Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Tom Keegan: NCAA changes make for prettier game

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor wrestles for position with Oklahoma State guard Jeffrey Carroll, left, and forward Chris Olivier (31) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor wrestles for position with Oklahoma State guard Jeffrey Carroll, left, and forward Chris Olivier (31) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.


That hybrid sport that blended basketball and rugby known as college basketball is shrinking in the rear-view mirror.

Unlike in past years, when the NCAA attempted to legislate a prettier game by floating word that certain types of contact would be called fouls, the intended change has taken shape.

Scoring is up, from an average of to 67.64 points per game to an average of 73.19 points through Sunday’s games. Almost all of that increase has come from the field, not the free-throw line. The number of free throws made per game has increased from 20.16 per game to 21.43.

Attempts in previous years to curtail the sumo wrestling tactics near the hoop followed a disturbing pattern: Word is sent from on high that refs would be enforcing rules they had ignored in the past. The coaches don’t believe the changes will stick. So they don’t change the way they teach defense all that much. Excessive whistles turn the games into unsightly, choppy free-throw shooting contests. Spectators hold their noses and just as the coaches had suspected, the refs return to calling games as they had in the past. Sumo wrestling — which although ugly still beats incessant stopping and starting to the command of the whistle — returned.

The coaches always won the stare downs.

Somehow, NCAA administrators and game referees effectively communicated to the coaches that this time the refs were not going to blink. This time, they meant business and the coaches believed them. So the coaches taught defense based on changes in the rules or in some cases interpretations of existing rules and the intended result of more freedom of movement for offensive players has been realized. With time, the athletes will do an even better job of breaking old habits, foul calls will decrease, however slightly, and prettier offense, if only by a slight, barely noticeable margin, will result.

Let’s hear it for the refs! Hello, is anybody out there? Is this microphone working (tap, tap, tap)? Crickets. That’s OK, refs aren’t supposed to be noticed and only are mentioned when they make a lousy call. They share that fate with third-base coaches.

The paring of the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30, another positive change, also has had an impact on the scoring rise.

Throw a little credit the way of ESPN’s Jay Bilas as well. The E.F. Hutton of the college basketball world, Bilas railed in recent years at the absurdity of the college game surpassing the NBA in terms of physical play under the hoop.


Dale Rogers 6 years, 6 months ago

" refs aren’t supposed to be noticed and only are mentioned when they make a lousy call. "

Well, you should see how much they are "noticed" in THIS home! We either need more officials on the floor or better officials, whatever it takes to have far fewer missed calls and bad calls. Eliminating phantom fouls, would help.

Jack Hoff 6 years, 6 months ago

College basketball has to have the worst refs in competitive sports. I mean I really believe some refs feel like just because they are on the court fans come to watch them blow their dang whistle. If I were to be objective, you can't tell me the refs weren't keeping OY in that game in the first half. Second half they were just flat out bad on both sides. Something has to be done because I'm tired of the ticky tack foul calls, and the John Higgins look at me attitudes by officials.

Michael Lorraine 6 years, 6 months ago

I'd like to see the foul limit go from 5 to 6 and add one if it goes to OT.

Kit Duncan 6 years, 6 months ago

You must have never seen a Jim Bain, Johnny Overby refereed game. Although I get angry with today's refs, their officiating pales in comparison.

Janet Olin 6 years, 6 months ago

Higgins is way up there on the all-time worst list. He thinks people buy tickets to see him toot his whistle and throw his weight around.

6 years, 5 months ago

An interesting article on Higgins, check the game fee! RockChalk!!!

Brad Farha 6 years, 6 months ago

So true Tom. The game is much better this year. Don't get me wrong, I like strong post play, but I'd rather see good defense be the difference.

The part I don't get is what is the difference this year? How did the NCAA officials/refs get the coaches on board?

Joe Joseph 6 years, 6 months ago

Still way too many stoppages in college basketball, but it has become much more watchable this season.

Jerry Walker 6 years, 6 months ago

And particularly irritating is the coach's time out at 8:01...followed by a media time out at 7:57.

They should also get rid of the "use it or lose it" time out in the 1st half. Three time outs for the game are plenty...especially when factoring in the 8 media time outs.

Chandler Accipiter 6 years, 6 months ago

My personal pet peeve is the "held ball" call when a shot is blocked, but maintained by the shooter. This results in more stoppages and disrupts the flow of the game.

Rule 6, Section 4, Article 2 (Pages 70-71/140) states: A held ball occurs when an opponent places his hand(s): a. So firmly on the ball that control cannot be obtained without undue roughness; or b. On the ball to prevent an airborne player from throwing the ball or attempting a try and both players return to the playing court with both hands on the ball or the airborne player returns to the playing court never losing control of the ball.

They should either revise part b or throw it out altogether. Having a hand on the ball for half a second is not a "held ball." It is a blocked shot!

Mike Greer 6 years, 6 months ago

True, but, if an airborne player with the ball returns to the court with the ball, if it's not a held ball it would be a travel, wouldn't it? This would mean any time a player goes airborne to make a shot, if the defensive player puts a hand on it and he can't make a shot, he has to release the ball, it's a turnover either way.

Bret Eckert 6 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like you guys need to grab a whistle a work a couple of games.

Jerry Walker 6 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like you need to develop an awareness of the world around you.

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm with you, Bret. Basketball officiating is extremely difficult. Every person watching on television has a much better view of the game. The players get in the way of viewing, and it's not always possible to be in position even when you're a good referee. The problem is that players have become very strong, and the game was allowed to become physical. Now, out of the bag, that's hard to bring back without making people angry. On the one hand, if you call everything, the game is too disjointed. If you let things slide, it gets too rough. As it is, nobody is happy, but that's about the best it's every going to be.

Scott Smetana 6 years, 6 months ago

Get ready for Saturday's barrage of Whistles and Boos. KSU's game plan will be to hack, push, whine, and boo at EVERY whistle. If I was going, I'd make a Boo Counter sign.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 6 months ago

Nice jab, Scott. Bruce Weber almost gapes, mouth open wide, after every call. Makes me think he is trying to catch flies.

As for this article, I think that the analysis is pretty good. I especially like the insight that people will adapt to the rules when the rules are enforced. That is true in almost all walks of life. It's uncertainty and inconsistency that I don't like.

Michael Lorraine 6 years, 6 months ago

Eliminate the possession arrow after minute 18.

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