NCAA Basketball's Rule Changes to Make Game Less Physical a Welcome Change
It was obvious college basketball had a problem when Rick Pitino addressed at the Final Four a need to change the style of play that helped him win a national championship.
It took a record-setting year of low scoring and a lot of rants from famous commentators like Jay Bilas, but college basketball has decided to try to fix itself.
The NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee recommended several changes on Thursday that are based upon trying to make college basketball less physical and more watchable.
The recommendations simply need to be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on June 18 to become part of the rulebook. Luckily, this isn't Congress; the rules will go through.
It's not time to drop the confetti from the sky yet, but this is at least an acknowledgment that something was broken.
The changes are an effort to allow freedom of movement on the offensive end and reduce the number of charges called on offensive players. In other words, to turn college basketball back into basketball and not bumper cars.
No more checking and grabbing cutters. No more arm bars. No more shoving.
Raise your hand if you're confused how this wasn't already part of the rulebook.
Well, it wasn't emphasized as much as it will be now. Officials have been swallowing their whistles, because no one wants to see more fouls, right?
That sort of logic is how it has come to the rules committee putting in print what should be obvious. There were 48 free throws shot in a beautifully-played national championship game, and I didn't see anyone complaining about too many whistles.
The challenge is to get the officials to call the game consistently across the country throughout the entire season. Why this is such a challenge is that each conference is in charge of its own officials. One conference can emphasize a rule, but that doesn't mean that same rule will be emphasized in every league. This is a very public way of making it happen.
Count me in as someone who is skeptical that the block/charge call will be enforced differently, but again, at least they're making an effort.
Is college basketball too physical?
The proposed rule change is that a defender must be set when the ball-handler starts "his upward motion with the ball to attempt a field goal or pass." The current rule states that the defender must be set once the offense lifts off the floor. In other words, the defender must be in position a step earlier than when he used to have to be set.
It's never going to be a simple call to make, but this wording at least discourages the kamikaze defenders from sliding under a driver.
Moving the semi-circle under the basket out to where the NBA line is would also reduce the number of charges, but again, at least they've done something. Maybe next year.
Now it's up to the officials to actually call the game this way, which is going to force them to blow their whistles a lot and listen to a lot of complaining from coaches and players.
"The only way to do it is the first 10 games of the season," Pitino said at the Final Four. "The games have to be ugly and the players will adjust. Then you will see great offense again."
Pitino is right, and you cannot blame him or any other coaches for encouraging their players to try to use the way the game was being called to their advantage. Louisville's press benefited from the ability to reach and bump without it being called a foul every time.
Great coaches, like Pitino, will adjust his style accordingly if the game is called the right way.
And if that really happens, our eyes will win.
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