College Basketball looks to improve the game in 2015-16

Will rule changes for next season really make college basketball a better product?

Coaches, writers and analysts of College basketball have for some time voiced opinion that rule changes are necessary to improve the game. Much of this opinion has been derived from the notion that even though the D1 men’s national championship presents the most exciting month of sport the regular season provides the impetus for the changes. ESPN long time college broadcaster Dick Vitale recently wrote the following:

The following rules or regulation changes have been approved for college basketball in 2015-16. The question is will these changes make basketball at the college level better or only increase the already thick rule book? 

  1. Reduce the shot clock from 35 seconds down to 30 seconds.

The reduction of the shot clock is intended to speed up the tempo of the game. However, eliminating 5 seconds will only add a few possessions to each team per half. Teams enjoy possession offensively for ten minutes per half per team, all things equal. That means 20 possessions per half using the full thirty seconds. Realistically if teams convert at a forty percent rate means 16 to 24 points per half. Will the extra five seconds make a difference? Does college basketball think that shaving five seconds off the shot clock is going to increase scoring? The test for the reduction was used in this year’s NIT. A quick comparison of Stanford and Miami who played for the championship will show simply that during the regular season Stanford scored 72.3 ppg and in the NIT average 72.4 ppg. Miami averaged 68.2 during the regular season and in the NIT averaged 67.4! Defensively Stanford gave up 67.3 ppg during the season and in the NIT allowed 65.6. Miami 63.3 during the season and in the NIT 64.2. Quite simply, lowering the shot clock five seconds did not overall improve offense to any measurable degree by the two teams. What the reduction of the shot clock will do is draw closer the college game to the International or NBA game. This is somewhat humorous given the NCAA position of young players leaving to pursue professional opportunities and its effect on the game yet by reducing the clock it allows for players to become even more acclimated to how the pro ranks play. In addition, teams with less talent will be more at a disadvantage as the tempo increase will further provide more advantage to teams with better players. Lastly and maybe most important coaches on the college level are much more involved in strategy and game plan execution than their pro counterparts simply because of the perceived talent difference among college teams. The reduction of the clock will certainly impact coaching strategy.

  1. Remove one team timeout in the second half and strictly focus on resuming play more quickly after a timeout.

This rule change seems unnecessary given that it appears this has more to do with TV than anything else and is being dictated by TV coverage of games. As one might expect TV involvement creates constant interruption of play with scheduled TV timeouts every four minutes of game clock time. In addition play is sometimes held up until the commercialism of these timeouts ends and the broadcast returns to the game. What is apparent is that between the NCAA allotted bench timeouts and those allotted to TV broadcast that too many exist. However, taking them from the coaching staff that actually are involved in the creation of the tempo of the game and should determine how and when to use them versus TV dictating game flow every four minutes is out of whack. The NCAA should work with TV partners to uniformly agree on a proper solution as to timeouts so game flow is determined by nothing more than player’s performance and the execution or non-execution of a coaching staff’s particular game plan.

  1. Approved experimentation to add one foul per player for the 2016 postseason and will investigate interested events.

There is no question that fans want to see the best players on the court. The college game is notorious for players that pick up two quick fouls early on and as a result are relegated to the bench for the half. However going to a sixth foul again only creates a similarity to the pro game which does nothing for an improvement to the college product. Perhaps the easiest solution for the college game is to indeed go to six fouls but under the simple auspice that each roster player gets three fouls per half. Upon reaching the third foul the player goes to the bench for the remainder of the half. If in fact there is overtime the roster player gets one foul added per overtime period of play.

  1. Perimeter defense, particularly on the dribbler and strictly enforcing the directives put in before the 2013-14 season.

Any youngster who has ever been to a fundamental basketball camp to learn the sport is taught that defense is played with the feet, not the hands. Any impeding of the forward movement of the dribbler by a defender especially using the hands is a foul. Always has been the rule and officials need to call it. Bumping, illegal screens are without question in the pro game, they should not be in the college game. It should also be mentioned that the use by offensive players of carrying the ball is also rampant and just as simply needs to be addressed and called.

  1. Physicality in post play.

Physical play is a staple of the pro game that seemingly now is entrenched and has become part of the college game? Young players are now taught to fight for position and the end result is going to be pushing and shoving. Again the rules of basketball have always been specific as to the establishment of position. If referees are going to allow position to be established and then allow defenders to push from behind then physicality will result. Perhaps coaches should spend time teaching defenders how to beat the offensive man to the spot thus taking away the position rather than following the man to the spot and being forced to play behind?

  1. Screening, particularly moving screens and requiring that the screener be stationary.

Once again, when has it been legal to set a moving screen in basketball? The fact is more and more teams seem to initiate offense by using a post man setting a high screen 30 feet from the basket. What is amazing is that the dribbler is of need for this in the first place having evaded his defender that has guarded him up the floor and being unable to force a turnover in the first place. Other movement of this type of screen setting occurs frequently from the wing positions or in freeing a shooter within an offensive pattern. In any event, not establishing a stationary position by the screener prior to contact is a foul. Simply call the foul.

