NCAA Basketball: Rule Changes on the Horizon

Harry How

The NCAA has announced rule changes for the upcoming season, some of which Syracuse fans will wish were implemented a season earlier.

I'm somewhat of an apologist when it comes to college basketball officiating. It's a tough job and, in the end, officials are mere mortals. Despite their best efforts, no one can get every call right every time. So when the rule makers move to make things easier for officials to call a fair game, I'm happy.

The NCAA has announced a few rule changes to take effect for the 2013-14 season. The big issue was shortening the shot clock. This proposition, though, didn't receive enough support to even garner a vote. Rules that were changed include allowing officials more access to replay, especially late in the game.

I'm glossing over these rule changes to get to the ones that we Syracuse fans really care about: the elbow clearing rule and the block/charge rule. The Orange ended up on the bad end of a few of those calls last season. Calls that might have gone the other way under the new rules.

First, the elbow clearing rule:

An official can call a flagrant foul 1, a flagrant foul 2, a player control foul, or if the official goes to the monitor, he can wipe the foul away if he sees no contact. In the past, once a call was made, the official couldn't erase the call or just call a player-control foul.

This rule particularly irked me, even when I saw it called against other teams. Too many times we saw incidental contact punished with a flagrant 1. While I acknowledge the need to emphasize player safety, as anyone who's ever played pickup ball will tell you, sometimes you just get hit in the face. It happens.

The rule change, though, only addressed how the officials can rule on the contact. The contact itself is still illegal. No Muay Thai style elbows.

"Some people think the offensive player is entitled to space. The defender is allowed to come as close to an offensive player short of contact. The offensive player doesn't have the right to create more space."

I think this is the middle ground we were all looking for when we complained about this rule. Assess the foul while taking into account intent. It's the right way to go.

Now for the big one; the block/charge call.

In the past, the official had to judge if the defender was in front of the offensive player with his two feet down and facing the offensive player. He also had to determine if the offensive player had left the court before the defensive player was set.

Now, the defensive player cannot move into the space once the offensive player has started his upward motion with the ball.

When this scenario is described, I think the same play comes to mind for all of us. Without re-opening the "was it or wasn't it" debate, the rule change would almost certainly have resulted in a different call than what was made when Syracuse played the Michigan Wolverines in the Final Four. Even if Jordan Morgan had established legal guarding position before Brandon Triche took off, he definitely hadn't done so before Triche started his upward motion.

So, what does this all mean? Not much. But it's May and we need something to debate. It's interesting to think what might have been if these rules have been in place two months ago, but what's done is done. And, in reality, I don't see these rule changes affecting the games much in the future. But I do like the fact officials are getting some help in making correct calls. I think all fans can agree that the zebras need all the help they can get.

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