basically the Warriors,” Thamel said. “They didn’t play quite like that last night because Michigan did a good job taking away the three especially in the first 15 minutes. But that Kansas game, I mean, I don’t remember a ball popping around the perimeter with more alacrity and more authority and more intent. They share it, they move it and they shoot it. They’re just running people over.”