Campus Corner

Kansas’ depth helps weather whistle-stop games

Updated: 2013-11-13T23:43:47Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Better game? You tell me from these examples.

•  Game one: In a back-and-forth, up-tempo game, college basketball powerhouses combine for 177 points, but commit 51 fouls and attempt 63 free throws.

•  Game two: In a tense contest not decided until the final minute, the teams combine for 129 points. There are 37 fouls called in a grinder of a game, where the teams attempt a total of 37 free throws.

Game one was Kansas-Duke on Tuesday in Chicago. The Jayhawks won 94-83 and the contest produced some terrific individual performances from the Jayhawks’ Perry Ellis (24 points), Andrew Wiggins (22) and the Blue Devils’ Jabari Parker (27).

It also featured an abundance of rhythm-stopping free-throw attempts.

Game two was Kansas-Duke in Maui two years earlier, won by the Blue Devils 68-61. The game featured bangers such as the Jayhawks’ Thomas Robinson and Duke’s Mason Plumlee. Each finished with three fouls and were not in foul trouble.

Again, your preference?

We know LeBron James’. He tweeted this during the KU-Duke game: “They call so many fouls in college ball. Let ’em hoop. Should go to six fouls as well.”

We know Kansas coach Bill Self, whose philosophy is based in the Henry Iba school of physical defense, isn’t a fan. “It just takes away the aggressiveness defensively,” he said Tuesday.

But it also favors Kansas. The Jayhawks have fantastic depth. Off the bench come Joel Embiid, Brannen Greene, Frank Mason and Jamari Traylor. All contributed big moments on Tuesday. Wiggins on the bench didn’t hurt Kansas the way Parker on the bench affected the Blue Devils.

The thought of the Jayhawks’ having too much talent and finding enough minutes to keep everybody happen has evaporated. Nobody will redshirt. In this whistle-stop environment, the Jayhawks will need them all.

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is on board with the shift.

“I think the officials are doing what they’re supposed to do,” Krzyzewski said. “Everyone has to keep adjusting.”

The early results suggest the rules emphasis, which basically boil down to no prolonged contact in the perimeter to allow greater freedom of movement and most latitude in favoring the offensive player in block-charge call, is having the desired impact of increasing scoring.

In the first week of the college season, games are averaging 42 fouls called, seven more than games last season. About 20 percent of the games featured 50 or more fouls. Kansas’ victory over Louisiana-Monroe last week included 58 foul whistles.

A Seton Hall-Niagara game last weekend produced 73 fouls.

Through the first weekend of games, scoring was up 5.6 points per game from last season’s figure of 67.5, which was the lowest in the 31-year shot-clock era.

The NCAA rules committee voted after last season to open the game and essentially call the game that’s in the book. That meant never putting two hands on the opponent and no jabs or arm bars to impede his progress.

Plus there’s the block/charge rule, which officially says a defensive player isn’t permitted to move into the path of an offensive player once he has started his upward motion with the ball to attempt a field goal or pass.

The call that seemed to most perturb Self was a Wiggins’ blocking foul. It appeared Wiggins had position in time to draw the charge.

But so far this season, a charge is a rare call.

What isn’t rare is a free throw. Until teams learn to live with the new order, the free ones will pile up, like it or not.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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