University of Miami coach Larranaga reacts to an official's call during the first half of their second round NCAA basketball game against Pacific University in Austin

Improving offensive production will require consistent enforcement of new rules

1 Comment

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.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Leave a comment

Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 11.57.22 PM
Leave a comment

Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.