CHICAGO — As the college basketball season gets under way this week, you may or may not notice a few rule changes.
Most of the coaches in the Big Ten hope you don’t notice a thing. They generally like the motives behind the rule changes, to have a cleaner, higher-scoring game.
But they’re really not sure it’s going to have the desired effect.
“I think when it's all said and done, we really don't know what's going to happen,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said at last week’s Big Ten media day. “But I like the thought process.’’
Some of the changes are not changes so much as a concerted effort to enforce rules that already are in place. They fall into two categories: Defending the player with the ball and block/charge calls.
Under the new rules, players no longer are allowed to keep a hand or forearm on the player they are guarding, to jab the player with their hand or forearm or to use an arm bar to “impede the progress of the dribbler.’’ According to the NCAA, these were merely “guidelines’’ in the past. Now they are “rules.’’
Differentiating between a blocking foul and a charging foul always has been a challenge for officials and new rules in that area may or may not be an improvement. Basically, an effort will be made to keep defenders from moving forward or laterally into offensive players to elicit charging calls.
“Now when a player begins his upward motion to pass or shoot, the defender must be in legal guarding position,’’ the rule states.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he just needs to see the new rules in games for awhile before he passes judgment.
“For all of us, I think we're looking at saying, 'OK, we've got about a two-, three-week window where we have to look at this and analyze,'’’ Matta said. “It may be subtle changes, it may be big changes that we have to make.’’
McCaffery thinks the changes could have “a tremendous effect on the game.'' He said that even before 52 fouls were called and 70 free throws were shot in the Hawkeyes' preseason exhibition with Augustana on Sunday.
“It only stands to reason there will be a lot more fouls called out and away from the basket,’’ McCaffery said. “What I don't want to see is touch fouls away from the basket and guys getting mugged off the ball, because that won't work.’’
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McCaffery, for one, is strongly in favor of tweaking the block/charge rule.
“I've been saying for years we need to clean up those collisions at the rim,’’ he said. “So I think that is brilliant what they're doing there, to protect the driver. Too many guys were talented enough to go by their man and there were three guys falling down before the guy even got to the rim. So I think to clean up those collisions at the rim is a great thing.’’
Some coaches, however, fear that the number of fouls called will rise dramatically and lead to longer, more tedious games.
“Some of the guys I've talked to around the country, friends of mine, former assistants, have been paranoid about it because they played in games where there's 70, 80, 90 free throws being shot,’’ Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “And that's a little scary. But I think it will balance out. It will be all right.’’
Many coaches are doing things to prepare their players for what they’re going to face in games.
Izzo said he has brought officials into practices four or five times. Indiana coach Tom Crean said he has had referees in practice 75 to 80 percent of the time during the preseason.
“Most of us were teachers, which is how we got into coaching,’’ Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “So if a rule is made, you teach to the rule.’’