Earlier this year the Big 12 announced changes on the football field that would bring an eighth official to the game. I was immediately concerned that the Wildcats would be negatively impacted by the way this rule would be implemented, and sure enough the Wildcats are 0-3 in league play after winning the conference crown last year (ok, maybe there are bigger reasons at play for the poor start like losing Collin Klein, Chris Harper, Braden Wilson, and pretty much the entire defense), but the concern remains. And now another change – this time on the basketball court – should have both players and fans cocking their eyebrows at the potential impacts on the upcoming season.
A major discussion at Big 12 Media Days has been rules changes being implemented across the NCAA this season pertaining to defensive checking. From Big 12 Coordinator of Officials Curtis Shaw:
If you continually jab at a player, it’s an automatic foul. We’ll let a player close out. We’ll let them touch them and measure up. But when they keep measuring up, we’re going to call a foul. If you stick your hand on them and leave it on them or stick your forearm on them and leave it on them, it’s an automatic foul. If you ever put two hands out on a player, it’s an automatic foul.
So applying pressure is moving from a judgment call to an automatic foul, which seeks to increase scoring in games as perimeter player will be limited in their ability to guard ball-handlers. Back in May I discussed my concerns for the well-being of an already exploited class of student athletes, but was happy to see the worst of the proposals voted down. However, as a Wildcat fan, I am particularly concerned with these amendments.
K-State plays in low-scoring, physical affairs. It’s a reputation the program has become known for, and generally results in a high number of fouls. The Wildcats led the Big 12 last year in only allowing 60.4 points per game. Yet the team constantly battled foul trouble, often being whistled over 20 times in a game while opponents were not.
I don’t blame the officials for K-State regularly being called for more fouls than its opponents – that’s the game coach Frank Martin taught, and it’s the game Bruce Weber will continue teaching. It’s also the reason the Wildcats led the league in turnover margin, constantly applying pressure and forcing teams to make mistakes. However, Weber isn’t that only one who may have beef with the new status quo. Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger remarked that, “The games will be ugly, everyone will be unhappy about it,” yesterday during Big 12 Media Days. KU’s Bill Self echoed the sentiment, concerned that the NCAA would accomplish its goal of higher scoring affairs, but won’t be happy with the means. Specifically, Self has expressed a belief that fouling with increase significantly, causing a higher number free throws. And while more points will be scored, the pace of the game will be slowed and the product will suffer. Hopefully Shane Southwell spent his offseason in the gym, attempting foul shots.