CRAWFORD | Ten changes that would recharge college basketball
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The NCAA basketball rules committee has wrapped up its most recent round of talks with more tweaks.
It didn't reduce the shot clock, but it did try to streamline the video review process and gave referees the discretion to use replays for a wide range of calls in the final two minutes of games. That addresses one problem -- getting crucial calls right. The panel also gave officials more leeway in assessing flagrant fouls for high elbows, another common-sense tweak.
More replay is fine. But what the game needs is more scoring, more movement, more, well, basketball.
"I went to see Earl Clark (and the Lakers) play against Miami," University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Earl was playing LeBron (James). Earl basically took his hand and just rested it on him and they went, 'Foul.' What happened in the NBA now is they stopped all the arm bars, all the standing up of screens, all the coming across and chopping the guy. They stopped all that. Now there's freedom of movement in the NBA and you see great offense.
"When you coach in the Big East, you should tell your players to wear body guard. Peyton Siva wears body guard and shoulder pads. You can't cut. You can't move. The referees are caught in a quandary. They're saying, 'We're going to ruin the game. We're on TV.' Jay Bilas is right. If we want to get back, take a page out of the NBA. Have freedom of movement."
The rules panel's attempt to address physical play was less concrete. It called for strict enforcement of existing rules on "arm bars," on impeding a cutter's progress and on quick one-hand jabs at offensive players, as well as two-hand checking by defenders. All are important changes, but they're only as good as their enforcement, and we've seen "points of emphasis" go by the wayside before.
The committee also made a change in one of the worst-executed rules in the college game: the block-charge call. By saying a defender must be set when an offensive player begins his upward motion, not when he leaves his feet, the committee hoped to make the call easier for officials to make, and to allow or more offensive freedom. Here's what the change means -- the call should go to the offensive player about 75 percent of the time. Right now, officials seem to try to make the blocks and charges even out. More than anything, this rule gives them cover to call the block more often.
But the game needs more. Here are my ten suggestions for getting the college game moving again:
1). PLAY THE GAME IN QUARTERS. The NBA game is four quarters. The high school game is four quarters. College basketball plays two 20-minute halves, but those, in reality, are broken into four-minute segments by the arbitrary intrusion of timeouts.
Instead, break the college game into four 10-minute quarters with mandatory television timeouts between them, since timeouts are already taken. It also would allow for resetting the bonus after each quarter.
2). REDUCE THE NUMBER OF TV TIMEOUTS. Allow for one TV timeout each quarter after the first deadball at the midway point of each quarter. If necessary, add an extra minute, or two minutes, between quarters to recoup some of the time lost by the elimination of one TV timeout during the run of play. But if broadcasters can make millions off of Premier League Soccer, which doesn't have timeouts during the run of play, they ought to be able to figure out a way to monetize college basketball with one fewer commercial break.
3). REDUCE THE NUMBER OF TIMEOUTS GIVEN TO TEAMS. Give coaches only one timeout per quarter, allowing only one to be "banked" for the fourth quarter, with it becoming a 30-second timeout if saved until the final period. Designate called timeouts to become television timeouts. In the game today, many coaches, if the opponent is on a run, will take a full timeout in the seconds before a television timeout, knowing the teams will go back onto the court, play a few seconds until a deadball, then sit through another long TV timeout. Reducing the number of timeouts moves the game along and puts emphasis back on players, rather than coaches.
4). CALL FOULS, BUT ALLOW FOR MORE FOULS. The second measure will promote the first. Give college players a sixth foul, but call the fouls that are fouls. The committee this year tried to make this a point of emphasis. We'll see how it works. Perhaps giving players a sixth foul would loosen up the whistles a little bit.
5). FIX THE BLOCK-CHARGE CALL. Maybe the committee's action will help this, but too many blocks are called. Too many times, the defensive player isn't sliding into legal guarding position, he's sliding into the path of an established offensive play in order to draw a charge. The block-charge circle helps, but it ought to be widened at least another foot out from the basket. Offensive players do initiate contact at times, and need to be called for fouls when they initiate collisions. But there should be an established right to drive to the basket without being undercut or having players slide in to form a wall rather than attempting to make a defensive play. The charge call should be made sparingly. Perhaps with the new change in interpretation, it will be.
6). ALTER ALTERNATE POSSESSION. A defensive team that forces a held ball should get the ball. In other simultaneous possessions, jump it up. There won't be that many.
7). CUT THE CHIT-CHAT. Coaches are allowed far too much latitude in constantly playing to officials. The coaching box was a poor tool in policing this. Officials should be given authority to stop all coaching interaction during live-ball situations, and should take far less grief during deadballs.
8). BRING IN REPLAY. The rules committee's best move was to give referees latitude in using replay in the final minutes of games. Too often this past season, referees got it wrong on a big stage. They got it right far more, as the saying goes, but they deserve to have the tool of replay, and the authority to use it. The best-case scenario would be to have an actual replay official, like football has, so that game refs on the court don't have to spend five minutes themselves looking at things.
9). KEEP THE SHOT CLOCK, WITH ONE CHANGE. I'm probably in a minority here, but I think 35 seconds is fine. Cutting the clock to 30 seconds, while creating more possessions, also gives an added edge to the defense, and essentially reduces offense to running a set once, then giving the ball to the best one-on-one player for a move late in the shot clock. With the 35-second clock, at least the offense has just a few more seconds to pass, cut and screen before going to the inevitable late-clock measures. One change I would endorse in the shot clock: Reset it to 20 seconds after a foul in the front-court, instead of the full 35 seconds.
10). THROW OUT THE TRANSFER RULE. All right, this has nothing to do with on-court rules in college basketball, but it's still an injustice. If an engineering student can transfer for academic reasons and be able to start classes at a new school right away, a basketball player should have no less freedom. Coaches can move, players ought to be able to move.
So let's hear it. Where am I right? Where am I wrong? What have I left out? Certainly, there are more fundamental changes to the way the game is played in this country that go beyond college basketball rules. Field goal percentage was at a 45-year low in college hoops this season, but not all of that is on great defense. Shooting is no longer at a premium at the lower basketball levels. You can get a college player open shots -- that doesn't mean he'll make them. Are there other rules issues to address? You make the call.
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