Following an upset loss to the Colorado Buffaloes on Wednesday night, Arizona coach Sean Miller decided to re-open the discussion of player safety and court storming. Coach Miller advised that one day an Arizona player was probably going to punch a fan, supposedly in self-defense. In order to avoid this, Miller recommends that schools should be fined $100,000 anytime fans storm the court.
That seems a little extreme. Don't get me wrong, there are legitimate safety concerns to consider when a mass of humanity is rushing to get onto a small space in a quick amount of time. Not too long ago, a disabled NC State student was nearly trampled when his wheelchair got tipped over by fans rushing the court, and only managed to avoid injury because Wolfpack forward CJ Leslie saw him on the ground and picked him up. Last year, a brawl erupted between New Mexico State players and Utah Valley fans during a court storming. Emotions can run hot in sports, and the possibility of negative things happening is real. But to ban court storming as a whole, or levy that big of a fine, seems like a poor solution.
Court storming is one of the great things about college basketball, and to lose it would be a shame. The SEC is the only conference that levies fines for court storming, issuing a fine of $5000 for the first offense; $25,000 for the second offense; and $50,000 for the third offense. Those fines didn't stop South Carolina fans from storming the court in 2014 when they beat Kentucky. University of South Carolina President was a good sport about it though, stating "Once I realized I was paying the fine anyway, I ran down...I enjoyed every dollar."
A more practical solution would be for arena officials to have sufficient security processes in place that allow for opposing teams to leave the area before fans storm the court. Athletic Directors and Coaches should coordinate with student section leaders prior to games where a court storming is possible, and work out an agreement for the students and fans to wait until the court was secured.
I'm not ready to get rid of court storming yet, and while it may be nearly impossible to completely eliminate the risk of anything bad from happening, there are certainly measures that can be taken to ensure that such a great tradition continues. Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments section.
On to the rankings!
On the Bubble: Miami (FL), Kentucky, Virginia
No. 11 - Arizona (22-6, LW: NR)
After a tough month of January which saw the Wildcats have two weekends were they got swept, this team rebounded strongly in February, reeling off six straight wins that included a win over an RPI Top 50 team in USC. Despite Wednesday's upset loss in Boulder to the hands of the the Buffs, Arizona only has five regular season losses in the months of February and March over the last 3 seasons. Sean Miller always seems to have his team peaking at the right time, so I'm going to chalk up the loss to Colorado as an aberration.
No. 10 - Utah (21-7, LW: NR)
The Utes of Utah are 5th in the nation in 2pt FG% at 56.5%, thanks to Jakob Poeltl and Kyle Kuzma's interior prowess. The Utes have a big weekend ahead with a game against Arizona on Saturday that could put them in position to win the Pac-12, and will serve as a good preview for what promises to be a fun conference tournament.
No. 9 - Indiana (22-6, LW: NR)
The committee of two has been bullish on Indiana all year, but we'd be lying if we said we saw them at the top of the Big 10 with just a little over a week left in the regular season. Indiana plays some of the most aesthetically pleasing offensive basketball in the country. Their offense is good enough to play with any team in the country, but their defense is holding them back from being considered a legitimate national title contender.
No. 8 - Duke (20-7, LW: Bubble)
When I see how undermanned Duke's roster is at times, I start to wonder if Coach K was planning for all his one-and-dones to stay in college. Like seriously folks, Duke's lack of depth is on par with the Zags. The players Coach K has at his disposal were all 5-star blue chip recruits, so I don't feel bad for him, but this is a perfect example of why you need a deep and balanced team to be able to mount a legitimate national championship campaign. Last year's title squad was carried by a bunch of freshmen, but Coach K at least had a couple of options on his bench to turn to in order to find the right combination on any given night, or give the starters a breather. This is not a luxury he enjoys this year, especially since Amile Jefferson went down with an injury.
No. 7 - Oklahoma (22-5, LW: 5)
After two disappointing losses back-to-back against Kansas (understandable) and Texas Tech (less understandable), Oklahoma got a much-needed victory on the road against West Virginia. Wednesday night's win over Oklahoma State gave the Sooners their third straight sweep of the Bedlam Rivalry, and delivered this sweet play where 6'0" Jordan Woodard blocked a shot that led to a bucket the other way for Buddy "Buckets" Hield.
No. 6 - Louisville (22-6, LW: NR)
As discussed in the last rankings, this is a turbulent time for the Louisville program. Self-imposed sanctions are robbing this squad at a chance to play in the postseason this year. Since the tournament is no longer in the cards (see what I did there??) for this team, they'll have to take solace in the fact that they're knocking off a bunch of teams that will be dancing. Also, I completely agree with Jay Williams in the video below. Pitino stinks.
"Pitino can't go unscathed here." - Jay Williams. https://t.co/bjYz5WF0gh— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) February 22, 2016
No. 5 - North Carolina (23-5, LW: 8)
Last week's narrow loss at home to Duke was brutal for Tar Heel fans, not only because it was a loss to their hated neighbors, but also because UNC played like the much better team for almost the entire game. For whatever reason, UNC just couldn't put the Dukies away, and they paid for it in the last 30 seconds. However, give the Tar Heels credit for responding to that loss by pounding on Miami (FL) to the tune of a 96-71 win that was a bigger blowout than that scoreline indicates. The Tar Heels are still at the top of the ACC standings, but they have work to do to win the regular season conference title with a tilt against Virginia, before the reverse fixture against Duke to close out conference play.
No. 4 - Villanova (24-4, LW: 1)
'Nova became the 6th different #1 team to lose this season in a year where the #1 ranking has been a revolving door. Before the loss to Xavier though, Villanova had reeled off a 7-game winning streak with each win coming by double digits. Impressive to say the least, BUT, I just don't get the feeling that the Wildcats have enough to beat really quality teams. Maybe they'll prove me wrong this year in the tournament, but I doubt it.
No. 3 - Xavier (25-3, LW: NR)
The Musketeers avenged that ugly 31-point loss to Villanova back in December, and in doing so, earned their first program win over a #1 ranked team since 2004. The win was also their first against Villanova since joining the Big East, and the atmosphere in the arena was so electric it was seeping through my television. While Xavier doesn't have a bona fide star, per se, they do boast one the nation's deepest teams; and, more significantly, share a name with the fearless leader of the X-Men. You can't really top that, folks...err, well I guess you can since they're only #3 in these rankings, but still!
No. 2 - Michigan State (23-5, LW: Bubble)
Despite their standing as the 4th best team in the Big 10, the Spartans are one of the nation's best squads when fully healthy. If Denzel Valentine hadn't missed some time with a knee injury, MSU probably would have sewn up the #1 ranking weeks ago. Tom Izzo probably doesn't mind since he wants his team peaking in March, and not January.
No. 1 - Kansas (24-4, LW: 7)
Since that lifeless loss to Iowa State on January 25, the Jayhawks have taken care of business and are in reach of another Big 12 title with a 2-game lead over West Virginia in the conference standings. As we're reminded of nearly every week, Bill Self has led Kansas to eleven consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, but extending that streak this year would truly be an impressive accomplishment. The Big 12 has a decent chance at placing seven teams in the tournament field, and the Jayhawks should feel really good about themselves for maintaining their dominance over a very competitive conference.