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.