Friday’s most important rule changes only matter if refs actually enforce them

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On Friday, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee announced that they had approved a package of proposals designed to improve college basketball, proposals that will become rules if they are approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on a conference call on June 8th.

Many of the proposed rule changes are designed to improve the watchability of the college game. The charge circle will be pushed out a foot to four feet, making it more difficult for weak-side defenders to draw offensive fouls. The number of timeouts that college coaches have at their disposal will be reduced from five to four, and any coach’s timeout that occurs within 30 seconds of a scheduled TV timeout will be used as the TV timeout. There will also be limits on just how long reviews can last, and referees will be able to punish floppers if they review a potential flagrant foul and determine that no contact was made.

The most notable change, however, will be the reduction of the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. It’s a logical and necessary change for no other reason than it simply does not make sense to have men’s college basketball be the lone outlier. The NBA and FIBA use 24-second shot clocks. Women’s basketball uses a 30-second clock. The only high-level basketball league in the world that uses a 35-second clock is men’s college basketball.

Think about it like this: If we were starting the sport of men’s college basketball from scratch today and I proposed that we used a 35-second clock just to be different, no one would take me seriously. I’d probably get laughed at because everyone would assume such an asinine idea had to be a joke and thrown out of the room when they realized that I was, in fact, being serious.

The bottom line is that the only reason a team used all 35 seconds on the shot clock was because that was their game-plan. All this reduction will do is take away five seconds of false motion or five seconds of a point guard dribbling out the shot clock for the teams that want to slow the pace.

And even then, it’s hard to imagine this reduction really changing the college game all that much, particularly in the short-term.

The same can be said for the other proposed rule changes I mentioned earlier.

Moving the charge circle out a foot will make offensive players more likely to attack the rim. One NBA scout told me this season that he got frustrated scouting college games because the guys he was watching were afraid to attack the rim. It was too easy to draw a charge, so he couldn’t get a feel for how the kids he was scouting could finish when they were challenged by a shot blocker. Watching dunks in traffic and defenders block potential posters is as entertaining as any moment in sports, and maybe this rule helps make that happen more often.

But how often are we really going to see a poster? Maybe once per game, if that? Maybe 20 more vines go viral during the 2015-16 season, but mostly, this rule will just reduce the amount of bitching and moaning I do about awful charge calls.

The rule changes about timeouts and reviews will also help with the pace of play, especially at the end of games, but fans are already tuning into end-of-game situations regardless of how quickly or slowly they happen.

And those end up being, what, the final five or ten minutes of a broadcast?

If we really want to improve the sport, if we really want to get casual fans interested in more than just the NCAA tournament and the chance to see a buzzer-beater at the end of a Big Monday game, the emphasis needs to be on bringing back the freedom of movement rules that were put into place in the 2013-14 season.

“The increase in the physicality of play has been a major concern for coaches,” Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter, the president of the NABC, said. “The NCAA rules committee has addressed that this week with an emphasis on perimeter defense and post play.”

Kansas head coach Bill Self agreed.

“I do think the biggest thing that needed to be done was to clean up the game to basically call the game that the rules were intended for it to be called,” he told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “And it’s not officials’ fault. It’s a combination of officials, coaches, everything, because coaches get by with as much as they can get by with.”

Self is right.

The changes that were made at the start of the 2013-14 season lasted into conference play, but not much further than that. Eventually, the combination of coaches complaining, fan pushback and referees getting tired of blowing a whistle on every possession more or less nullified those rule changes. In simpler terms, the coaches told their players to keep playing the way they were playing because the refs simply would not call every single foul.

There’s a simple way to solve that problem, a simple way to change the way that the college game is played: Call those fouls.

Every. Single. One.

Every hand check, every hold, every cutter that’s “bumped” with a forearm shiver to the collarbone, every defender that tries to take a charge by sliding under an offensive player that’s already in the air.

The rules need to change the way that coaches teach defense, and the only way to do that is by making it impossible to win the old way.


Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.