NCAA rules changes bring higher scoring
Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 23:01
Before the 2013-14 college basketball season tipped off on Nov. 8, the NCAA rules committee voted several officiating guidelines into enforceable rules in an effort to improve the flow of the game and promote increased scoring.
Last season, the NCAA suffered its lowest scoring average since 1981-82, when teams averaged just 67.5 points a game. The changes to this year’s officiating aim to increase scoring in games by holding defenders to stricter standards and allowing offenses greater freedom of movement.
The new rules place further emphasis on how a defender can legally defend the player with the ball. Hand-checks, jabs and armbars are now called with greater consistency, forcing defenders to move their feet and play fundamentally sound defense instead of reaching or grabbing at the offense.
This new emphasis on defensive fundamentals was met with varying degrees of apprehension from many collegiate coaches, who feared the crackdown on defenders would result in endless trips to the foul line.
"I think it will be terrible," said Southern Methodist coach Larry Brown at the start of the season. "There's no doubt in my mind that they're trying to do the right thing and their intentions are good, but I don't think this is the solution. This is going to ruin the flow of the game."
John Adams, the NCAA national coordinator of men's basketball officiating, spoke to CBSsports.com on Thursday at the mid-point of the season and assessed how the new rules were effecting the game.
"Given everything that was thrown at officials this year … I think they've done a very, very good job of adapting quickly and officiating games according to the standards of the NCAA and their conferences,” Adams said. “I don't think there's any question that anecdotally these rule changes have worked. Scoring through Jan. 5 was up six and half points through this time last year. There were only four more fouls per game. Turnovers are down almost two per game and with exception of (Kentucky-Arkansas), the games that we're able to time are coming, the vast majority, under two hours.”
Tuesday’s Kentucky-Arkansas game, which Adams referenced as an “exception”, saw the Razorbacks upset No. 13 Kentucky in a wild overtime finish. Lost in the excitement of the put-back dunk that ultimately delivered Arkansas the win were the 60 fouls called by officials, which resulted in 81 foul shots and a game lasting two and half hours.
The game almost ended in regulation due to another new rule this season — when Arkansas forward Alandise Harris hit a layup with 9.5 seconds left on the clock, he also drew a blocking call on Willie Cauley-Stein, which he promptly cashed in to complete a three-point play and lead Kentucky 74-71.
This season, when an offensive player begins his upward motion to pass or shoot, the defender must be in legal guarding position in order to successfully draw a charge. The intention is that this rule will allow officials to be see the play clearly and make the right call.
Now halfway through the season, it appears the new rules are having the desired effect.
“A clear chain reaction progression has developed to help explain the statistical differences from last year to this year,” said Kevin Pauga, a former data analyst for the Big 10 Conference and director of basketball operations at Michigan State. “More fouls and free throws are leading to shorter possessions and hence more possessions ... The increase in possessions is critical to the rest of the analysis ... Points per possession are up 2.8 percent.”