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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  • ooksucks lol Nov 27, 12:13 p.m.

    Teams always tried to physically punish North Carolina players who were bigger, and it often resulted in injuries. I am happy to see the changes, through they need to be dialed down just a hair.

  • Tizu Nov 27, 12:24 p.m.

    Teams always tried to physically punish North Carolina players who were bigger, and it often... View More

    — Posted by ooksucks lol

    Agreed. I think they're calling it a little too closely. Every little touch is a foul now...I've noticed a difference in the length of the games due to it as well. a game that used to last an hour and 45 minutes now lasts almost 2 hours...some are going over 2 hours.

  • scousler Nov 27, 12:33 p.m.

    Defensive checking has needed to be curbed in college basketball for almost 20 years.

    The tough in the face man-to-man coincides with the disappearance of the stall and the advent of the shot clock.

    UNC lost to Utah in the 1998 final four. Utah basically manhandled the 'heels, limiting the scoring of 2 future NBA allstars - Jamison and Vince Carter. With the hand check fouls being called this season, Carolina would have won that game easily.

    It pushed UNC to adapt away from a finesse game to more physical play, now the opposite is true..can Duke adapt? It appears that UNC is better positioned to do so.

  • UNCmonkey Nov 27, 12:36 p.m.

    honestly you can't really call the new rules a success based on the increase in scoring - the increase in foul shots being taken alone is enough to account for the marginal scoring average increase. I agree too that the major impact so far has been to SLOW the offensive flow of the game and extend games to 2+ hours of TV time. Now i'm not complaining about longer basketball games - I'm all for more college bball! I just wish the rules did what they said they were going to do: make the offense flow better and curtail the overly physical nature of low-post defending. I don't think the rules were intended to increase touch fouls in the back court or off the ball; its simply an unfortunate side-effect here early on as teams and officials adjust to how to play under / enforce the new rules.

  • todmax Nov 27, 12:53 p.m.

    This is just a case of the college game following suit with the NBA. They have been working steadily to get the contact in the League to a minimum and get back to the high scoring glory days of the mid-80s and they are doing a good job of it. It takes awhile for teams to adapt their philosophies and personnel though. Colleges can do it quicker with new faces coming in every year, but we are likely to see a year or two transition period. I just hope that college doesn't follow the NBA in allowing more physical play in the post season than the regular season.

  • claytontarheel Nov 27, 12:57 p.m.

    While I don't think the intent was to create more consistency between college and the NBA, one of the quickest calls in the NBA is a hand check. I like the new rules. Teams and players will learn to adapt, and I think you will start seeing more matchup zones being played.

  • Toddler10-21 Nov 27, 1:14 p.m.

    Excuses dating back to 1998!! Too funny!!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

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