The biggest concern for many coaches — and journalists — heading into this season was how the new handchecking rules would affect college basketball.
If you haven’t been paying attention all summer, the facts are simple: the college game had far-too-often turned into low-scoring slugfests and the theory was that it was the result of referees becoming too tight with their whistle. Defenders were allowed to be to physical, eliminating freedom of movement and making the game difficult to play for kids that weren’t built like a fullback.
So the NCAA instituted some rule changes which weren’t exactly rule changes. Refs have been told to make a point of calling handchecks, eliminating armbars in the post and making it tougher to bump cutters heading through the lane.
Some of the numbers from the first weekend are in, and it’s quite obvious: referees are calling more fouls.
Jeff Eisenberg of The Dagger crunched the numbers. The first weekend saw an averaged of 42.29 fouls called per game, up from 35.3 a season ago. Nearly 20% of all games had more than 50 fouls called, and there were seven games with more than 60 fouls, the most notable being the 73-foul, 102=free throw whistlefest between Seton Hall and Niagara on Saturday night.
So yes, the games have been uglier. More fouls have been called. But it’s also worth noting: teams averaged 73.1 points this season, up from 67.5 points last season. And based on some numbers that were crunched by KPI Sports, only half of that increase was the result of teams getting paraded to the foul line.
The bottom-line is this: it was the first weekend of the season. Players, coaches and refs are still learning to adjust to the new way the old rules are being enforced. One weekend that featured a couple of ugly games is just that: one weekend with a couple of ugly games.
Players will adapt as long as the refs remain consistent in how they call the game. If they don’t, they’ll be spending a lot of time on the bench in foul trouble, and I can guarantee you that there isn’t a single player in the country that likes doing that.