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.