Rule changes could make college hoops watchable again

Friday was a good day for college basketball. And if all goes according to plan, some day we may look back and say it was historically great.

Thanks to recommonded rules changes and officiating directives from the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee, men’s college basketball should be a more watchable game starting next season. The headlines will focus on shortening the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, but the rules committee went well beyond that highly publicized part of the game with their alterations.


The majority of the proposals focus on impoving the pace of play, balancing offense with defense and reducing the physicality in the sport. With scoring tumbling to 67.6 points a game last season – almost a historic low – the committee gathered data and opinions before releasing its recommendations Friday.

In addition to the low scoring and slow tempo, fans have grown tired of the endless stream of timeouts, especially in late-game situations. The committee recommended removing one team timeout (five to four, with only three carrying over to the second half) and focused on quickly resuming play. Officials will have the option of a delay of game warning, followed by a one-shot technical foul on subsequent violations.

And when a team calls a timeout to discuss strategy within 30 seconds of a scheduled media timeout (16, 12, 8 and 4 minute marks of each half), that will stand for the so-called media break. In addition, the committee took away the ability of the head coach to call timeout during a live ball.

“I think the areas of concern in our game have been about pace of play, they’ve been about scoring, they’ve been about increased physicality offensively,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd, chairman of the rules committee.  “There are concerns about how long it takes to play our game sometimes, particularly as we’ve introduced [officials’] review in the last two minutes.  I think we’ve addressed all of these areas as best we can.”

The reduction of the shot clock is the first in college basketball since 1993-94 when the 45-second clock was adjusted to 35 seconds. After four days of meeting in Indianapolis, the committee made a move that is likely to be debated up to the start of the season.  Some coaches and observers, after watching an experimental 30-second clock in postseason play such as the NIT, don’t think the change will make much difference. But a majority of coaches responded to a survey by saying it was time for a new time measurement.

“Well over 60% of coaches were in favor of the reduction of the shot clock,” Byrd said.  “That had some impact on that decision.

“There was a total discussion about the 30‑second shot clock, the pluses and minuses.  In fact, when we got to that topic, I asked everyone in the room to give their opinion about how they felt about it, how it would affect the game.  It was the most compelling time in the four years I’ve been on this committee to hear what folks thought.

“There are people in that room that personally think that 35 is better than 30.  If there weren’t, I’d be surprised and almost disappointed because it’s not a perfect solution to anything.”

The proposals next go to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. It is unusual for proposals to be overturned. Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball, said the oversight panel was part of the discussions and understands the proposal to increase the restricted area arc in front of the basket from three feet to four feet. Byrd said 64 percent of Division I coaches favored that.

“We had very few close votes,” Byrd said.  “Everybody listened and at the end they tried to do what was in the best interest of the game, even though personally they might not have agreed with it.

“Look, we kind of had a charge, I don’t know who from, but there were several issues.  You’ve heard them and talked about them.  The last two minutes of the game, how long they take.  We tried to address that as best we can without changing our game as we know it, changing the way guys coach the game.”

The committee discussed the growing issue of players attempting to draw fouls by deceiving officials, better known as flopping. The committee proposed a rule that will allow officials to penalize faking fouls during the use of video to review a possible flagrant foul.

Other proposals approved by the committee include:

– To allow officials to use the monitor to review a potential shot clock violation on made field goals throughout the entire game.

– To make Class B technical fouls (e.g., hanging on the rim, delaying the resumption of play, etc.) one-shot technical fouls. Currently, two shots are granted for these types of technical fouls.

– To eliminate the 5-second closely guarded rule while dribbling the ball.

– To remove the prohibition of dunking in pregame warmups.

The 30-second shot clock and lane contact rules were used experimentally by the NIT, CBI and CIT last postseason. In 2016, those tournaments – but not the NCAA tournament – can experiment with an extra foul for each player. That translates into six fouls for disqualification – same as the NBA.

“I thought that it might be a good time to consider six,” Byrd said, “because if we are going to crack down a little bit more on the physicality of our game, simply call the fouls as they’re called, on the one hand it might send a signal that you can be more physical, on the other hand you wouldn’t be fouling important players out of the game or sitting them on the bench with 15 minutes to go in the first half.”

Byrd said he was more than happy with the spirit of the committee and the commitment to improving the game.

“Writing rules is not always easy,” he said.  “There’s a lot of people in the room with different viewpoints.  But the way this committee came together to try to do what’s best for our game was pretty impressive to me.”







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