Campus Corner

College basketball rules changes aimed at less physical play, more scoring

Free the offense.

That’s the theme of the rules changes in college basketball that were recommended on Thursday by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee, with a different perspective on the block/charge call as the centerpiece proposal.

The biggest suggested change: A defensive player cannot 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. If a defensive player is not in a legal guarding position by this time, it’s a blocking foul.

Currently, rules call for a defender to be in legal guarding position before the offensive player lifts off the floor.

The idea of the tweak is to allow for more offensive freedom and provide officials with more clarity in making this call.

Also, fouls will be expected to be called when a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent; puts two hands on an opponent; continually jabs by extending his arms and placing a hand or forearm on the opponent or uses an arm bar to impede progress.

The proposed changes by must be formally approved next month before becoming effective for the 2013-14 season, but that’s expected.

These proposed changes were made with the help of the Kansas City-based National Association of Basketball Coaches, and were in response to a trend of overly physically play that has been cited for as a primary reason for reduced scoring.

Last season, scoring per game — 67.5 points per team — was the lowest since 1981-82, before the shot clock was implemented.

“One of the reasons why scoring is lower is because the game has become so physical,” NABC executive director Jim Haney said. “The officiating has allowed that physicality.”

But Haney recalled the changes made in the NBA more than a decade ago. Through a series of rules changes and emphases that favored the offense, which started with scrapping the illegal defense rule in 2001, the professional game loosened up and scoring soared.

At one point in the 2005 playoffs, the average combined points of teams were 21 points higher than the 2004 playoffs.

A team that took full advantage was the Phoenix Suns, which finished 2005 with the league’s best record. Point guard Steve Nash, with more room to operate — freedom of movement, the NBA called it — won the first of his consecutive MVP awards.

“All the sudden, Steve Nash was driving anywhere he wanted to go,” Haney said. “Our game has become very physical on the driver and on cutters. We allow contact on the shooter. The result is, in the college game, we’re not getting as many free looks. And when we do get a shot, there’s a good chance there will be contact and a foul not called.”

But will the rich get richer in a more offensive-minded college game? The top talent goes to the top programs. Upsets tend to happen when an underdog can keep possessions and scoring low.

Haney believes rules changes won’t reduce surprises.

“What makes the college game unique is that you don’t have to have the best talent to win,” Haney said. “If you want to play a more deliberate style, you can still do that.

“But what had happened was games were played in the 50s, but not because that’s what teams intended to do. They were in the 50s because teams couldn’t get shots.”

In other proposed changes, officials — in the last two minutes of regulation and overtime — can go to the monitor to review a shot-clock violation and to determine who caused the ball to go out of bounds on a deflection involving two or more players.

Also, a 10-second backcourt rule will be added in women’s basketball.