Through multiple NCAA rules changes, college hoops, both for men and women, will look like a very different game come fall.
The main changes on the men’s side of the ball include: reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30, increasing the restricted area under the basket from three feet to four feet, and reducing the number of timeouts allowed in the second half from four to three.
These rules were all created with one goal in mind— to create more scoring. Much was said last winter about University of Virginia’s slow “grind it out” style of play being bad for the game. Some college basketball viewers thought, despite the Cavaliers being arguably the best team in the nation for much of the year, the way the team went about its business was too slow and too boring.
Thus, the shot clock was reduced. I have mixed feelings about this change. There is no question that it will have a large impact on the game and create its desired effect. This decreased shot clock was experimented with in last year’s NIT and resulted in a near 10 percent increase in scoring.
However, this removes room for strategy and forces teams that do slow the ball down to play quicker than they are naturally inclined to play. Watching battle for control of tempo between UVA and transition-focused teams such as UNC was thrilling, but I don’t think the NCAA should be creating rules to bring all teams closer in style of play. It may make a better product for the casual fan, but not for the serious basketball viewer.
Extending the restricted area from three to four feet is another scoring-driven change, the idea behind this being that players attempt to draw less charges and contest less shots around the rim, leading to more scoring.
This is a change that I cannot get behind at all. Charges are a huge part of the college game. They are an art. Drawing a charge is a momentum play that can change the course of the game, and is far more exciting than the uncontested layups this rule breeds.
The best changes the NCAA made are, without a doubt, those in regards to timeouts. The reduction in second-half timeouts from four to three is fine. No coach needed to call a timeout every five minutes. However, the best change made was altering how coaches timeouts interacted with media timeouts.
Previously, if a coach called a timeout at 8:05 on the game clock, the media timeout would still occur five seconds later. This caused the game to be have an unnecessary amount of downtime (you want to talk about something that might drive away the casual fan…). Now, any coaches timeout called within 30 seconds of a media stoppage will replace the TV timeout. This is a fantastic rule that will prevent games from feeling choppy.
Despite the impact all of these alterations will have on the game, none of them are nearly the most influential that the NCAA made. That’s because the most drastic changes were to women’s basketball.
Women’s college basketball will now be four 10-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves. Timeouts called in the last minute of each half will also advance the ball to the front court, much like the NBA. This leads to more buzzer-beaters and game winners. And who can’t get behind more buzzer beaters? Good work on that one, NCAA.
These changes are speculated by many to be trials for the men’s game. The NCAA will watch the women’s game and see if it believes any positive outcome of the changes would translate to men’s basketball as well.
However, I hope that the NCAA will be careful with what it changes. For example, I hope the NCAA does not adopt quarters for the men’s game, as I do not like it in the women’s game.
But with all of these rule changes, the expressed focus is to increase scoring. And slowly but surely, the NCAA is using these rule changes to make college basketball more similar to the NBA.
Yet, I propose that the dichotomy between college hoops and professional basketball is what makes watching so great. Leave the framework of the game how it is. Make teams grind it out for 20 minute halves. Let coaches have 35 seconds per possession if they choose to win that way.
Don’t bring us toward four quarters of NBA isolation ball. No one wants that, no matter how many points it puts up. College basketball is beautiful because it’s a team oriented game, not a star-driven league like the NBA.
Let’s leave college basketball’s rules the same and keep them that way… except that rule that gives us more buzzer-beaters. We’ll take that one.
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