Ranking the Biggest Changes in College Basketball Over the Past Decade
College basketball has changed significantly over the past decade.
Amid changes to what necessitates a whistle, new or moved lines on the court, conference realignment, added television exposure and the oft-debated one-and-done rule, the game is much different today than it was in 2004.
There have been a lot of minor changes over the years, but these are the 10 that have had the biggest effects on college basketball as we know it.
The following changes were ranked based on how much would be affected if things suddenly went back to the way they were.
10. Instant Replay
This one technically started 11 years ago but has gone through several iterations.
Before the 2003-04 season, it was decided that officials would be allowed to consult the courtside monitor in buzzer-beater situations at the end of a half or overtime period.
A few years later, officials were allowed to use replay to determine flagrant fouls and/or who should be ejected in the instance of a fight. (Two years ago, the use of replays to determine flagrant fouls got out of hand with the emphasis on elbows above the shoulders.)
Last offseason, replay was expanded to include determining who caused the ball to go out of bounds in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime, as well as determining whether a shot should count for two or three points.
It'll never be perfect and they'll always be tinkering with it, but some replay is better than no replay.
9. Opposing Coach Chooses Foul Shooter
This rule was enacted before the 2009-10 season, and not a moment too soon.
Currently, if a player is injured upon being fouled and is unable to attempt his free throws, the opposing coach gets to pick any other player on the roster to attempt the free throws in his place. More often than not, the coach picks a walk-on or a reserve center who will likely miss the awarded free-throw shots.
However, the rule used to be that the coach of the shooting team gets to pick his own shooter from the bench.
As Marquette fans would argue, that was an unfair advantage.
With flopping already running rampant on the professional circuit, we were on the verge of devolving into soccer on hardwood.
Without that rule change, the NCAA was practically begging for a terrible free-throw shooter like Montrezl Harrell (46.4 percent last season) to fake injuries left and right in order to allow some free-throw specialist on the bench to nullify one of the only weaknesses in Harrell's game.
But now, there's thankfully no incentive for faking injuries.
8. Restricted Area Arc
The block vs. charge debate is going nowhere fast, but not for lack of trying.
The NCAA has been tinkering with this call for years—and continues to do so—but perhaps the biggest breakthrough was the addition of the restricted area arc.
The NBA has had the restricted area since 1997, but it wasn't until the 2010-11 season that college basketball saw the merits of forcing a player to be at least three feet away from the hoop in order to draw a charge.
Determining whether a defender was fully established before the offensive player started his upward motion will forever be a judgment call. But—unless you're Aaron Craft—whether you're in the restricted area is a much more cut-and-dried call for officials to make.
7. Hand Checking Emphasis
The biggest point of emphasis this past season was forcing players to defend without using their hands.
Whereas it used to be acceptable to rest a hand on a defender trying to post up or to swipe for a ball on the perimeter, laying a finger on an opponent was all but guaranteed to result in a foul last year.
With more freedom to move around the court and more fouls being called when that freedom was taken away, scoring increased pretty substantially. According to StatSheet.com, there were 141.27 points scored per game last season—more than five percent better than the 134.28 mark posted in 2012-13 and the highest mark in more than a decade.
While it had a huge effect on last season, you could argue that a lot of that increased scoring was the result of high-scoring games in the first two months of the season as players learned how to defend without fouling. If scoring remains that high in 2014-15, feel free to consider this seemingly minor rule change to be one of the biggest advancements in college basketball of the past decade.
6. The Death of Decals
This was one of those minor rule changes that probably went unnoticed by most fans, but it took a few too many near-career-ending injuries to make it happen.
Several years ago, high-profile basketball games added some extra advertising by slapping stickers on the court.
It was a great idea until players started slipping on these decals, whose condensation differed from the rest of the court.
Bloggers, commentators and coaches complained for years that the NCAA needed to do away with the stickers—that it was only a matter of time before someone suffered a devastating injury.
After Michigan State's Branden Dawson slipped on a decal in November 2011 in what looked like a much worse injury than it ended up being, Tom Izzo said, "They're just not safe. Let us wear the sponsor logos. I know we need the sponsors. I want 'em. But it's just too dangerous out there."
A few days later, Memphis' Chris Crawford suffered a similar fate in the Maui Invitational.
After the 2011-12 season, common sense finally prevailed and it was decided that courts must be of a consistent surface.
Bye bye stickers.
5. Turner's Tourney TV Rights
It's getting increasingly difficult to watch regular-season college basketball. In addition to Fox Sports and CBS Sports, just about every noteworthy conference has its own network these days. We're almost to the point where we need to budget more per month for cable than groceries in order to be able to watch the games we want.
