With the Maryland Terrapins currently in the lull period of college sports, we turn our attention to the NCAA college basketball rules committee meeting. The committee is currently meeting in Indianapolis, and is scheduled to announce any rule changes on Thursday. Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports recently broke down some of the potential changes we could see.
This past season, college basketball was under fire from many causal fans. Scoring was down, which led to many saying that the product was down. Analysts such as Jay Bilas have been vocal about their thoughts on the state of college basketball. Bilas believes that the game is too physical; players are allowed to play defense with their hands and offensive players don’t have the ability to move freely (just to name some of his complaints). Due to this aggressive style of play, offenses are having a tougher time scoring and players aren’t learning the fundamentals of playing defense. It is a give and take at the college level with the rules they implement. It is unfair to expect them to play with the NBA rule book, since most of the players aren’t physically ready to play at the level and will not be at any point in their career. However, as fans, we want to see a quicker and more offensive minded product.
Per Jeff Goodman’s article, here are some of the purposed changes that we could see for next season:
1) “The automatic flagrant fouls for the swinging of elbows will almost certainly be amended. The new rule will give referees a measure of discretion rather than it automatically being deemed a Flagrant 1 or Flagrant 2 foul depending on the nature of the elbow and whether excessive contact is made. Coaches would also be able to ask referees to go to the monitor to review flagrant-foul calls.”
Adding the automatic flagrant for the swinging elbows was a good change, however the rule became too costly at the end of games. It is important to maintain player safety, and players need to be control of their body to maintain a safe game. However, at the end of games, the pace and style of the game become more frantic, and defenses begin playing tighter and guard much closer than the beginning of a game.
What was happening with the Flagrant 1 for the elbow was offensive players began to be penalized for moving. Defenses were able to use this rule as advantage in late game situations. The rule was clear cut with an elbow above the shoulders resulting in a Flagrant 1 foul for the offensive player. The clear cut nature of the rule was the problem; with there being no room for the referees to use discretion, it was giving too much power to the defense.
The Flagrant 1 foul for a swinging elbow is a good rule, but the refs need to be able to use some discretion instead of the one interpretation, offensive players need to be able to maintain some ability to move when guarded closely. If this passes, then good job by the rules committee of using real life experience to scale back a new rule.
2) “Referees likely will be able to go the monitor in the last two minutes of the game for more than just flagrant calls, whether it’s a 3-pointer or whether the clock had expired. They would also be able to go in the final minutes to determine possession after a difficult call to determine which player was the last to touch the ball.”
The NBA has this, and while it sounds like it would slow the game down, it helps the game much more. I am not a fan of the all the late game stoppages and the cheap timeouts it creates, but it is important to get calls such as out of bounds correct in the final 2 minutes of a game. Technology has advanced greatly to allow us the ability to get most calls correct. Instead of ignoring these advances, we should accept them into the game. No one wants to be on the wrong end of an incorrect out of the bounds, regardless of what the excuse is. Refs can easily find themselves out of position or blocked from seeing a play clearly, and using replay can make up for these situations and prevent .
3) “The block/charge call could be slightly altered in an effort to help the offensive player. Under the existing rule, the secondary defender needs to be in legal guarding position before the player leaves the ground. The new interpretation would be that the defender needs to be set before the offensive player begins the upward motion of his shot. ‘We feel this would help referees and also reduce the number of charge calls,’ the source said.”
The infamous block/charge call, one of the toughest calls in all sports to make. Coach Bob Knight put it best when he said that you could show multiple angles of a block/charge and call it differently every time. Block/charge situations are bang bang plays, they happen so quick and there is so much to take into account when making the call. Was the defensive player outside the circle? Did the offensive player lower his shoulder? Did the defensive player establish position? Just to name some of the questions the ref needs to address in the short time between when he blows his whistle and when he signals his call.
Adding this wrinkle to the rule could help refs making the call, along with preventing so many players from trying to take a charge. I love it as much as the next guy when my player steps in and takes a charge, but it leaves too much up to the ref. Reducing players from taking a charge also reduces the impact a ref can have on an outcome.
4) “Instead of a full 35-second shot clock following a foul in the front court, it will likely be reduced to somewhere between 20 and 25 seconds in an effort to create a few more possessions each game.”
This is another smart change for the NCAA to make. One of the worst things to happen when your team is trying to make a come back, is having them play great defense for 30 seconds then having a foul called and watching another 30 seconds burn off the clock. It doesn’t make sense to have the shot clock reset to 35 seconds again when the ball has already been advanced to the front court. Teams no longer need that additional time to get the ball up court. It is already difficult for teams to play defense for 35 seconds, to expect them to go 70 seconds is unfair. In late games, it is just ends up wasting 60 seconds of game time with players dribbling the ball at half court before getting into their set at the 10 second mark.
The final change that Jeff Goodman brings up is hand checking, and making it more consistent across the leagues and with officials. However, I still do not understand why the NCAA or the conferences are not employing refs? Referee’s are self-employed and paid per game, most of them have other jobs for when it is not college basketball season, but during the season they are traveling all week in an attempt to get to as many games as possible. The NCAA reaps plenty of benefits already from college athletes, and is a billion dollar corporation. It would be nice to see them reach out to referees and make them full time employees who are all trained on the same rules together. This is a big thing to ask, but a change that could help the most to the issues with officiating in college basketball, especially come tournament time.
As for the changes that Jeff Goodman says we could be seeing, I think all of them will help improve college basketball. The game has become more defensive over the past couple of seasons, and as fans we have been missing out on the chance to see great players truly flourish in a free flowing basketball game. The adjustment period may be tough to get used to, especially with more high profile early season games being played, but once players and coaches adjust we could be in for a better brand of basketball at the collegiate level.
Make sure to give Jeff Goodman’s piece a read, follow him on twitter @GoodmanCBS for his continued coverage of not just any rule changes, but all things college basketball.