Why won’t NCAA change the two rules that are making college basketball unwatchable?

·4 min read

The NCAA’s proposals for possible rules changes for the 2021-22 men’s college basketball season were tweeted out last week by Matt Norlander of CBS Sports.

The survey was a mixed bag.

There were some good ideas:

Award the defense the ball when it forces a held-ball (which eliminates the scenario where the defense creates a tie-up only to see the possession arrow give the ball right back to the offense);

Eliminate both the 10-second backcourt violation and the five-second closely guarded call (both unnecessary in a shot-clock era);

Adjust the traveling rule to allow players to take two steps after lifting their pivot feet (which would align the rules with how basketball is now played by making the spin move, the Euro-step and the step-back jumper legal by letter of the law).

There were also some less-than-stellar suggestions:

Resetting team fouls at the 10-minute mark of each half and awarding two foul shots after the fifth team foul of each 10-minute quarter of the game — which would eliminate the one-and-one foul shot.

(That is essentially adopting the rules women’s NCAA basketball enacted when it switched from two halves to four quarters — but without switching to four quarters.

If men’s hoops is not going to also move to quarters, the “re-setting of team fouls” in the middle of a half would be confusing).

Allowing players six fouls, with stipulations, before fouling out (My fear is that granting players additional fouls would lead to overly physical play).

Limiting teams to no more than two called timeouts in the final two minutes of games (Coaches should be able to deploy their timeouts as they see fit).

Disappointingly, what was not addressed at all by the NCAA were the two factors that actually do the most to undermine the entertainment value derived from watching men’s college basketball.

1.) Way, way, way too much game stoppage as a result of instant replay reviews by the referees;

2.) Charging calls drawn by off-the-ball and/or help-side defenders.

If you read this column with any regularity, you know that I loathe the seemingly never-ending parade of game officials heading to the replay monitor.

These stoppages kill the natural ebb-and-flow of college basketball and undermine a contest’s sense of unfolding drama.

Yet rather than do anything to fix this, the NCAA is seeking feedback on adding — brace yourselves — even more freakin’ replay.

Included in the current rules survey are proposals for adding replay review for basket-interference/goaltending calls made by officials and potential shot-clock violations in the final two minutes when a shot is unsuccessful.

News to which there is only one appropriate response: Ughhhhhhhhhhh.

My alternate replay plan would be to give each coach in games two replay challenges. Once the coaches have exhausted those challenges, no other plays can be reviewed.

So, how a coach “used his reviews” would become a new strategic element for fans to second guess. Plus, a limit of no more than four replay stoppages possible in any game would cap the number of mind-numbing monitor reviews fans must endure.

As for the other problem, off-the-ball and/or help-side defenders drawing charging calls are ruining basketball.

Is there anything worse than seeing an offensive player make an athletic move to beat his primary defender, head toward the basket poised to do something dramatic — only to be robbed of the play’s crescendo because another defender slid in front of the driver?

While “sacrificing one’s body” to step in front of an on-coming dunker may reflect commitment to one’s team, it is not really “a basketball play.”

Stealing the ball, blocking or otherwise contesting the shot should be a help-side defender’s only options.

The charge drawn by the off-the-ball defender punishes an offensive player for taking the initiative.

It bails out the primary defender who has been beaten.

In other words, the incentives created are perverse to good basketball.

This is not to suggest there should be no offensive fouls called. A player with the ball should not be able to lower his shoulder and ram through his defender like Benny Snell bulling through the line on third-and-short.

A behemoth center should not be allowed to unleash a forearm of doom to move a post defender.

What needs to be eliminated entirely, though, is off-the-ball and/or help-side defenders being rewarded for impeding drivers by drawing charges.

To do that, one could expand the restricted zone — the area under the goal in which defenders are presently not allowed to draw charges — to encompass the entire lane.

Or perhaps the rule is changed to say a charge can only be drawn by an offensive player’s primary defender and it is then left to the discretion of game officials to enforce that.

However one gets there, basketball would be a better game with 1.) dramatically fewer instant replay reviews; 2.) a full ban on charging calls drawn by help-side defenders.

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