Sunday, October 25, 2015


Column: NCAA rules should help hoops

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) is fouled as he comes down with an offensive rebound over Baylor guard Lester Medford (11) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) is fouled as he comes down with an offensive rebound over Baylor guard Lester Medford (11) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.


The smooth, skilled Golden State Warriors used free-flowing, stylish basketball and defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six in the NBA Finals last June.

That brand of basketball sure beat the lean-on-me-I’ll-lean-on-you-harder battles that in recent decades too often left tall men in basketball jerseys looking more like one boxer clinching another in the corner of the ring.

When the NBA, which has far better shooters and even faster athletes than the college game, plays a more entertaining style on top of the unavoidable advantages, it became past-due time for the NCAA to see if it could legislate its way to prettier basketball.

It did, but enforcing rules intended to create freedom of movement from offensive players and promote scoring presents a far greater challenge than simply changing rules and points of emphasis.

Curtis Shaw, supervisor of Big 12 basketball officials, spoke last week at the conference’s Media Day in Kansas City about “what we call the five major changes in basketball,” intended to allow basketball players to show their skills without facing football-like defenses.

The refs, per an NCAA press release, have been told to “reduce physicality in order to create freedom of movement,” in five areas:

• Hand-checking/body-bumping the ball-handler

• Physical post play and rebounding

• Freedom of movement for players without the ball (cutters)

• Screening — stationary screens required

• Offense-initiated contact with legal defenders

Other changes include reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, expanding the restricted-arc area under the basket from three to four feet, a reduction of 30-second timeouts from four to three and limiting coaches to calling timeouts during dead-ball situations (yes!).

Among the changes Shaw demonstrated while showing game videos was one that forbids what’s known as “chucking” a cutter, basically breaking his flow by giving him a forearm, subtle shove, or a hip.

“The only way you can stop a cutter who is illegally cutting through is, beat him to the spot with your body and stay in front of them,” Shaw said. “In no way can you initiate into them with an arm, hip, anything. You have to be legal.”

That’s a welcome change, one that gives refs more to watch off the ball and therefore will require a big adjustment on their part and the guts to call consistently what always had been legal and drilled passionately by coaches into their players’ brains.

Shaw explained some of the changes in the post.

“We don’t want mosh pits, and, unfortunately, that’s what we got to,” Shaw said. “We lost the art of boxing out legally, and we have to get that back. ... If an offensive player makes a legal post-up, which means ... they get the defense pinned on the back side, and they can move their back side to maintain it, we’re not going to let (defenders) use a knee, a swim stroke or any other movement to get around.

“I’ve had coaches going around saying, ‘Well, how do we defend the post?’ I said, ‘You’ve either got to front, beat them to the spot, double-team or play from behind.’ You cannot, when you lose position, just displace the player who has gotten in legal position.”

In past years, most notably two seasons ago, efforts to clean up the game sometimes have resulted in so many whistles early in the year resulting in games that have no rhythm and leave crowds restless, even bored. Then as the season goes on, the new emphasis gives way to old ways, and except for muddying up the beginning of the season, not much really has changed.

Most signs point to the refs maintaining enforcement this time.

“Two years ago, the emphasis was on the perimeter,” Kansas University coach Bill Self said at Big 12 Media Day. “This is an emphasis on everything. On an out-of-bounds under (the basket) play, if we start with my hands on him, foul. There’s not going to be any hesitation.

“This won’t trail off. It’s the mandate from the head of the heads all the way down to everybody. Commissioners will be involved if they are not enforcing the rules or calling it the way they intended it to be called.”

In the short term, this will hurt Kansas more than most because Self has done such an excellent job through the years at coaching players to defend with physicality off the ball.

Over time, things will even out because Self will do a better job than most of communicating the changes to his players and getting them to do what he wants them to do.

“The most physical team in the past seemed to me to always have an advantage,” Self said. “We took great pride in our teams being physical. The team that hits first and team that doesn’t allow you to get to your spot, teams like that will be the teams in foul trouble and the opponents will be shooting a lot of free throws.”

Self said that he thinks basketball will “become a — ‘finesse’ game may not be the right word — but you can almost use that word. There will be more freedom of movement to actually make plays offensively.”

That sounds terrific. I wish he had stopped there, because I had been trying to suppress the potential dreaded consequence of the rules changes. But he didn’t stop there. He said it.

“I think there will be a ton of free throws,” Self said, words that had the same impact on my ears as someone snapping gum loudly while dragging fingernails across a chalkboard and telling me the kitchen just ran out of flan.

Therein lies the challenge for those charged with legislating and enforcing a better game: Find the best way to do it without turning games into a boring succession of:

  1. Whistle.
  2. Everybody stops.
  3. One player shoots an uncontested 15-footer.
  4. Go back to the beginning and repeat steps 1 through 3.

It’s definitely a worthy cause. Here’s hoping coaches, players and partisan fans will try to put themselves in the refs’ sneakers and show them patience. Yeah, that’s going to happen.


Rodney Crain 5 years, 12 months ago

I would think this would help out teams that play zone due to less chances to foul vs man to man defenses. Until the players adjust, and I think this will take a third of the season or more, our rotation will be expanding as fouls accumulate. The officials will be learning on the job too.

This is a lot for the officials to manage with the shot clock, arc, other changes on top of a focus to call the rules more closely. At least offer an option to keep the best players on the floor. I would like to see them experiment in exhibition games with 6 fouls to see how that might help keep the best players on each team on the floor more.

