Every year college basketball officials have points of emphasis that they’ll be focusing on during the season. It’s a familiar pattern: talk about the need to enforce the new rules, do so during a decent portion of the non-conference schedule…and then go right back to the way things were when conference play begins.
Entering the 2013-14 season the goal is to increase the freedom of movement for offensive players, which would (in theory) lead to improved shooting and scoring numbers. Last year was one of the worst ever in college basketball in regards to offensive production, as teams averaged 67.5 points per game (the lowest average since 1951-52) and three-point shooting was as low as it’s ever been since the shot was instituted during the 1986-87 season. Meanwhile the number of fouls called in games decreased, with the bumping of cutters and other forms of contact that restrict freedom of movement going uncalled on a regular basis.
With officials, under the direction of NCAA Director of Officiating John Adams, now instructed to call such contact more frequently will things change? According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com while some coaches feel that the changes will result in more fluid play, there are others who remain skeptical that the necessary calls will be made consistently.
“I think it’s good for the game,” Kentucky’s John Calipari said in a news conference Tuesday. “But we’re all wondering whether they will make the same calls in January, February and March that they make in November and December. I think they are convinced they are.”
With there being 32 conferences across the country, and many having their own director of officiating (some conferences have entered into multi-league officiating alliances), establishing consistency can be an issue. But based upon the numbers from last season there was an evident need to make some changes. Will increased freedom of movement automatically mean higher scoring numbers? No, because players still have to knock down shots.
But making sure issues such as bumping cutters and using one’s hand or forearm to impede the progress of an offensive player are addressed could result in teams finding higher percentage shots, and that’s what would lead to the improved scoring. Coaches and players will have to adjust some, but if this can lead to better flow during the season’s most important stretches (conference and postseason play) college basketball will be better for it.
Whether or not officials consistently apply the new rules remains to be seen, however.
Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.
“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”
The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.
What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.
The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.
Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.
Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.
Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.