The ESPN Tip-Off Marathon and its more than 24 consecutive hours of college basketball is underway right now, and has already given us some exciting games such as BYU's 112-103 win at Stanford and Virginia Tech's 87-82 victory at home over West Virginia.
One game you probably didn't see though was New Mexico State's 95-88 win on the road against Hawaii, which tipped off at five o'clock in the morning eastern time. Yet it was actually a very significant game and not just because NMSU's mold-breaking 7'5", 360 pound center Sim Bhullar was on display.
The game between the Aggies and the Warriors featured 48 fouls, 70 free-throw attempts, four technical fouls and an ejection due to Hawaii guard Keith Shamburger picking up two technicals. With those kind of stats, one would assume that the game was a rough, chippy, borderline out-of-control game between two teams who played like they hated each others' guts.
Except it wasn't.
While Hawaii did intentionally commit several fouls near the end of the game in order to put NMSU on the free-throw line in an attempt to make the comeback, for the most part the two teams played a very average game with a style of play that isn't overly foul-prone.
The issue here wasn't dirty play or overly emotional or aggressive playing styles. It was the implementation of the new NCAA rules, which can be found here. Basically, hand-checking is no longer allowed, drawing charges is incredibly difficult and defenses aren't allowed to be nearly as physical as they previously were.
There has been much debate over the new rules, with some arguing that they are needed in order to increase scoring and make games more exciting while others argue that the rule changes drastically slow down the game and turn it into little more than a free-throw competition.
In the NMSU vs. Hawaii game, the latter argument was on full display. The game was disjointed and difficult to watch. Not because the teams played poorly, but because the officiating team was the one who was front and center for the majority of the game.
This was made abundantly clear from the get-go, with Shamburger being issued a technical near the start of the game for minimal jawing after a play. Technicals were given out throughout the game for offenses so minor that they were almost unheard of in past seasons. Fouls were called on the majority of offensive possessions for both teams as well.
To be clear, the officiating crew called the game correctly according to the new rules. So this isn't about whether or not they did their jobs correctly.
Rather, this game was a showcase for why the new rule changes don't work and need to at least be revised, if not fully dismantled.
Because despite the fact that New Mexico State won, the most memorable moments from the game all involve the officiating crew, who took center stage for the majority of the contest.
Having the officiating team as the most prominent team on the court is never a good thing.
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