I loved the changes to the game to speed it up, create more space, and scoring, but adding this change on calling the rules more closely at the same time seems like we will not gain anything. The games will slow down, turn possessions and games into free throw contests and take the best players off the floor more often.

Something had to be done, but this seems like too much at once to me.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 12 months ago

Really good post RC. What do you think about KU going to a zone for the majority of the game?

Rodney Crain 5 years, 12 months ago

Marius I dont know if Self can go that route. So hard to change that much but I guess we will have to see what happens.

My worry is that there are so many variables in play now how do you know what to tweak if you are not getting the desired results you are after? Talk about a overcorrection.

Greg Lux 5 years, 12 months ago

This, I predict, will be another foul-fest that will eventually change little. Just like two years ago it will start brutally and in the end change little because the MONEY will error on the side of time. As in games becoming little more then free-throw shooting contest that will run so long that TV networks will yell FOUL! Fan will turn away and sponsors will scream for faster play and eventually the money guys will win out in the end. Yes it would be nice to live in a perfect world, but we don't and for all the great ideas on how to make the game "better" the simple truth is " People don't want to watch free-throw shooting contests masked at basketball games." Some of the ideas are good and should be implemented as in "Freedom of movement for players without the ball (cutters)". Some are just too hard to apply as in "Hand-checking/body-bumping the ball-handler." If I was a ball handler I would go right at the defender. Only time will tell but I sadly believe it is going to be painful operation without much hope for success.

Erich Hartmann 5 years, 11 months ago

GREAT point! The games that screw up the broadcast timeslots, and the millions of advertising dollars potentially affected, will surely cause the NCAA to reconsider how they handle their "marketable product". It is mostly about money, after all.

Robert Brock 5 years, 12 months ago

New offense: get to the big halo, get bumped, shoot freethrows.

John Boyle 5 years, 12 months ago

The NBA game sucks. Why would we want the college game to emulate it?? Why don't we just go full out NBA and have 4 players go to the corners and have one drive to the basket and if he is stopped we will call a foul. That's awfully fun to watch. (Sarcasm intended)

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 12 months ago

A question I have asked myself too many times to count.

Eric TheCapn 5 years, 12 months ago

Hear, hear! Even the shot-clock thing is bad to me. I can't stand the NBA, despite the talent. Snoozefest. A couple of the rules are decent, but stop trying to emulate the NBA!

Chris Shaw 5 years, 12 months ago

Jay Bilas on fire on twitter in regards to Diallo and Coaches being fired in football mid-season.

None by Jay Bilas

Some of favorite tweets:

"NCAA: Stop embarrassing yourself, clear KU's Diallo. You cleared his teammate, but question courses in Mali? Please."

"NCAA shouldn't be in elgiility business. Each school can decide whom to admit, educate, and whom to give a uniform."

"No, the NCAA is at fault. There is no rule that says Diallo's clearance should be delayed. This is nonsense."

"With all the early, mid-season firings, can we officially declare college sports not amateur nor "About Education"?" (He linked the University of Miami firing head coach being fired yesterday)

"Any institution admitting exceptions has "sold it's soul" Including yours and mine. The rest is a question of degree." (More about football firings)

"No. Player pay is no different that grad student pay or giving scholarships. Have whatever standard, conditions you like." (About both football and basketball)

Bilas is on fire! And yet, we still have too many people turing a blind eye to what is really going on.

Rob Bedford III 5 years, 12 months ago

Skal was cleared for Kentucky. Hopefully Diallo is next.

Chris Shaw 5 years, 12 months ago

2 completely different cases, but hopefully.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 12 months ago

They are two completely different cases. Skal was actually ruled ineligible by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, so he played his senior season for a team affiliated with Hamilton's nonprofit, Reach Your Dream Prep.

I Googled "Reach Your Dream Prep" and found very little about the academic program and none of what I found sounded legit. Reach Your Dream Prep, founded and run by Hamilton, doesn't appear to be a school at all. It may not even exist. Labissiere isn't even pretending it does, planning to take his classes at the (real) high school he's not eligible to play ball for.

CBS Sports has a story featuring this pronouncement from one coach who's been in on Labissiere's recruitment: "I doubt the kid ever plays one minute in college. The whole thing is a mess. I just feel sorry for the kid."

And yet he is cleared before Diallo. The NCAA is a joke organization

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 12 months ago

I'm not real sure I'll be able to knowledgeably follow the game for the next several months. Perhaps a series of instructional tapes could be loaded onto monitors in the DeBruce Center next to the Original Rules of Basketball.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 12 months ago

Better start making FT's because there's going to be a lot of them this year if the refs call tge game like they should while teams adjust to the rules.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 12 months ago

Agree. A lot of games this year may be decided by free-throw shooting percentage. I hope Coach Self made that a priority.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 12 months ago

Its interesting that the overall goal was to increase scoring in all this hot mess. Yet you are going to increase PT of players who would not play that much, trying to hit free throws while the refs try to wear out a whistle.

Excellent Idea. Lets change almost everything and see if anything works.

All you have done with the short shot clock in speed up the time that a foul is called.

Ron Sterling 5 years, 12 months ago

I seriously doubt that the change in rules emphasis will result in either long-term changes in the way the game is called nor long-term changes in the amount of scoring in college ball. Less talented players playing fewer minutes with defenses having to defend fewer seconds still isn't going to result in that many more points. And a foul fest is a million times less watchable than the type of physicality that has become the norm. The way to change the culture or basketball is to sweep out all the old refs in one fell swoop. Not an easy thing to do, but it's the only realistic way to affect long-term change.

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