PULLMAN – For basketball fans that find the shriek of a referee’s whistle as unwelcome as the caterwauling of newborn twins on a redeye flight, it might be better to just sit out this college basketball season.
The NCAA has introduced changes for basketball this season that will alter the way games are officiated in an effort to aid the offense.
Last season, Division I basketball teams averaged just 67.5 points per game, the lowest mark since the 1981-82 season – before the universal adoption of a three-point line.
As a response, the NCAA has changed the rule regarding defensive charges to say that the defender must be in position before the offensive player begins his “upward motion,” instead of simply when he leaves the ground.
Additionally, it has been stressed to officials that they must consistently call hand-checking when a player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent, when a defender uses an arm bar to impede the movement of a player, and when a defender places two hands on an opponent.
The difference is already noticeable. Washington State’s basketball team has invited referees to officiate during their practices and is adjusting to a much stricter style of play.
“Officials are coming in here and getting a workout, getting prepared for the season, and they’re calling the game a lot differently than it’s ever been called,” coach Ken Bone said. “I think people better get ready to watch a lot of free-throw attempts.”
It is a particularly disadvantageous time for the Cougars to deal with these defense-adverse changes to officiating since the team is in the process of trying to institute an aggressive new defense. The intent of the new strategy is to put the players in an attacking mindset, but that could be hampered if the team is constantly getting negative feedback in the form of a referee’s whistle.
“At first, it’s definitely going to be something we have to get used to,” guard Royce Woolridge said. “We might have to adjust a little bit but it won’t really affect us. As long as we’re playing hard it won’t matter and that’s what that aggressive defense does, it gets us playing hard.”
While the hand-checking rules will limit the ability of guards to play tight, man-to-man defense, it may be that the post players are the ones who find themselves most often in foul trouble thanks to the new rules. Bone said that the new charge rule makes it so that a player’s dribble leading into a shot could be considered an “upward motion,” and that defensive post players are left with few options to protect the rim.
“It’s tough if they’re not shot-blockers,” Bone said. “Because then you don’t have a guy blocking shots and they’re taking the charge away. So it does put you in a predicament as far as post presence.”
Bone added that the Cougars wouldn’t change the way they defended against drives, and that it would be up to the help-side defender to get into position quickly.