STILLWATER — Many college basketball critics say the game stinks. Many college basketball lovers agree.
That's why new rules have been implemented to unshackle a sport that in recent years has become more mosh pit than athletic artistry. More assault than skill.
Officials promise that the game is being cleaned up. No more hand-checking. No more forearms. No more sliding into the lane to draw a cheap charging foul.
Coaches have been warned. Whistles are going to blow, and they're not going to stop until behavior is changed.
OSU coach Travis Ford is sufficiently convinced.
“From talking to … different people, they said that it's going to change the game probably more than anything has changed the game since the 3-point line,” Ford said.
College basketball needs something. It's coming off perhaps its most discouraging season ever.
* Division I teams averaged 67.5 points per game, the lowest since 1982, before there was a shot clock.
* Three-point shooting was at its lowest percentage, .3405, since inception of the rule in 1986.
* Foul calls were at an all-time low, 17.7 per team per game. Teams averaged 19.8 foul shots per game, the fewest since 1976.
Curtis Shaw, the Big 12's director of officiating, met with the league's coaches and has Ford sufficiently convinced that things will change.
“They're not afraid to tell you, it's 100 percent about offense,” Ford said. “They want more offense.”
Who among us doesn't, after watching Georgetown and Tennessee play a 38-36 game last season? After watching Connecticut beat Butler 53-41 in the 2011 NCAA title game? After watching both the Sooners and Cowboys score 55 points in first-round NCAA exits last March?
Ford is not the greatest source for the changes. “I think they're going to take it to the extreme,” Ford said. He boils the rules changes down to “you can't touch ‘em” and “we were told there are no more charges.”
Neither is true. But the rules are a drastic change. Here is how Shaw described the new rules:
1. On a perimeter ballhandler, defenders are not allowed to use a forearm or arm-bar, or two hands at a time, or keep a single hand on the opponent, or continually jab with an extended arm.
2. For a secondary defender to draw a charge, he must be in place when the ballhandler starts his upward motion. In the past, the secondary defender merely had to be in place before the ballhandler left his feet.
Shaw said the latter rule broadens the time referees have to make the charge/block judgment. Perhaps an extra second or more. Shaw estimates that that rule alone would move the block/charge ratio from 50-50 to 95-5 percent.
Shaw said the result of the rule changes will be an increased freedom of movement for the offense. “It allows teams to get the ball down the floor without being physically harassed,” Shaw said.
Here's what to expect, especially in the early going.
Many more foul calls, as the players learn to adjust. Much complaining, as coaches try to retake the ground they've staked out over the years as physical defense took over the game. Finally, a political fight.
The rules committee felt so strongly about the state of the game, it adopted the rules rather than just labeling them as points of emphasis.
Shaw said all 23 or 24 conference coordinators across the nation were assembled and told they will be supported. They also were told they will be watched, and any conference not adhering to the new standards will be notified.
“Our commissioners don't want those phone calls,” Shaw said. “I don't want those phone calls.”
Scoring no doubt will go up. The NBA adopted similar hand-checking restrictions in 2004. SMU coach Larry Brown coached in the NBA during that time, and Shaw heard Brown say that while shots didn't increase, quality shots did.
We know what he's talking about. Think how many times in recent years you've seen college teams work almost the entire shot clock, trying to get a decent look at the basket, before jacking up some prayer.
The rules also will benefit certain types of players.
Penetrating point guards will be more valuable than ever and harder to stop. Shot blockers will be at a premium, since defending the rim will be easier than defending the lane. At least in the early going, good foul shooters will come in handy, too. And players who know how to play defense with their quickness, more so than their strength, will have an advantage.
Ford says he's already coaching his team on how to adapt defensively. Arms spread, palms out, feet moving. Which when you come to think of it, is how everyone always was supposed to play defense.
“I think some people are going to take this rule to say you can't play defense,” Ford said. “I think the team that says, ‘Hey, we're going to figure out how to be a great defensive team within the rules' are the teams that are going to be successful.”
No doubt it will be a rough November. Long games. Lots of fouls. Lots of foul shots, the worst part of any basketball.
But once players and coaches adjust, and we come out on the other side, college basketball will be a better game.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.