Sports

College Basketball: How These New Rules Could Change the Game

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

For as beautiful a game as college basketball, the flaws tend to stick out like a sore thumb. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee is looking to take steps toward rectifying that.

Earlier this year, the rules committee recommended a series of changes that were mostly aimed at speeding up the game and removing some of the physical play. Among these proposals were reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, extending the restricted-area arc, and lessening the number of second-half timeouts. Said NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd:

“The areas of concern in our game have been about pace of play, about scoring, about increased physicality defensively. There are concerns about how long it takes to play our games sometimes, particularly as we’ve introduced review in the last two minutes. I think we’ve addressed all these areas as best we can.”

It’s not surprising that these issues came to the fold. This past 2014-15 season, teams averaged 67.6 points per game — the second lowest in the last 50 seasons — and just 64.8 possessions per game (said to be the lowest since 2002). Of course, pace of play wasn’t the only factor leading to the proposed changes. There was also concern over the increased physicality of the game. As a result, it’s important to look at all the suggestions and see how the game of college basketball could be affected.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Shrinking the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, is the proposal that will likely stand out the most. Interestingly enough, the NCAA tested this change during the 2015 NIT tournament, and the data didn’t suggest this had any negative effect on the game itself. While Byrd did claim that this proposal was at the center of the most debate, ultimately 64% of Division I coaches support this suggestion.

Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self doesn’t think much will change if the shot clock is reduced to 30 seconds. “I think everything that was done was positive and will help our game over time,” Self said. “The rule change the media will probably make a big deal out of is the shot clock going from 35 to 30. That’s not a big deal.”

Self is more excited about the rules that will limit the physicality in the game. The committee hopes to deal with this issue through the following proposals: a stricter enforcement of defensive rules, allowing the offensive players the same protections as defensive players when they go up vertically, and moving restricted-area arc out from 3 to 4 feet

Said Self, “The biggest change you’ll see, more fouls will be called initially. There has been a lot of rough play; a lot of illegal screening, bumping cutters, arm in the back, hand in the back. The game will become more free-flowing.”

All of these proposals should help with the speed of the game. If officials do a better job enforcing the defensive rules, then teams are more likely to give offensive players more space. This will allow for a cleaner and smoother contest. And while this may very well be the case, we believe the proposals which focus on reducing stoppages in the game, will have a greater impact on the overall flow.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan:

“The committee also hopes to speed up games through the reduction of stoppages. It proposed eliminating one timeout per team in the second half of games. It also voted to disallow coaches from calling timeouts from the bench and to blend any timeouts called within 30 game seconds of a planned television timeout into the television timeout itself.”

In our opinion, these are the changes that will play the most significant part in increasing the pace of a college basketball game. By eliminating a timeout in the second half, and blending the timeouts with the planned media breaks, this will limit the “stop and go” that often occurs toward the end of a game. Coaches are prone to taking advantage of these stoppages, often using them as a loophole when the team is lacking timeouts. As a result, the final few minutes of a game can sometimes feel like an eternity. If these proposals go into effect, that may no longer be the case.

It should be noted that none of these potential rules changes can go into effect until they gain approval from the NCAA’s playing rules oversight panel — which meets in June. Still, it’s nice to know that the rules committee recognizes that there are shortcomings in the college game. These proposed changes are a positive step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how others react — should these suggestions be implemented — but we can’t see any real pitfalls.

Change isn’t always good. However, in this particular case, we approve.

All information is courtesy of ESPN.go.com.