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Local college basketball coaches unsure whether rules changes will make an impact

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon yells at his team in the first half of an NCAA tournament college basketball game against West Virginia in the Round of 32 in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, March 22, 2015.
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon yells at his team in the first half of an NCAA tournament college basketball game against West Virginia in the Round of 32 in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, March 22, 2015. (Paul Vernon / Associated Press)

Ed DeChellis has been around college basketball long enough to recall when the 45-second shot clock was put in 30 years ago, largely to prevent teams such as North Carolina to run its vaunted Four Corners or Princeton to put opponents to sleep with its patience and precision.

The Navy coach doesn't know what to make of the latest changes, which were approved Monday by the NCAA playing rules oversight committee in an attempt to speed up — and open up — what had increasingly become a more plodding, less skilled version of NBA playoff games.

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"We reduce the shot clock from 35 [seconds] to 30 to speed up the game. OK, I understand that in theory, but I went back and watched some of our games and there were many where we didn't have a shot clock violation the whole game," DeChellis said Tuesday. "I don't necessarily agree that it's going to speed up the game."

But as Maryland coach Mark Turgeon pointed out, "It will increase possessions and there will be more opportunities on the offensive end."

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Some of the other changes, DeChellis believes, could actually detract from the game — in particular the elimination of the five-second closely guarded rule that rewards teams for playing tough perimeter defense and now might allow teams with talented point guards to play more one-on-one than even before.

"That's counterproductive," DeChellis said. "You want action, but now a guy can dribble a ball for 25 seconds or 28 seconds or 30 seconds if you want [to protect a big lead]. They talk about pace to keep this thing rolling, but to me, that's a change that doesn't make any sense to me if you want to speed up the game."

Loyola coach G.G. Smith doesn't believe his Greyhounds will be dramatically impacted by either the reduced shot clock or the elimination of the five-second rule, which along with the extension of the block-charge arc from 3 feet out to 4 feet from the basket were perhaps the most significant rule changes that will go into effect for the 2015-16 season.

"I don't think the five seconds will make a huge difference," Smith said. "For us, we couldn't score in 35 seconds so I don't think five seconds is going to affect us much."

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Still, Smith thinks that having less time to shoot will change the way teams play at both ends of the court.

"I think we're going to push the ball more, I think we're going to try to get a lot more out of transition," Smith said. "There'll be a lot more emphasis on the secondary and primary [fast]breaks. Hopefully it will increase [scoring] a little bit, but I don't think it will a whole lot."

Scoring was down by more than three points per game last season.

Smith said there could be as many changes at the defensive end because of the reduced shot clock.

"I think you'll see a lot more three-quarter press, maybe even full-court press," he said.

Former college coach Seth Greenberg, now an analyst for ESPN, said that "five seconds is not going to impact the game that much because there's not going to be that many more possessions."

Greenberg said that the bigger changes will improve "the flow and pace" of the game, pointing to the fact that the reduction of second-half timeouts coaches can call from four to three — as well as the elimination of timeouts within 30 seconds of a media stoppage — could help make the game move faster.

Turgeon added that the fact that coaches can no longer rescue their teams by calling a timeout in the middle of a live play will help the game be officiated more effectively.

"The change in timeout procedure will allow the officials to continue to focus on the play at hand and not be concerned whether a coach is calling a timeout during live play," Turgeon said.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who has been critical the past few seasons of the lack of offensive production and fluidity in the men's game, called the changes "a good first step [after] a lot of years of indecision, of taking a 'if it ain't broke don't fix it mentality.'"

Bilas said the rule that puts more of an emphasis on "freedom of movement" and the way the game is officiated could have the biggest immediate impact.

"You don't want touch fouls called, or incidental contact called, but you want things called both on and off the ball that improperly impede the freedom of movement of an offensive player," Bilas said. "Just like in football, you don't want your cornerback mauling your receiver."

Bilas said basketball should be "about who's more skilled — shoot, pass, dribble — and not who can defend more physically."

Greenberg said college basketball has started to look like the NBA, particularly during the playoffs.

"In college basketball, every game is more valuable and a bad loss can kill you, and that's why the game is so physical," Greenberg said. "That's going to be the next step. If you move the 3-point line out and widen the lane, what you've done is create much better spacing."

Greenberg doesn't want to see college basketball adopt the same rules as the NBA.

"We do not need to go to the 24-second clock, we do not need the [no] zone rule, our game is unique and different, and we need to keep it different and we need to stop beating up our game," Greenberg said. "Coaches just have to adjust a little bit, that's just a reality."

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