College basketball received some fairly significant cosmetic surgery on Friday afternoon, the vast majority of which we believe to be for the best.
Over the past several days, the NCAA men's basketball rules committee had been convening in Indianapolis for the purpose of suggesting and agreeing upon some necessary changes. As written in the official press release, they "approved a package of proposals and officiating directives to significantly improve the pace of play, better balance offense with defense and reduce the physicality in the sport."
In other words, look for the 2015-16 season to feature two-hour basketball games instead of 2.5-hour wrestling matches.
What follows is a brief explanation of each rule, a breakdown of its impact and a letter grade for it.
Fortunately, this is the type of report card you wouldn't be ashamed to show your parents.
Note: For now, these are just proposals by the committee. Nothing will officially change until approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on June 8, but that's usually just a formality.
Proposed Change No. 1: Reduce shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds
But what took so long?
We've been complaining about the pace of play and decreased scoring for the past decade. So, why now? Did the committee just get so sick of our griping that they decided to placate us? If so, we need to unite and figure out what's next on our agenda to whine about for 10 years in the hope of forcing a modest change in 2025.
It's a great change for college basketball, but it just feels like something that should have been done at least two seasons ago. At this point, it's like praising a 10th-grader for finally learning cursive or a fourth-grader for learning to tie his shoes. We're just relieved it finally happened and optimistic that it will bring about the change we've been seeking.
Proposed Change No. 2: Move restricted area arc out from three feet to four feet
If you aren't familiar with the term "restricted area arc," it's the semi-circle underneath the hoop in which defensive players are not allowed to draw charges. It is designed to discourage players from loitering underneath the hoop before attempting to draw a charge at the last possible moment.
According to the aforementioned press release, the number of block/charge calls decreased from 2.77 in the 2013 NIT to 1.96 in the 2015 NIT.
This is fantastic news. Because the block/charge call will always be a point of argument among spectators and officials alike, the only way to fix it is to get rid of it. Obviously, the expanded arc didn't completely eradicate those plays, but going from three coin-flip calls per game to two is a huge step in the right direction.
Offensive fouls are double whammies because they end an offensive possession while moving an aggressive scorer one step closer to a disqualification. Even if it isn't the foul that sends him to the bench, it's likely the foul that makes him worried about the foul that will send him to the bench, thus reducing his scoring aggression.
If this is the rule change that causes the rate of offensive fouls called per game to decrease, it will be the most important amendment agreed upon this week.
Proposed Change No. 3: Strict enforcement of defensive rules
Wait, what? Referees were just ignoring defensive rules before?
Yeah, pretty much.
Remember at the start of the 2013-14 season when ticky-tack fouls ran rampant through the country for two months and then suddenly went away?
From the sound of things, those fouls—the ones that keep defenders from hand-checking on the perimeter, keep defenders from even resting a hand on a posted-up player in the paint and allow players more freedom of movement off the ball—should be coming back.
It was hard to watch, but at the time we all expected a transition period that would eventually lead to a more aesthetically pleasing and free-flowing version of the game. Unfortunately, we got about two-thirds of the way through that transition only for the officials to stop enforcing the rules.
"The increase in the physicality of play has been a major concern for coaches," said Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter. "The NCAA rules committee has addressed that this week with an emphasis on perimeter defense and post play."
In all likelihood, it will once again be painful to watch the foul-heavy games in the first few weeks of the season as players and coaches adjust to the changes, but it still seems like a good decision in the long run.
Proposed Change No. 4: Providing offensive players the same principles of verticality protections as defensive players
Does anyone know what this even means?
It's clearly in reference to the theory that a defender has a right to his air space if there is contact when he goes straight up and down to contest a shot. But when do we ever actually see that call? And how in the world does it apply to the offensive player?
Proposed Change No. 5: "Hanging on rim" technical reduced to one-shot foul
Considering this is rarely called and is almost always a judgment call as to whether the player is showboating or protecting himself from injury, sure, why not?
I would actually prefer to see this take the form of the old facemask penalty in football, where a judgment call is one shot but a blatant pull-up on the rim is three shots. However, I see no problem with this change.
Proposed Change No. 6: Elimination of five-second closely guarded rule
This one—particularly in conjunction with the stricter enforcement on hand-checking—is easily the worst of the proposed changes.
We're all for freedom of movement, but there has to be some kind of reward for pressure defense. They're already making it more difficult to stay in front of a dribbler, but with this they're also eliminating the incentive to force a dribbler to actually do something.
