If you're a casual college basketball fan, you might have missed the ongoing debate about How to Save College Basketball From ItselfTM.
If you don't know what I'm referring to, then all you need to know is that college basketball is in crisis! Or maybe college basketball is fine, but some of the proposed rule changes would fundamentally change what everybody loves about the sport! Or, maybe, college basketball is actually pretty healthy, but a couple of tweaks would improve the watchability of an already compelling product slightly. Maybe!
The debate has been ongoing for a few years now, as average pace of play slowly declined year by year. But now we have actual proposals trying to fix this maybe-problem. Let's talk about them!
Shot clock lowered from 35 to 30
With an eye on reducing inaction and improving pace of play, the committee approved several proposals. The most significant of the changes is to reduce the shot clock to 30 seconds. The shot clock period was last reduced for the 1993-94 season when the clock was reduced from 45 seconds to 35.
I honestly have a hard time coming up with reasons why this is a bad idea. The Wisconsins and Virginias of the world can still milk 25 seconds of clock before really kicking their offense into gear. I have ZERO doubt that teams like that can find decent shots in 30 seconds. In fact, I don't think there's ANY team out there who can regularly get a decent look in 35 seconds without also being able to get a comparatively decent look in 30.
So really, all this rule change is doing is guaranteeing you more basketball - or at least, the type of basketball that actually includes shots and offensive motion designed to get shots, rather than the type of offensive motion mostly designed to waste time.
How it impacts Cal: The Bears already want to play up-tempo basketball, and they aren't a team that will pass up a good look just to run clock or hope for a great look. Cal's offense won't be hurt at all by this change, and could even be helped if Cal's opponents are forced to play a bit faster towards Cal's preferred tempo.
More than that, Cal should be at least a top 25 level team next year, and so from a game theory perspective you want MORE possessions for Cal's presumably superior talent to impact the game. Fewer possessions = greater chance for random events = usually a strategy for the underdog. Cal shouldn't be the underdog very often next year.
Also, a full blown Cuonzo defense (like he had in Tennessee in 13-14) tends to force opposing offenses to take a lot of time to find a good look. If (I know, a big if) Cuonzo can get this group to play his preferred style of defense, it's better for Cal that they have 5 fewer seconds with which to operate. We'll see if the Bears can reach that defensive ideal.
The committee also voted to remove one team timeout in the second half and strictly focus on resuming play more quickly after a timeout, which would now include a delay of game warning when a team does not comply and a one-shot technical foul on subsequent violations.
Good news for everybody except for the CBS family of networks! This change will hopefully limit the number of unnecessary TV timeouts that plague the closing minutes of any close game. Coaches will still have enough time outs that they can either draw up a great play for the critical final possession and/or micromanage their team to defeat.
How it impacts Cal: I don't get the sense that this rule change will impact any team, as it's basically just designed to improve the viewing experience. It's annoying news for control freak coaches, and I don't think Cuonzo Martin falls into that category.
Expanded Restricted Arc
To continue the focus on reducing the number of collisions at the basket, the committee approved the expansion of the restricted area arc from the current 3 feet to 4 feet
The #bancharges campaign will never result in the 100% elimination of getting knocked over as a form of effective defense, but this is a good step in that direction. Of course, I recall multiple occasions last year when refs called charges when defenders were in the restricted zone. At least moving the line out will presumably eliminate the most egregiously wrong calls.
How it impacts Cal: Well, Cal should have more than a few wings capable of beating their defender and attacking the hoop, right? More free throws for Ty and Jaylen!
No More Flopping . . . Kinda
The committee proposed a rule that would allow officials to penalize faking fouls during the use of video to review a possible flagrant foul.
I don't recall this ever coming up. I've seen people exaggerate contact in an attempt to draw a flagrant, but never 100% flopping. Seems like this will come up very, very rarely.
How it impacts Cal: Negligible.
Renewed Emphasis on freedom of movement
The committee, which met May 12-15 in Indianapolis, agreed reducing the physicality is the most critical need to encourage a more open style of play and improve the game.
The key areas the committee will focus on in the upcoming season are:
• Perimeter defense, particularly on the dribbler and strictly enforcing the directives put in the book before the 2013-14 season.
• Physicality in post play.
• Screening, particularly moving screens and requiring that the screener be stationary.
• Block/charge plays.
• Allowing greater freedom of movement for players without the ball.
We're light on specifics here, but you get the idea: The NCAA is going to writing up new rules and/or actually enforcing old rules to decrease physicality and (they hope) increase offense.
I feel like I type this up every other year. Nobody likes teams that foul every time down the court (think Izzo Michigan State, Howland-era UCLA, half the teams in the old Big East) knowing that the refs don't want to call fouls on every possession. Also, nobody likes it when games devolve into a free throw contest because the refs actually call everything in the rule book. This is a no-win situation, and I expect to see another temporary uptick in called fouls followed by a gradual de-emphasis on freedom of movement, until it's reemphasized in two or three years. IT'S THE CIRCLE OF THE RULES AND INFRACTIONS COMMITTEE LIFE.
How it impacts Cal: Unclear. If actually enforced, freedom of movement will help out the previously mentioned Cal wings. But Cal's defense was quietly very foul-prone last year, likely because we had a bunch of players not necessarily well-equipped to play Cuonzo's style of defense. That said, I don't think Cuonzo's defense is designed to be more bumpy and grabby than most defenses. If Cal improves on that end as much as we're hoping, then wing defenders will be able to stay in front of their man and this change shouldn't have a negative impact. If.
Other proposals approved by the committee include:
• Allowing officials to use the monitor to review a potential shot clock violation on made field goals throughout the entire game.
• Making Class B technical fouls (e.g., hanging on the rim, delaying the resumption of play, etc.) one-shot technical fouls. Two shots are now granted for these types of technical fouls.
• Eliminating the five-second closely guarded rule while dribbling the ball.
• Removing the prohibition on dunking in pregame warmups.
These all seem sensible.
How this impacts Cal: Now we just need to figure out which player we should nominate to break a Stanford backboard during pre-game warm-ups at Maples.
A quick word on WBB rule changes
• Teams would reach the bonus to shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the current format, teams reach a one-and-one bonus on the seventh team foul of each half and reach the double bonus (two shots) on the 10th team foul.
• In the proposed four-quarter format, team fouls would be reset to zero at the start of each quarter. However, if a team reaches the bonus in the fourth quarter, that team would remain in the bonus in any additional overtime periods.
• Media timeouts in televised games would also be changed to one in each quarter. Media timeouts would occur at the first dead ball under the five-minute mark of each quarter and at the end of the first and third quarters. However, if a team calls timeout before the five-minute mark, that would be treated as the media timeout.
Just when the men's game moves to 30 second shot clocks and the rule books seemed to be mostly converging, WBB is restructuring the flow of the game to match international WBB standards!
These changes will have a variety of impacts. Comebacks will be harder, because intentional fouling will never result in one and ones. The timing of media timeouts might change coaching substitution patterns. I'll be interested to see if this results in more free throws (because teams have two opportunities to reach the bonus) or fewer free throws (because you can hypothetically commit 8 first half fouls and not give up any automatic free throws.
There were also some tweaks that should help Cal, like changes that make full court press turnovers more likely by not renewing the 10 second mid-court count.
So, Cal fans: which rules do you like, and which rules do you hate? And do any of them meaningfully impact the Bears in the near future?