But the tournament went in the complete opposite direction when CBS and Turner Broadcasting reached a deal in April 2010 that would allow every tournament game to be aired in its entirety.
It feels like ancient history now, but it was only five years ago that we were at the mercy of our local CBS affiliates to determine whether a 20- or 30-point deficit was large enough to switch the feed to a more interesting game.
What's more, the games were horribly staggered back then, all but guaranteeing that several close games would be ending simultaneously while we waited on pins and needles for Greg Gumbel to announce live look-ins on each of the games.
Now, we have the freedom to watch however much of whichever games we choose. And it's glorious.
4. 3-Point Line Extended
The three-point line is the great equalizer in basketball, but it was becoming too much of one near the end of the past decade.
While the NBA has a three-point arc with a radius of 23 feet, nine inches, college basketball's arc was just 19 feet, nine inches until the summer of 2008—and players took advantage of that fact.
According to StatSheet.com, the 2007-08 season featured more three-point attempts, more made three-point field goals and a higher three-point percentage than any other season in the past 18 years. With players making 35.02 percent of the 38.25 three-point attempts per game, triples were responsible for a little more than 40 points per game.
After that season, the arc was moved back a foot to 20 feet, nine inches. As a result, three-pointers were made with less regularity (34.12 percent) and attempted less frequently (36.73 per game).
Points from three-pointers per game dropped from 40.2 to 37.6—a decrease of more than six percent in a game that was already producing substantially fewer points than it had been a few years prior.
3. Tournament Expands to 68 Teams
Here's hoping the NCAA never expands the tournament to 80, 96 or 128 teams, but it's hard to argue with the results of the decision to expand from 65 to 68 teams before the 2010-11 season.
For starters, the change gave more hope to more teams by lowering the bar for admission. If there were still only 65 teams in the tournament, North Carolina State probably wouldn't have even been in the discussion this past March—let alone in good enough standing to make the field.
And it gave that extra hope without fundamentally changing the selection process. Maybe the committee expands its criteria by a few RPI and SOS points, but it's not like the committee is suddenly including teams that have no business even playing in the NIT.
Once the field is set, those opening round games provide a nice warm-up for the upcoming insanity.
Throw in the fact that VCU went from "First Four" to Final Four in the first year with the expanded field, and those first-round games have added some intrigue to what was already the most intriguing event in sports.
2. Conference Realignment
There's a little bit of conference realignment every year, but we were spoiled with hardly any changes from 2006 through 2010. Valparaiso moving from the Mid-Continent (now Summit League) to the Horizon League was probably the most noteworthy change to take place during that time period.
But that was just the calm before the storm.
In the summer of 2011, Boise State, BYU, Colorado, Nebraska and Utah all jumped to new conferences. There were a few big moves the following summer as well, with Butler, Missouri, Texas A&M, VCU and West Virginia leading the way.
The biggest change, however, was yet to come. The impending death of the Big East hung over the 2012-13 season like an ominous cloud for months before being finalized near the end of the regular season. By the start of the 2013-14 season, more than 10 percent of the schools in the country were playing in a different conference from the previous year.
More annoying than the changes themselves was the fact that they were sporadically announced over the course of several years. On what felt like a monthly basis, age-old rivalries were being killed by realignment, and there were always rumors of other changes on the horizon.
A little realignment is nothing compared to the threats of season-killing strikes that every major sport has faced in the past decade, but that doesn't make it any easier to remember which schools moved to which conferences and when.
1. One-and-Done Rule
This was technically an NBA rule change, but absolutely nothing has had a bigger effect on college basketball than the decision before the 2006 NBA draft that prohibited players from jumping straight from high school to the pros.
We all missed out on a year of LeBron James destroying the world of college basketball, but Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and dozens others had to stop by for one year before moving on to the NBA.
Moreover, there's an argument to be made that the rule is at least somewhat responsible for the increased parity in college basketball that has allowed teams like Butler, VCU and Wichita State to reach the Final Four in recent years.
If the top high school players in the country were allowed to jump to the NBA, coaches like John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski would instead fill up their rosters with the best of the rest, diluting the pool of players available further down the line. Instead, middling teams have a shot at four-year, 4-star recruits while the big-name schools jostle for the 5-star players.
Love it or hate it, the rule gives college basketball fans a glimpse of the future stars of the world, and it has resulted in exponentially increased attention on incoming freshmen and recruiting.
Who knows what we would have talked about in the months leading up to last season were it not for Wiggins vs. Parker?
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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