Now that we’re a month into the college basketball season, it’s a good time to take a look at the impact that the new points of emphasis regarding contact have had on the sport. Of course there have been some foul-fests due to the combination of players and officials working to adjust to the rules that are now enforced with greater consistency, but for the most part the numbers show that the results have been positive.
According to the NCAA scoring has increased by more than six points per game (67.5 ppg in 2012-13 to 73.8 ppg), and field goal percentage is up more than a full percentage point from last season (43.3% to 44.7%). Fouls committed (plus-2 per game) and the number of free throws attempted (plus-5) have increased as well, but not to the point where the entire sport’s going downhill as some seemed to believe during the first two weeks of the season.
“I think all those numbers are good. A lot of people have thought, well, they’re scoring more points just because they’re shooting more free throws. It doesn’t seem to me those numbers reflect that totally,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd, chair of the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee.
This move was made in the summer after extensive consultation – and agreement – among coaches, officials, rules-makers and the NCAA. By general acclamation, the game had grown too gritty and too physical. The path to the basket was a forearm-lined gauntlet, and defense was a little too reminiscent of a goal-line stand.
The adjustment to the new legislation is still a work in progress, with some teams still struggling with the concept of not using their hands when defending. And as the season wears on teams should be well-adjusted. But with conference play around the corner there’s the question of how much (if at all) will things change from an officiating standpoint.
Your more physical leagues tended to allow more contact defensively over the years. Will that once again be the case when teams start to play more familiar opponents with officials who are more familiar with particular conferences presiding over the action? That’s the next test for these changes, and the results should provide greater evidence as to how effective the changes have been.