LITTLE ROCK — Stepping onto the treadmill and jacking up the incline a few notches, 10 minutes remained in the South Carolina-Baylor basketball game.
When the digital timer finally reached 30:00, there were still 24.2 seconds remaining in Waco. That is slow going for half of a half of basketball.
Baylor won 66-64 and 79 free throw attempts resulted in 47 of the points. More scoring one point at a time is not what the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee hand in mind when it crafted a rule to eliminate hand checking and reduce physical play.
Hopefully, the games in November and December provide a learning curve for athletes and officials and the flow of the game is smoother in January. The easy way to guarantee more scoring is to reduce the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 or less.
Putting Kentucky on the free throw line might be the way to defend what is supposed to be the greatest collection of freshmen in the history of college basketball. I watched No. 2 Michigan State open a 10-0 lead over the Wildcats and returned to the action in time to see Kentucky allow an easy tip-in at the end of the Spartans’ 78-74 victory over No. 1. In between, the Wildcats missed 16 of 36 free throws.
Nationwide, freshmen are getting so much attention that odds were posted on whether Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, or Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins would score the most on Tuesday night. Unavailable are odds on any of them passing the 2014 NBA draft.
Railing against the one-and-done is a dead end, but Kentucky’s role as favorite to win the NCAA title reminds how one recruiting class can produce a national contender in basketball. Starting over in football, which is essentially what Bret Bielema is doing at Arkansas, requires a minimum of three recruiting classes.
Sun Belt Conference members, including Arkansas State University, may benefit from the SEC’s shortage of bowl-eligible teams.
The winner of one game in a month and trailing South Alabama at the half in Mobile, ASU did not look much like a bowl team. Supposedly, halftime in the locker room included passionate words from defensive back Frankie Jackson and others and coach Bryan Harsin telling Adam Kennedy that the quarterback transfer from Utah State must run more.
Early in the second half, defensive back Sterling Young kept ASU within one possession by intercepting a pass in the back of the end zone. Kennedy, who had made only 192 yards all season, ran for 60 yards on 12 carries in the final 30 minutes and ASU won 17-16. The next week, Young intercepted a pass at 14-14, Kennedy ran for 102, and the Red Wolves improved to 5-4 with a big game against conference member Texas State (6-3) on Saturday in Jonesboro. ASU finishes the season against winless Georgia State and Western Kentucky.
Although Sun Belt members Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas State, and Western Kentucky are already bowl-eligible, ASU is second behind Lafayette in the conference standings at 3-1.
The Sun Belt has bowl ties with New Orleans and Mobile and the SEC’s lack of six-win teams may leave Shreveport needing an opponent for a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com devoted his lengthy national column to the "Battle of the Ravine" on Wednesday and Henderson State University vs. Ouachita Baptist University might come up Saturday on ESPN’s GameDay. Chris Fowler has all the game notes, including the fact that the series began in 1895, that Henderson leads 41-39-6, and that the visiting team simply walks across the highway for the game.
This year’s game is at Ouachita, with a seating capacity of 5,600, but the crowd will top 7,000. A series record 12,000-plus showed up last year at Henderson.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.