If we're trying to improve the pace of play, why would we want to do away with a rule that discourages a guard from just dribbling with no purpose 30 feet from the hoop?
Moreover, in what way was this a problem that needed to be addressed? If you watched five college basketball games, you were lucky if this call was made even once. No defense was frequently or intentionally gaining an advantage from the rule. It simply gave defenses the option of forcing lollygagging offenses to at least pretend like they're trying to score.
How was that a bad thing?
Proposed Change No. 7: Allow pregame warm-up dunking
This was an archaic rule that needed to go away.
Once the pregame clock reached 20:00, players were prohibited from dunking. Once in a blue moon, it would rear its ugly head when some walk-on decided to dunk with 19:55 remaining until tipoff.
Everyone loves a pregame dunk contest. Let's just hope it doesn't result in any shattered backboards delaying the start of a game.
Proposed Change No. 8: Reducing the amount of time available to replace a disqualified player
This might be our favorite amendment of all.
Coaches are greedy little pigs with their stoppages. Give them an inch, and they'll take a mile. But few delays in the action are more annoying than the 30-second huddle after a player fouls out of the game.
When a player picks up his fourth foul early in the second half, his sub is already at the scorer's table by the time the whistle is done reverberating. So why would a coach need 30 seconds to decide who to put in after a player's fifth foul?
He doesn't. And it's about time the rules committee noticed this.
Proposed Change No. 9: Allowing only a total of 10 seconds to advance the ball to the front court (with a few exceptions)
An awesome proposal, right up until you get to the parenthetical note.
What are the exceptions? Why do there need to be any exceptions? Can't you just say "10 seconds to cross half court, no ifs, ands or buts?"
But at least it's a step in the right direction.
Nothing discouraged coaches from employing full-court pressure quite like the timeout with 26 seconds remaining on the shot clock followed by a new life of 10 seconds to get the ball into the frontcourt.
It never made any sense. The shot clock doesn't get reset when a timeout is called, so why should the 10-second clock?
There weren't many changes that benefit the defense, but this is a big one.
Proposed Change No. 10: Adjusting the media timeout procedures to allow a timeout called within 30 seconds of a break (e.g., 16:30) or at any time after the scheduled media timeout becomes the media timeout
Yes. Yes! A thousand times, yes!
Few things about the flow of the game were more frustrating than situations in which a coach calls a timeout, we sit through two minutes of commercials, a foul is called within 10 seconds of play resuming and then we sit through another two minutes of commercials.
With this proposal, those horrible sequences will be no more. We'll still have eight media timeouts per game, but this should help reduce the number of "artificial" media timeouts that result from strategically placed timeouts called by coaches.
Proposed Change No. 11: Removing the ability for a coach to call timeout when the ball is live
I never had a major issue with this, but a lot of analysts do.
Should this proposal pass, only players will be allowed to call timeouts while the ball is in play.
There are two scenarios in particular that this figures to impact. One is the loose-ball situation when players from both teams are on the floor fighting for possession. Players will still be allowed to call a timeout, but we'll no longer see the referees spin around and signal that the coach requested the stoppage to retain possession.
The second and similar scenario is when a ball-handler gets stuck in a trap and is frantically searching for a teammate. Now he will be required to have the wherewithal to call a timeout before committing a turnover, rather than getting bailed out by a concerned coach.
It can't hurt and it makes players more accountable for their own actions. Get yourself into a bind, and you have to remember how to get yourself out of it. Can't argue with that.
Proposed Change No. 12: Remove one team timeout in the second half, and strictly focus on resuming play more quickly after a timeout
Teams will still start the game with five timeouts each, but instead of one "use it in the first half or lose it" timeout, now two of the timeouts fall under that jurisdiction, thereby meaning teams will begin the second half with a maximum of three timeouts.
This should help speed up the end game, which is a must. Far too often we see both coaches conserve all of their timeouts, leading to a situation in which there are still eight timeouts available to be called in the final four minutes.
We might still end up with games where there are six timeouts remaining after the final media timeout, but six is 25 percent better than eight, so we'll certainly take it.
The focus on resuming play more quickly is pretty great, too.
Remember when 20-second timeouts were actually 20-second timeouts? Nowadays, the 30-second timeouts are more like 45-second timeouts.
It's a small change, but enough small changes can result in a pretty noteworthy difference.
Here's hoping the summation of these 12 proposals has that effect.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.