The poor health of college basketball

Scoring is near an all-time low. The games move at a snail's pace. There are fewer recognizable stars because of the one-and-done rule, and now this: a Hall of Fame coach being hit by the NCAA with a lengthy suspension for failing to control his program.

If you wanted to make an argument that college basketball is a mess, it would be easier than ever to do so.

The calendar turned to March less than a week ago, a time commonly reserved for celebrating the on-court madness that is about to begin. The talk should be about bubble teams like Indiana, Cinderella hopefuls like Murray State, and who, if anyone, is capable of taking down John Calipari's mighty Kentucky Wildcats.

Instead, we're busy wondering whether Jim Boeheim's legacy will be tainted by the NCAA sanctions levied against him Friday, and whether the Syracuse program will be able to recover from penalties that include a nine-game ACC suspension for Boeheim next season, a reduction of scholarships, the vacating of wins, five years of probation and the return of revenue from its NCAA tournament appearances.

And when we're done with that, we can turn our attention to difficulties at two other programs from the ACC, the league that has in many ways carried the banner for college basketball throughout its history.

How does the Syracuse ruling alter the playing field and the future for Roy Williams and North Carolina, which has been the subject of an ongoing and long-range academic scandal involving "paper classes" for years? If the NCAA felt a one-year postseason ban for Syracuse was acceptable, will the Tar Heels get a multiseason ban?

At Duke, questions remain about Mike Krzyzewski's handling of sexual assault allegations involving former guard Rasheed Sulaimon, allegations that were documented earlier this week by the school's student newspaper.

There's also SMU coach Larry Brown. You know him, the nomadic coach who put Kansas on probation after he helped hang a banner in 1988. He's also the subject of an NCAA investigation into academic transgressions -- as is first-year Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall, whose issues stem from his time at Southern Mississippi.

In an era when coaches are the face of college basketball more than they've ever been -- the best players don't stick around long enough for us to get to know them -- the fact that so many of the game's best-known figures are having their character questioned is a bad look for the sport.

But the controversy isn't just about coaches. One of the most talented players -- Emmanuel Mudiay -- isn't playing college basketball this season. The certain lottery pick-to-be fled for China before the college basketball season began instead of playing, as planned, at SMU. He said he left for the financial benefit of playing overseas, but had he chosen to play college basketball, his status was clouded by potential eligibility issues.

Another elite-level recruit, Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander, is currently watching from the sidelines while the NCAA investigates whether a family member accepted impermissible benefits, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Realignment hasn't helped matters. Neither has the steady climb of transfers -- which reached a record 700-plus last season. Coaches are also being jettisoned by quick-trigger athletic directors after just three years, and many coaches jump at the first opportunity for a larger paycheck. It just makes it that much more difficult to keep track of a sport that is constantly changing.

Meanwhile, at a time when a great on-court product is needed more than ever, there instead exists a barrage of complaints about the state of college basketball on the floor.

There's way too much clutching and grabbing, leading to those 19-17 halftime scores, the ones that are a constant reminder of how hard college hoops can be to watch.

We want buckets. Most games just aren't aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

It took three years for the NBA game to be cleaned up, to get rid of the excessive handchecking. It's not going to happen overnight in college basketball, but progress must be allowed to begin. Steps were made at the beginning of last season to crack down on handchecking, but then officials took it upon themselves to revert back, and many coaches weren't happy with the whistle-happy officials.

The game needs help, and more than ever, it needs leadership.

In past times of crisis, the leaders within college basketball -- most of whom were coaches -- could be counted on to get serious about the issues in the game, and to get creative in fixing them. Maybe we've reached that point again in 2015, a time when the problems the sport faces will be addressed by its leadership.

Only trouble is, as evidenced by Friday's news, a big part of the problem the sport faces in 2015 is its leadership.