Press Box: Possible rules changes on the way in college basketball

Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune

The squeaky wheel will be getting some grease, it appears.

After a March filled with equal parts madness and griping about bad offense in college basketball, some changes might be coming. The NCAA men’s basketball rules committee recommended a package of proposals Friday that would alter the way college hoops is played.

The most notable proposals:

• Changing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.

• Cutting back on timeouts.

• Expanding the restricted-area arc beneath the hoop from three to four feet.

The shot clock proposal has gotten plenty of attention, but don’t overlook the timeout changes. For one, any timeouts taken within 30 seconds before the next media timeout will automatically become a media timeout. This would get rid of that frustrated refrains of “What do you mean we’re going to commercial break already?” that surface every time a coach happens to call a timeout right before the regularly scheduled one.

Also, the number of timeouts would be reduced from five to four, and only three can carry over to the second half — which would hopefully get rid of the timeout-paloozas that seem to happen at the end of every close game. Additionally, under the new proposals referees would be more strict about resuming play after timeouts.

These changes address the most common complaint about college basketball: sometimes it just gets hard to watch — especially with all the stoppages. One former NCAA official described some games as “just not edible.” I don’t know about eating college basketball games, but they can sure be hard on the eyes sometimes.

This is the same motivation behind shortening the shot clock. In theory, teams would get more possessions, which would lead to more offense. And more scoring equals more excitement.

I think the theory is sound. Scoring would likely increase somewhat, as it did marginally when tested in postseason tournaments like the NIT this year. One issue is whether or not a five second decrease would make enough of an impact. (The NBA’s shot clock lasts just 24 seconds.) But I think it’s a step in the right direction, as it would likely force some coaches to revamp their offensive strategies.

One problem with the shorter shot clock, as a friend pointed out to me, is that the more possessions in a game, the more likely it is the better team would win. I don’t remember much from my freshman statistics class, but I know that while my younger sister might be able to fluke out a win against me in a single game of tennis, I would win out in the long run. (Assuming I’m better than her at tennis. Which I am. Sorry, sis.)

I certainly would be hesitant to do anything to make it tougher for Cinderella teams to pull off upsets — the biggest edge college basketball has on the NBA, in my opinion — but since it’s only a five-second shift, maybe 30 seconds is a nice middle ground.

Moving out the restricted-area arc has me a little concerned. It’s already too easy for players to draw fouls by driving the lane, and taking away space in which a defender can draw a charge would seem to exacerbate that. But, at large, I’m happy with the list of suggestions.

If nothing else, it’s nice to see the sports world taking a critical look at the games themselves — as we’ve seen recently with baseball, especially — and asking themselves if the games could be made better. Sports are nothing without tradition, and it can be hard to accept any alterations to a sport you grew up with, but just think where we’d be if football had never embraced the forward pass. (Someone should probably let Jeff Fischer in on that, by the way.)

They don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but keeping them greased — and rotated every 5,000 miles — can’t hurt.

And it sure seems like college basketball is due for a tune-up.




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