Proposed NCAA Basketball Rules Changes Could Easily Backfire

The proposed NCAA basketball rules changes may not be as good for the game as some people want you to believe.

Perhaps the most notable of the proposed changes is reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. Other changes proposed by the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee include:

  • increasing the restricted-area arc under the basket from 3 feet to 4 feet,
  • Limiting the number of second-half coaches timeouts to three (instead of four previously),
  • Lengthening the three-point arc from 19 feet to 20 feet,
  • Removing the 5-second call when a player is closely guarded while dribbling the ball.
  • Eliminating the prohibition on dunking during pregame warm-ups.
  • Preventing coaches from calling live-ball timeouts.

These changes are designed to help speed up the pace of the game, cut down on the physicality of the game and provide better fan entertainment value, according to the Rules Committee.

I’m all in on the idea of speeding up the flow and length of the games. But I’m not sure the desired end justifies the means that are being proposed in this case.

Mar 7, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners forward TaShawn Thomas (35) attempts a shot against Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

If approved, this will be the second time the shot clock in college basketball has been changed since the inception of a 45-second clock in the 1985-86 season. In 1993-94, the college shot clock was shortened to 35 seconds.

Prior to the adoption of a shot clock in the college game, there were times when an offensive team would hold on to the ball for long possessions (remember the famous “Four Corners” offense employed by Dean Smith’s North Carolina teams to keep the ball away from the opponent). Some games would end in scores like 19-18.

The shot clock has definitely improved the offensive flow of the game, but there are many people in the game, including the fans, who don’t believe the offensive production in the game – that is, the number of points scored in a game – is where it should be from a fan and quality-of-the-game perspective.

Fans who enjoy watching NBA games know that the 24-second shot clock in the pro game doesn’t allow all that much time for exhaustive offensive sets. By the time a team in-bounds the ball and advances it into the front court, there isn’t a lot of time to swing the ball around and get off a good shot before the clock runs down. The players in the NBA are more athletic and better skilled than all but a select few players in the college game and, therefore, are more capable of operating more successfully under a faster shot clock.

Now, however, we’re talking about making the college shot clock just six seconds longer than the 24-second clock in the NBA. In my view, that is not going to increase the offensive productivity and scoring in college basketball as much as it will lead to poor shot selection and sloppy play. On the other hand, it would seem to be an added benefit for teams that like to play fast, shoot early in the possession and often, and win by speeding up the game and playing ugly.

To make a long story short, I don’t see anything wrong with the current 35-second clock. With a shorter shot clock, you’re probably going to see teams employing more zone defenses, clogging the middle and the driving lanes and requiring offenses to beat them with perimeter shooting and by shooting over the zone. Which begs another concern: Who is to say that teams will shoot as well from three-point range when the distance is made closer to what it is for an NBA trey?

If one of the main goals with the proposed changes is to speed up the flow and the pace of the game, why aren’t they looking at things to do to shorten the length of time it takes to play out the final two minutes of a game?

Reducing the number of second-half coaches’ time outs is a good start, but with all the fouling to stop the clock and assorted other stoppages of play, it generally takes about 20 minutes in real time to play out the final 120 seconds of a ball game. If you ask me, that is the biggest gripe that fans have about college basketball today.

Mar 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self reacts to play in the game against the Baylor Bears during the semifinals round of the Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The proposed rules changes do have a good number of supporters. One of those is Kansas head coach Bill Self:

“I think the changes are good,” the Jayhawks’ head coach told Blair Kerkhoff, who covers college sports for the Kansas City Star. ‘I think anything to speed the pace play up and shorten the game up at the end (is a good thing).”

There is also some discussion about lengthening the number of fouls a player can be charged in college basketball before fouling out. Currently a player is disqualified with five fouls in college, but one of the changes being contemplated is to increase that number to six personal fouls, like it is in the NBA.

Certainly, an upward change in the number of fouls before disqualification would enable coaches to leave their best players who incur foul trouble to remain in the game longer without having to sit them down to avoid fouling out. But would someone please explain to me how increasing the foul limit helps improve the pace of play?

Admittedly. I may be somewhat of a contrarian regarding the proposed changes to college basketball. All I am saying is I don’t understand how some of these rules changes are going to improve the quality of the product on the court and, in doing so, enhance the entertainment value for us, the fans.

Perhaps that is something we can dive deeper into at the next media timeout.