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NCAA Basketball Rules Committee resists change

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee resistant to evolution

By Joseph Nardone


There was a time when media, fans and those in charge of overseeing college basketball argued that the 30-second shot clock would put an end to quality college basketball. Putting aside the fact that the quality wasn’t that good to begin with, those people have been proven wrong.

According to the NCAA, teams shot 44.4 percent from the floor during the 2016-17 season, the top mark since 1994-95. Scoring (73.4 points per game) and possessions (70.3 compared to 65.8 before the shot-clock change) also rose to more desirable rates.

Everything is better: pace, efficiency, and more.

The available data prove how wrong all those apocalyptic statements were from those who argued against the rule change. Hindsight allows us to be more firm in this stance, but those against the shot clock change were so hyperbolic in their doomsday predictions that it is hard to avoid gloating about how wrong they were.

Apparently, no one has learned. Forward-thinking approaches are, I guess, best left to be made down the road as opposed to keeping up with the times. On Friday, this was highlighted rather well.

Rather than evolving, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee preferred to hide behind the unconvincing idea of refusing to mirror the NBA. The committee dubiously moved in concert with the “supposed” need for more data before it makes any more major rule changes.

The committee said on Friday that it won’t recommend elongating the three-point line, expand the lane from 12 to 16 feet, go from halves to quarters, or change a handful of other rules that would substantially update the sport.

If you ask the rules committee, these are all changes they will look into, but only in the future.

The future, one can surmise, has already passed the game by.

Almost every major basketball league — pro and amateur — uses quarters as opposed to halves. The rules committee’s refusal to earnestly entertain this change can’t be for a lack of data — there’s far too much of it out there. If the committee wants to keep college basketball different, then it makes sense, but it is likely the NCAA has yet to figure out how to properly monetize quarters as lucratively as halves. It is far less likely it wants to keep the 20-minute halves for the sake of being different.

It is simple: Every fan knows the TV-timeout routine of a college basketball game. Every four minutes of game action, as soon as the next dead-ball stoppage hits, it is time for the NCAA and member schools to make advertising money. With the game being only 40 total minutes — meaning 10-minute quarters — it would be much harder to shoehorn those commercials into the more divided half.

The refusal to go to quarters isn’t a big deal, though. Many will argue it is part of the novelty of college basketball. Truth be told, whether the game is played in 20-minute halves or 10-minute quarters wouldn’t measurably alter the quality of the games being played.

As for the refusal to move back the three-point line to either the FIBA or NBA distances, as well as expanding the lane, there’s actually a very good reason to avoid doing both for the foreseeable future. It is the rare instance in which the NCAA’s supposed love for a “fair and balanced” playing field could be honored.

If the three-point line was placed deeper and/or the lane was expanded, a much larger gulf would be placed between the haves and the have-nots. The upset would become even more uncommon, and the discrepancy in talent between Kentucky and the University of Broken Dreams would be more evident.

With over 350 Division I teams, many of them low-majors which rely on three-pointers to contend with the blue-bloods, the gap would widen, which would lower the appeal of the game to those who solely stick around to see David wallop Goliath, either in November or March.

There is a counterargument to opposition of the deeper three-point line wider lane for the sake of keeping the gap tighter: The overall quality of the game, specifically when a good roster faces another, would be much better because the spacing would naturally improve. A more free-flowing game might take place, removing some of the micromanaging coaches sometimes do.

The above counterargument was — at least in part — affirmed after the shortening of the shot clock. Many coaches ditched “dishonest” motion sets at the top of the key for 10 seconds before starting their offenses in earnest. We should all want the athletes to play more as opposed to the coaches constantly reeling them in.

There’s another reason to be pro-lane expansion and support a deeper three-point line. It is a cruel reality of sports, but there’s no reason to cater to bad players or programs. Let the greatness have the best chance to be great. The weird need some have — worrying about how a rule change might hurt a historically awful team — is counterproductive. That team will be bad regardless. Instead of figuring out ways to create parity — which can never exist in a league with that many programs — it is a better time to wonder if a form of relegation is better suited for Division I basketball, as opposed to protecting the programs with bad rosters.

It seems the biggest pushback from the rules committee is not wanting the game to mirror the NBA. That belief seems slightly dishonest when those same people say they will work with the NBA to figure out what rule changes college basketball should implement.

In a time when many consider the sport to be a free minor league for the NBA, and many say it wants to be as different from its professional counterpart as possible, it is strange that the NCAA would freely admit to working in conjunction with the NBA.

It would be like swearing off cheating on your spouse, but purposely going to Singles Night at a club you traditionally visited while you were stepping out on your significant other — you know, not to cheat on your mate, but to gather more information on how to improve your relationship with him/her. Sounds illogical, right?

Collusion it is likely not, though it only worsens the idea that the governing body of college sports operates as much for the benefit of the NBA as for its own checking accounts.

Alas, a cautionary measure before implementing new rules is wise by the NCAA. We shouldn’t just bash a decision solely because it is the easy thing to do. The rush for change for the sake of changing is never a great idea.

However, the idea that there’s not enough data out there to make such decisions is silly. Other leagues can provide needed information to the NCAA. Moreover, the data — unless collected over entire college basketball seasons — will never provide an apples-to-apples comparison. Each basketball league is so unique in size and player ability that the data will always be unconditionally corrupted.

Ultimately, college basketball needs to do what is best for college basketball. Maybe it is mirroring the NBA more, but not all the way. Maybe it is to adapt a more FIBA-like approach to its three-point line. It could even keep the game as it is, only altering the smaller details in the game (such as redefining block-charge calls).

What is abundantly clear, as it has been for the entirety of its existence, is that the NCAA will drag its feet against progress in all areas, no matter if it thinks it can help the game. The governing body, and the people operating within it, haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt.

When some of us hear, “We won’t change because {insert reasons},” most of us actually hear, “We are just scared of progress… no matter the issue or topic.”

The NCAA is an organization so rooted in its own fictional ideals and beliefs that it will pretend widely publicized information doesn’t exist. It will also tell the world it prefers to be different from the NBA while acknowledging it is working with the league on its own rules.

It doesn’t make its decision to not evolve — at least right now — wrong, but it is amazing, isn’t it?

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