If you watched even a couple of games this week, you probably saw at least one application of the NCAA's inane flagrant foul rule.
And although the rule isn't new, the anger directed toward it seems finally to have crested.
If you're unfamiliar, the NCAA rule book now stipulates that if a player swings his elbow and contacts an opponent anywhere above the shoulders, the play results in a flagrant foul, regardless of intent.
The intent part here is crucial. You could be swinging your elbow for a perfectly legitimate basketball reason, like, say, driving to the basket.
If someone else's head wanders into said elbow's path, you're getting booked.
Now I realize that it's difficult for referees to judge intent. And perhaps that's why college basketball changed the rule, to both discourage physical play and add clarity for the officials.
But it isn't working.
The main problem with the rule is that it's more likely to impact the end stages of a game, when defenses trap and offensive players need to clear space. The rule is also reviewable by replay, which wouldn't otherwise be problematic except for the fact that meetings (and near meetings) between face and elbow are all too common during a college basketball game.
I'm on board with cleaning up the college game, but penalizing players for unintentional contact seems both excessively punitive and fundamentally aimless.
I mean what exactly does a rule like this discourage? Elbow swinging occurs naturally in the course of human movement . Are we expecting college athletes to play basketball with their hands perpetually at their sides? Could they even do that if they tried?
We've yet to see a Flagrant 1 (as they're called) directly alter the outcome of a tournament game, but it's only a matter of time.
Doug McDermott and Creighton were nearly burned in their Round of 64 match-up with Cincinnati. Chances are, your team is next.