College hoop rule changes felt locally, nationally
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak had his assistants calling fouls in practice from day one, trying to adjust to the new rule everyone knew was coming.
Around the Pac-12, coaches like Washington's Lorenzo Romar went a step further, actually calling in conference officials to oversee his scrimmages. Across the country, teams and coaches have tried their best to brace for the coming changes.
But for all of the preparation over the past month, it was nothing like playing through the real thing.
No fewer than 28 rule changes designed to increase the flow of the game took center stage during the opening weekend of men's and women's college basketball. The major points of emphasis: prohibiting hand-checking, tightening block-charge calls and discouraging contact off the ball, such as bumping offensive players as they make cuts to the basket.
The purpose of all the fixes is to open up what many believe has become a clogged-up game. College basketball teams nationally averaged 67.5 points per game last season the lowest such total since 1981. However, the new rules, at least initially, produced longer games, some ugly box scores and alarming free-throw totals.
Locally, the Utes have taken almost 100 free throws between their exhibition win over St. Martin's and their season-opening win against Evergreen State. On Monday, BYU found itself in the double-bonus against Stanford within the first 10 minutes of the game.
Nationally, there were games that told a similar story. Seton Hall and Niagara produced a combined 73 fouls and 102 foul shots between the two teams. An 82-75 Oregon win over Georgetown featured 74 free throws and allowed Ducks guard Joe Young to score a game-high 24 points despite making only five shots from the field.
"It's almost like anything you do now is a foul," complained Utah guard Brandon Taylor.
Last month, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said he hoped players and coaches would be able to adjust to the rule changes by the beginning of the league schedule.
Coaches are crossing their fingers.
"We've addressed it a lot and we've tried to simulate it in our practices," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "But the bottom line is that it's up to the officials. They are going to have to decide how the games are going to be called and then the players are going to have to react to it. I believe that everyone will get this figured out pretty quickly. At least, that's what I hope."
As with any changes to the game, there will be those who benefit more than others.
In this case, teams with good guard play and quickness off the dribble are going to profit the most. Defenders simply can't put a hand on offensive players anymore.
Players like BYU guard Tyler Haws, Utah State guard Preston Medlin and Utah forward Jordan Loveridge figure to reap a windfall. Each player makes a living on the free-throw line. Each has been adept at getting to the basket off the dribble.
Loveridge, for instance, has taken 21 foul shots in the Utes' first two games.
"It could affect me positively," said the Ute sophomore, who long ago got used to defenders pounding on him without getting called for it. "Now I feel like everything is even. If it's a foul, it's going to get called."
Offensive-minded post players should see some benefits as well, with the hand and forearm taken out of the equation. And that, Loveridge says, will be the great equalizer.
"It could hurt guys like me in the long run on defense, because I like to get physical defensively," he said.
Nationally, Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart openly questioned the changes after his team was called for 43 fouls in its season opener. VCU is a team that plays full-court, high-pressure defense. Teams like the Rams and Louisville may have to rethink how they pressure without getting into quick foul trouble.
Krystkowiak said his team will simply have to move its feet defensively. That first real challenge could come on Friday when Utah meets UC Davis and its high-scoring guard Corey Hawkins, a 6-foot-4 slasher who loves to drive to the basket.
Krystkowiak's Ute counterpart has the same challenge.
"We've stressed to the players how important it will be to move their feet and to not play defense with their hands," said Utah women's coach Anthony Levrets. "It's something we're concerned about but we just have to go and play the games."
Reporter Jay Drew contributed to this story.
New rules sampler
• A defender can no longer use his or her hand or forearm to impede the progress of the offensive player.
• To earn a charge call, a defender must be set before the offensive player goes into an "upward motion" to pass or shoot. If the player is not set before the offensive player leaves his feet, it will be called a block.
• Players will no longer be able to "bump" an offensive player as he cuts through the lane. Doing so will result in a foul off the ball.
• Officials will now be able to go to the video in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime to determine who last touched a ball that went out of bounds, or if there's a shot-clock violation.