  1. Block/charge plays.

Still one of the most difficult calls in basketball made even worse by the quickness of today’s players. However once again it comes down to the establishment of the defensive player’s position on the floor prior to contact. Any movement by the defensive player to impede forward progress of the offensive player is a foul. Moving one’s body into the forward progress of the offensive player is a foul. On the other hand once a defensive person has established their position with both feet on the floor and is not moving the offensive player may not run over him either.

  1. Allowing greater freedom of movement for players without the ball.

The question here is what freedom of movement is currently not allowed for players without the ball? The answer is none. In the pro game the offensive style in vogue has become the three man game or the two man game and when all else fails get the ball in the hands of your best player to create for themselves or another. We frequently see two or more players on an offensive team shuttle to the weak side of the floor and just stand. The shot clock of the pro game is as much a fault of this as anything. Most teams will take 5 to 8 seconds to cross half court leaving only 16 to 20 seconds to create an offensive opportunity. The reduction of the shot clock will have a dramatic effect on how college teams run offense. Suffice to say that the multitude of motion offenses used by the likes of Dean Smith, Bob Knight and others where all five players moved without the ball will give way to the pro type offenses of today such as the drive and kick or more stationary offenses designed where three man or two man plays are used.

  1. Allowing officials to use the monitor to review a potential shot clock violation on made field goals throughout the entire game.

While replay has certainly made it possible to “make sure we get it right”, it also has disrupted the flow of the game while the officials have mulled over every angle of the play at the scorer’s table. The ultimate solution if the intent is to speed up play would be to incorporate a fourth official at the scorer’s table whose sole purpose is to review the play in question and make the call immediately. His call then relayed to the crew chief official and the game resumes immediately. There really is no reason for a fourth official not to be used in such a capacity, as quite simply the NCAA can afford it. An official having direct access throughout the game for the situations that do arise would be able to view the play inside of 30 seconds, relay the call to the floor and play resume. The three or four minutes it currently takes on seemingly every such call impedes the games progress more than anything else.

  1. Making Class B technical fouls (e.g., hanging on the rim, delaying the resumption of play, etc.) one-shot technical fouls. Two shots are now granted for these types of technical fouls.

There are reasons why hanging on the rim at times makes sense which of course is out of protection to the player. However the ferocity of dunking and the power some young athletes have in the game today is overwhelming. In those instances where players use the grandstanding of a ferocious dunk to engage the crowd assessing a technical foul of one shot with the ball out of bounds to the opposing team would quell the practice. While at it, the same penalties should be assessed for the constant taunts players use after scoring by posing or other forms of unsportsmanlike conduct whether it is toward an opposing player or the crowd. Quite simply it has no place in the game. Whether or not people think it is just part of the game today it is not and at the end of the game the only thing that truly matters is who wins.

  1. Eliminating the five-second closely guarded rule while dribbling the ball.

The five second rule is a good one however rarely called. There is no reason whatsoever of eliminating the rule and take away a reward by playing tight legitimate defense on the man with the ball. This is especially amusing as Dick Vitale has for years actively voiced displeasure over the jump ball arrow saying many times it rewards teams 50% of the time that did not force the jump ball through good defense by giving it back to the offensive team.

  1. Removing the prohibition on dunking in pregame warmups.

The dunk has been part of the game for a long time and certainly resonates with the crowd. With limitations dunking in pregame warmups offers nothing more than to rev up the crowd. But at what point does it cross the line. Will it be allowed during warmups to feature lob passes and dunks or dunking contests by players or even more so between players on opposing teams trying to outdo one another.  Every coach has a pregame routine he or she feels best properly conditions their players to be ready for tip off. Let the dunking begin and hold coaches and the bench responsible to keep the “show-time” out of it.

  1. To continue the focus on reducing the number of collisions at the basket, the committee approved the expansion of the restricted area arc from the current 3 feet to 4 feet.

Pushing the arc out a foot may reduce the collision factor, but given the size of athletes once leaving the ground is the distance of four feet any different than three based on the athletes jumping ability. Players are going to be told to power to the basket and defenders are going to meet them there. As long as analysis of player ability includes one’s ability to “finish at the rim” collisions are bound to happen. The idea of the arc initially was to make it easier for referee’s to determine a charge versus a block call in that a defender had to have established position outside of the arc to warrant a charge versus inside the arc which was to be a blocking foul thus preventing a defensive player from undercutting an offensive player especially one already in flight.

In conclusion, it would appear for some reason the NCAA is moving its style of play to mirror more of the international game and that of the NBA than trying to create a better college game.

The fact is the college game is predominantly played by athletes who will never apply their prowess on a professional basis. The fact is that there are 350 D1 basketball schools alone with over 4,000 roster players and once again the NCAA seems more concerned with the 30 or so players nationally that leave early rather than making the game more relevant as regards the more than 4,000 that do not. There is also the fact that until the NCAA formulates and establishes better rules and regulations as regards the youth system and those organizations playing in it and the methods being used the overall problem of young players entering into the college ranks will continue. The IHoops experiment for all that it has done has failed miserably in the oversight of youth development.