By Ryan Mayer CBS Local Sports
“Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” –Benjamin Disraeli
The NCAA announced this week new rules changes for both men’s and women’s basketball in advance of the 2015-2016 season. The rule changes are different for the men than they are for the women and all seem to focus on the buzz phrase in today’s sports world: “pace of play.”
The full list of rule changes for the men and women are available on the NCAA website. Among the biggest changes are the women’s game now going from two 20 minute halves to four 10 minute quarters and the men’s game changing the shot clock from 35 seconds down to 30. The men now join the women’s game, which has played with a 30 second shot clock since the 1970-71 season. It’s the first change to the shot clock length for the men since 1993-94 when it went from 45 seconds to 35.
The thought process with moving to a 30 second shot clock is that the game will speed up and teams won’t be able to milk the clock and slow the game down. “I love it. I think it’s great not only for the game but for coaches. I’d even like to see it go down to 24-25,” said Steve Masiello head coach for the Manhattan Jaspers men’s basketball team in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’m all for it, it’s a great addition to the game especially with the style of play that we like.” The Jaspers love to press throughout the game so it’s not surprising that having to defend for 5 less seconds and giving their opponents less time to figure out their defense would be a welcome change.
However, that thought comes with a caveat. “The only problem I see is I don’t want people to confuse frequency for efficiency,” said Masiello. Despite the thought process, there’s no guarantee that a shorter shot clock will mean team’s are running their offense better or taking better shots. “Some people think it’s going to hurt the game because now we’ll take poor shots, as you said we’ll take a rushed shot,” said Joe Mihalich head coach for Hofstra Pride men’s basketball. “When the quality of the shot decreases then the efficiency decreases and the more the field goal percentage decreases, the less scoring there will be anyway.”
According to statsheet.com the scoring average per game this past season was 134.46 points per game, which continued what has been a gradual decline in scoring over the past 20 years. While the rules are intended to open up the game more, the two coaches I spoke to don’t think they will have the kind of impact the NCAA wants. “They don’t want to see the game in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s,” said Mihalich. “I mean I get that too, I don’t either. But 35 to 30 I think it’s going to have a little bit of an impact, not a major impact.” In order to get that flow that the media and fans want to see, Coach Masiello believes you need to give coaches more time to work with players. “If we want to get more points up let’s allow coaches to work more with players,” said Masiello. “Instead of 20 hours give us 28 hours a week, instead of 8 weeks in the summer allow coaches to work with players for 12 weeks.”
The women’s game sees a change to the quarter system, with one media time-out and fouls getting reset after every quarter like they are at the professional level. Combined with that is a removal of the one and one, now as soon as you hit the 5 foul threshold it’s an automatic two shots. You can follow the thinking here, if there’s only a double bonus, then maybe teams will foul less with the concern over giving the opponent two free points hanging over their head. “That’s the one thing I don’t really like,” said Krista Kilburn Steveskey head coach for the Hofstra Pride women’s basketball program. “You’re taking away a big challenge for the athlete in removing the one and one.”
If you played basketball at any level growing up your coach more than likely made you practice your free throws before leaving the gym. I know for me that free throw practice would come in the form of a one and one at the end of practice when you were dead tired. The consequence of missing a shot was more running. If you missed the front end it meant a full suicide. Miss both you did two. Taking away the one and one doesn’t force players to improve their free throw shooting, rather they know there’s a second shot coming regardless.
The consternation surrounding both sides of college basketball this season focused on the pace of the game, wanting a more up-tempo, run and gun style that we’ve seen come to the forefront in the NBA. Folks, hate to break it to you, the college game isn’t the NBA. These kids don’t have that same skill level, and some teams need to slow the pace down to be able to compete. You can only change things so much before you start to skew the game towards offense. “I’m with Joe (Mihalich) on this, with some of these changes they think they’re improving the flow of the game, when they’re really just taking the defense out of the game,” said Steveskey.
Maybe that’s what you the fan want. The NFL and college football continue to grow in popularity as the scoreboards continue to explode. The NBA has become a spread the floor with shooters and rain threes style, and that league just signed a multi-billion dollar TV deal. But, let me ask you this: have you enjoyed these NBA Finals? From the numbers it seems that you have. Yet, this series has been predicated largely on what these two teams can do defensively as opposed to high-flying offensive shootouts. So, why can we appreciate the beauty of a defensive struggle in the pros but not college?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m actually a fan of some of these rule changes as are the coaches I spoke to. However, rules changes can only open the flow of the game so much before you change the tenor of the game itself. College basketball will never be the NBA in terms of efficiency and that’s okay. It’s all a part of the charm.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email him.