The NCAA has turned up the heat in the foul department, mandating its’ officials to make more calls throughout the country. If the first week was any indication, it’s working.
There are obviously going to be people on both sides of the fence as to whether this is good for the game or can even be maintained consistently. But the first thing for everyone to remember is this; these so-called ‘new’ rules aren’t actually ‘new’ at all. Listening to most of the announcers try and call these games while talking about the ‘new’ rules is just agitating. They are the exact same rules as have been around in the college rule books forever, but are simply being enforced again.
As college basketball has gotten more and more athletic, referees have let the players play more in an attempt not to ‘decide the game’. Now they are tightening it back up across the board, which for some conferences is a culture shock change. Truthfully, as many coaches will tell you, when a player fouls on a game deciding play and you let the play go as an official, you are deciding the game anyway. At that point however, the cheater gets away with the victory, while the rightful player and team gets hosed. That’s pretty much the way it plays out throughout the game as well.
The rules committee is right to get officials to actually do their job again. However after watching the first week of the season, it’s apparent to me that neither the players nor the officials will hit their full groove til about midway through the conference season. Why? Because there are now too many fouls being called. Not necessarily by number, but by design.
A touch still isn’t a foul, or at least it shouldn’t be. Not all hands on the body out top are plays that deserve a call. The arm-bar that the committee is looking to eliminate, isn’t happening in all post up situations where a foul is being called. But this will change a little bit as the season progresses.
Yes, the officials need to stay in their whistles for this to work, but the idea is to allow a more free-flowing game. A hand-check should be called on a play where the contact from the hand or arm of the defender influences where the dribbler must go more than his defensive position does, not when a hand goes out to touch an opponent. It could and should also be called when a player reaches out and grabs the dribblers’ jersey or shorts to slow him down.
Likewise, an arm-bar should be called when it prevents the offensive post up player from moving to a spot he legally should be able to get to, not when the defender sets his hand on the back of a post. This should also be called when the offensive post up player is forced out of his vertical alignment because of an arm or body forcing him forward. And chucking cutters through the lane… well, we’ve seen guys get splattered going through the lane without calls in the past and that’s just unacceptable.
It will improve college basketball once the officials find out that they can still let the players play while enforcing the right kinds of fouls. It seems really easy from a fan’s perspective but when something like this is mandated from above there is an immediate overreaction by those with the job to make sure they don’t get reprimanded. The NCAA wants to see more fouls in the right situations, not more fouls overall. That’s the essence of a ‘more free-flowing’ game.
For a while though, more fouls overall will occur because the players have to adjust as well. The stronger guy no longer necessarily has the advantage, which is a tough concept to be rid of. If you’re looking for comparison, think NFL with their five yard contact rule on receivers (something I cannot believe the NCAA hasn’t adopted), or the defenseless player rule, it’s the same thing here except on a much smaller level.
The NCAA is trying to clean up the game, which is great, it will just take some getting used to for all parties.