Hands-free ad­just­ment

Of­fense-friendly rules likely to bog down early games

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY JOHN MAR­SHALL

PHOENIX | Col­lege bas­ket­ball is go­ing hands-free in an ef­fort to in­crease scor­ing and bring flow back to a game that’s turned into a wrestling match in re­cent years.

In­stead, the NCAA’s new rules put may ac­tu­ally bog things down, par­tic­u­larly early in the sea­son as teams ad­just to the way the game is be­ing called.

“I don’t think fans, at least in the are­nas I’ve ever been in as a fan, a player, a coach, want one team to shoot 50 free throws and the other team shoot 46 free throws,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “Usu­ally, at some point, the boo birds start ring­ing in and you hear the fans yelling out: Let them play. And I think that’s go­ing to be a real prob­lem.”

The rules changes were put in this sea­son af­ter scor­ing in Di­vi­sion I dropped to 67.5 points per game in 2012-13, the low­est since 1951-52 — long be­fore the shot clock and 3-point shot were added — and the fourth straight sea­son it had de­creased.

Shoot­ing per­cent­ages and as­sists were down, and 3-point shoot­ing was the low­est since the arc was added in 1986. The num­ber of fouls called were down as well, an in­di­ca­tion that de­fend­ers may be get­ting away with more phys­i­cal play.

To com­bat the rough­ness in the game, the NCAA in­sti­tuted a new set of rules for the 2013-14 sea­son, the em­pha­sis on pre­vent­ing de­fend­ers from im­ped­ing of­fen­sive play­ers’ progress.

No more hand-check­ing. No two hands on an op­po­nent. No arm bars or jab­bing. A big change in the block/charge call.

The changes could be the big­gest in col­lege bas­ket­ball since the ad­vent of the shot clock and 3-point shot — and could take some time get­ting used to.

“I think ev­ery­one’s got the mes­sage that the game needs to be more open than it’s been,” Big Ten com­mis­sioner Jim De­lany said. “And I’m hope­ful we can get that change.”

Not ev­ery­one in the game is con­vinced the changes will have the de­sired ef­fect.

Coaches and play­ers have been told about the changes and seen plenty of video, but the new rules are such a dras­tic change from the way the game had been called that it’s go­ing to take a while to get used to them — as teams found out dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion sea­son.

“If you’re telling me the way the games are go­ing to be called and ex­hi­bi­tion games are the way they’re go­ing to call them in the Big Ten, we’re go­ing to have a lot of good play­ers watch­ing bas­ket­ball,” Pur­due coach Matt Painter said. “I don’t think that will sit with peo­ple in this room, with play­ers and coaches across the coun­try. It’s def­i­nitely not go­ing to sit with the fans.”

Many coaches be­lieve the changes will add to scor­ing, just not the way the NCAA in­tended.

In­stead of points com­ing from ath­letic moves and free-mov­ing of­fenses, the ma­jor­ity could come from free throws, which would stall the game out even more in­stead of loos­en­ing it up.

Up to 100 free throws in one game might not be out of the ques­tion early in the sea­son.

“I’ve al­ways thought the way to im­prove our game was to try to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion where you get more shots,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I don’t know if this is go­ing to cre­ate more shots. I think it’s go­ing to cre­ate more free throws.”

Along with the no-hands ap­proach, the NCAA is also hop­ing to elim­i­nate flop­ping with the new rule on block/charge fouls.

Un­der the old in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the rule, a player had to be in de­fen­sive po­si­tion be­fore the of­fen­sive player was lift­ing off the floor. The new in­car­na­tion of block/ charge re­quires the de­fender to be in place be­fore the of­fen­sive player has started his up­ward mo­tion to at­tempt a shot or pass.

“I’ve been say­ing for years we need to clean up those col­li­sions at the rim,” Iowa coach Fran McCaf­fery said. “So I think that is bril­liant what they’re do­ing there, to pro­tect the driver. Too many guys were ta­lented enough to go by their man and there were three guys fall­ing down be­fore the guy even got to the rim.”

The changes could bring back a type of de­fense that’s be­come in­creas­ingly rare in col­lege bas­ket­ball: The zone.

More teams have gone to ag­gres­sive man de­fenses over zones in re­cent years, but the new rules could change that. Good coaches fig­ure out ways to get around im­ped­i­ments and a zone could be a way to limit hand-check­ing fouls on the perime­ter and block­ing calls around the bas­ket.

“What I worry about is every­body go­ing to start play­ing zone and now we’re into this, we’ll score less points, there’ll be less ac­tion, there’ll be less pen­e­tra­tion, there’ll be less ath­letes,” Michi­gan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Have you thought about the reper­cus­sions of it? Be­cause coaches are go­ing to ad­just. But they might not ad­just in the way you guys would like.”

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