Always insightful, always entertaining – and usually taking conversation in a surprising direction – Jay Bilas of ESPN was on a conference call with basketball writers coast to coast. Here are some of his thoughts to chew on …
“UConn is going to be good. They’ve got a great back court. I’d put Shabazz Napier, not only among the best point guards in the country but among the best players in the country. If you had one last shot at the end of the game, he’s one of the guys I’d want taking it – I’m a big fan of his. And Ryan Boatright is good, they’re both small, quick and difficult to defend.
The question I’d have is, will they rebound? If you look at UConn [over the years], they’ve always been a big, shot blocking, interior defense, protect the rim kind of team. That wasn’t the case last year. DeAndre Daniels is their most potent front court player, but he’s not a long-armed shot blocker, although he can block shots. …
Everyone is going to have to rebound, the guards will have to rebound. It’s going to have to be a ‘we’ thing. … It’s going to be a difficult season for them if they don’t rebound – they’ll still be a tournament team, but you can only be so good if you don’t rebound.”
On the AAC:
“It’s going to be a guard-heavy conference, not a big man conference. Memphis is going to be good, SMU is coming up. I still think Louisville is the best team.”
Bilas, by the way, was bemused that people want to call it “The American.”
On the new hand-check rules, he was most passionate:
“Our game is where the NBA was about 2000 or so, organized wrestling matches. The only way to stop it is if fouls are called. This will bring freedom of movement back into the game, and we have to stick with it.
“… Coaches who are complaining about it, it’s laughable. ‘Can’t defense the dribble-drive?’ That’s laughable. All the things they are complaining about were fouls in the 80s. People talk about the skill players had in Jerry West’s day – you couldn’t touch anyone in Jerry West’s day.”
Bilas would also like a shorter shot clock, perhaps like the 24-second clock used in Europe:
“We have the longest shot clock in the world. … And we have to take away contact off the ball, so you can’t block cutters, or chuck cutters. … The NBA has fixed itself, NFL, the NHL – if we can fix these things, our game will take off to heights we’ve never seen before.”