Caulton Tudor

New rules curb boot-camp basketball

Posted November 27, 2013

With the first month of the college basketball almost over, it’s apparent that new rules limiting defensive contact are making a substantial impact.

Scoring is up nationally by almost five points per game, and some of the most historically aggressive defensive teams at times have struggled to put away seemingly overmatched opponents.

North Carolina (5-1) suffered an 83-80 loss to Belmont primarily because the Tar Heels missed 26 of 48 free-throw chances.

A week later, the same team stopped 2013 NCAA champ Louisville, 93-84, by converting 26 of 38 free throws and getting a 32-point scoring performance from Marcus Paige, a 6-1, 170-pound sophomore who often got shoved around by physical, hand-checking, total denial defenders as a freshman.

Five ACC players – Paige (22.4), Duke’s Jabari Parker (23.1) and Rodney Hood (21.8), N.C. State’s T.J. Warren (21.2) and Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan – are off to sizzling offensive starts.

Four other ACC players are averaging more than 18 points. One of those players is Wake Forest sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who rarely even looked for his shot a year ago.

‘This is the new game’

In the Big Ten, normally mundane Wisconsin (7-0) is averaging almost 80 points per game against an acceptable early-season schedule.

Why? The Badgers have already shot 136 free throws and have converted 44 percent of their 3-point field goal attempts. 

“This is the new game, there’s no denying it. The rules have changed the way we go,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan told reporters after 86-75 win over St. John’s to start the season. “We’ve got to coach it and teach it, and they’ve got to learn it.”

With its relentless man defense, Duke (5-1) has a long history of absolutely suffocating opposing offenses. But the Blue Devils had to hang on against Vermont (91-90) and ECU (83-74). Vermont shot almost 65 percent and the Pirates went 19-for-20 at the free-throw line.

Long term, the rules will free up court movement only as long as the officials enforce the contact – a dynamic that very well could change once conference play begins in earnest after Christmas.

Officials, like players and coaches, have a tendency to be less proactive when the games seemingly are more important.
But if the current calling trends continue, coaches almost certainly be forced to play more zone defense. Carolina coach Roy Williams, among the strongest of man-defense advocates, used a zone much of the second half against Louisville and totally disrupted the Cardinals offensive flow.

But the defensive rules had to be changed. In fact, it should have been done about a dozen or so years ago. The flashpoint finally hit with Connecticut’s 53-41 win over Butler in the 2011 NCAA title game at Houston.

Butler shot less than 20 percent and Connecticut wasn’t a great deal more accurate (34 percent) in a game that often resembled arm-to-arm combat.

Eventually, game action likely will land in a compromise position. Defenders will find ways to make more contact – particularly off-ball contact – without getting whistled.

But if the officials and conference leaders are smart, they won’t allow the return of boot-camp basketball.

16 Comments

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  • wlcat609 Nov 28, 7:56 a.m.

    From what I've observed so far, college basketball this season will be one big foul shooting contest! How ironic that a d-man can't hand check an offensive player, yet an offensive player can 'clear out' a path with his free arm while dribblinbg or driving to the basket.

  • jmcdow2792 Nov 28, 6:25 a.m.

    I think we are already seeing a moderation in the calls that were made in some of the early games. Some of those were ridiculous with every touch being called. I agree that some changes need to be made to make the game more pure. But, it will not stay like it started off because the fans will not watch games that are nothing more than free throw contests. Either the calls or the playing style will have to change for the game to survive. My guess is both.

  • mittnfriends Nov 27, 9:07 p.m.

    Will we now find out who can actually move their feet and defend?

  • fbguru Nov 27, 4:23 p.m.

    They are calling it TOO close this year. They definitely need to call it closer but I think as of the last games I watched over the weekend, they have gone to the other end of the spectrum and need to get back to a nice medium. I would say probably only "baby blue" Carowhina players want them to call it so close...they, according to their fans, can't take it! Sad.

  • DEVILS1 Nov 27, 1:45 p.m.

    Make ******* adjustments and move on, play the game. Everybody has the same rules. GO DEVILS and beat 'Bama tonight!!!!

  • ezme22 Nov 27, 1:44 p.m.

    mooers never win

  • Toddler10-21 Nov 27, 1:35 p.m.

    No excuses here I can take a loss or losses unlike you. The water boy was sick also is that a excuse too?

  • Objective Scientist Nov 27, 1:27 p.m.

    For me the jury is still out on the impact of the rule changes on college BB... our "sample" of games with the new rules is simply not sufficiently large. That said... such changes were absolutely necessary. Basketball, never intended to be a "contact" sport - had become one! Other than "height" a players size and strength - and blatant, aggressive physical play - should never "trump'" skill in the game of basketball. For me... it is a game in which speed and quickness, ability to start and stop and change direction, to jump, to pass, catch, dribble, and shoot the ball... should be rewarded. The player who "reads" the arch/trajectory of a shot, who 'hustles" and gets the best position - without shoving someone - should get the rebound. No basketball player who is basically a "mugger" should be allowed to use mugging behavior to gain an advantage when playing defense.

  • scousler Nov 27, 1:25 p.m.

    Yeah, I guess we have to back even farther to 83 find a year when NCSU did not have an excuse for failing at post season play or not even getting there.

    Other ACC teams adapt and eventually come out on top - ABCers just hate and stay in their rut.

  • Toddler10-21 Nov 27, 1:14 p.m.

    Excuses dating back to 1998!! Too funny!!

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