NCAA Approves Good Rule Changes (Eschews Bad Ones)

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Normally at the Jug we try to focus on news that’s Wildcat-centric – if not related directly to K-State athletics, then at least the Big 12 as a whole. Yet I had a particular interest in last week’s meeting of the Rule’s Committee and felt the need to commend it for a recent set of decisions to avoid alterations to the shot clock rule while implementing other reforms in the interest of fairness and more accurate officiating.

Following the conclusion of the three day meeting last week, here are the changes to be implemented during the 2013-14 college basketball season (contingent upon approval from the Playing Rules Oversight Panel in June):

  • One of the most controversial issues during the NCAA tournament was the elbow rule, invoked when a stationary ballhandler hits a defender in the face with his elbow. The problem was that close games were influenced when players were called for the foul not because they hit a defender while trying to clear out space, but simply made inadvertent contact attempting to make a basketball move. Officials now have the power to review the play and keep the call as a flagrant one or two, or downgrade the call to a player control foul or no foul at all (this was previously not allowed – once the call was made, it stuck). This is a good rule because more than one player was punished for simply positioning themselves, not attempting to clear out more space by menacing the opponent with elbow checks.
  • Referees can now review out of bounds plays when two minutes remain in regulation and overtime. The current rules state reviews can be conducted with one minute left. Shot clock violations will also be reviewable with two minutes left to play.
  • Officials will have the ability to check whether a player’s foot was on the three point line with four minutes left in regulation and overtime. The change is that the review is able to be conducted immediately – refs previously had the ability to run to the monitor to check whether a shot was worth two or three points during a tv timeout, but could not stop play to review.
  • The block/charge call was also adjusted. Iowa State fans will be particularly interested in this one, as the Cyclones were screwed twice this year by blocking calls that should have been charge/no call situations. The first was with five seconds left against KU which allowed Elijah Johnson to take (and make) two free throws to force overtime, which the Jayhawks eventually won. The second was during the Sweet Sixteen with less than two minutes left against Ohio State. In that instance OSU’s Aaron Craft drew a bunk foul and went on to win by three points. A couple points to this rule change:
    • In the two examples listed above, the defender had attempted to place himself in front of the ballhandler with two feet planted while facing the scoring player, setting himself before the offensive player left the court. The new rules state a defender cannot move in front of a ballhander once he has begun his upward motion, period. The emphasis on feet being set will be removed.
    • There is an assumption that more blocking calls and fewer charges will occur with this change, because the rules are geared towards getting defenders out of the way during a scoring motion unless you have a good chance at a steal or block.

The greater emphasis on instant replay will make games more accurate and reduce controversy, but also threaten to extend the overall length of games and slow down the pace. Where you stand on this trade off is a function of how much of a purist you are regarding that little monitor at the scorers table, and both sides of the instant replay debate have legitimate points. However we can commend the committee for attempting to bring fairness and precision to game officiating. Controversy will always exist, but these are responses to situations that impacted the outcomes of games in the NCAA tournament and threw up a barrier to the better team coming out on top.

In our second installment of this look at the rules changes we’ll examine the fact the NCAA did not shorten the clock, and the importance of this decision.

Topics: Basketball, College Basketball, Elbow Rule, ESPN, Instant Replay, Iowa State, NCAA, Rules Committee, Shot Clock

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