Dan Lachman: Commentary

Four Rule Changes to Make College Basketball Better

Do you remember Les Keiter? Back in the sixties, Keiter was the play-by-play announcer on the syndicated TVS Saturday afternoon college basketball games. He was the Dick Vitale of his time, famous for his unusual expressions. When a shot would go in and out, he’d bellow, “In again, out again, Finnegan.” A long shot would just miss, and Keiter would say, “That would have been a ring-tailed howitzer.” Those were the days of short shorts, no three-point line, and no shot clock, and it’s when I started to love college basketball. It was, as they say, “old school.”

Obviously, the game has changed a lot since then, and not all for the better. It’s still great, but it’s not perfect. A few simple rule changes (and the retirement of Billy Packer) would definitely improve college basketball.

The first thing that needs to go is the alternating possession rule. This is what replaced the jump ball when two players on opposite teams are both deemed in possession of the ball. Currently, the opening tip of the game, and start of overtime are the only times that the refs jump it up. Dick Vitale has been harping on this for the last couple of years, and for once, I’m in agreement. What Dickie V never points out is the identity of the major proponent of alternating possession. It was the brainchild of John Wooden, the revered Wizard of Westwood. There’s really no nice way to say this, but we’re stuck with this rule as long as Wooden is still around. And he seems to be in very good health. Prediction: the rule will be scrapped the year after John Wooden’s departure from this earth.

Second, it’s time to move the three-point line back. Frankly, I’d like to see it junked altogether, but most people love it. When players pull up to shoot a three pointer on a three on one fast break, there’s something wrong. The idea of offensive basketball is to get high percentage shots, and the lay-up is a better shot than a jumper from 19’9”. In the last couple of weeks, Oregon went 4-34 on threes against Arizona State, and they took 70 shots in the game. They lost. For those of you that are mathematically challenged, that’s just short of half of their total shots. In their loss to Arizona, Washington also cast up 34 threes on 70 total shots (they made 13). They lost, too. Move the line back to the international distance of 20’6”, and maybe some balance will return to the game.

Third, bring in the NBA restraining line under the basket for those charge/block calls. No call is botched more frequently. There’s nothing worse than seeing a charge wipe out a nice drive to the hoop when the defender is standing under the rim. That’s not a good defensive position, and it should not be rewarded.

Richard Midgley has been victimized by this call more than once this season. They experimented with the restraining arc during the exempt tournaments at the start of this season, and we can hope it will be implemented.

Finally, a player should be required to have at least one foot on the floor in-bounds in order to call a time-out. It’s ridiculous to watch a player flying out of bounds into the crowd calling time-out in midair. If you're about to land out of bounds, and have no possibility of doing any of the acts central to basketball (shoot, pass, dribble), maybe you should not be able to retain possession. It’s a simple change, but it would remove one of those discretionary calls that referees make on an inconsistent basis.

Sometimes, “old school” is good. In most ways, college basketball is a better game than it was in the sixties. The early departures to the NBA (or, in the case of some players, to oblivion) have harmed the game, and the decline in solid fundamentals hasn’t helped either. As the rules committee continues to tinker with the game, let’s hope they look back to the era of jump balls, high percentage shots, and solid defense. Those “old school” values are timeless.




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Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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Do you remember Les Keiter? Back in the sixties, Keiter was the play-by-play announcer on the syndicated TVS Saturday afternoon college basketball games. He was the Dick Vitale of his time, famous for his unusual expressions. When a shot would go in and out, he’d bellow, “In again, out again, Finnegan.” A long shot would just miss, and Keiter would say, “That would have been a ring-tailed howitzer.” Those were the days of short shorts, no three-point line, and no shot clock, and it’s when I started to love college basketball. It was, as they say, “old school.”

Obviously, the game has changed a lot since then, and not all for the better. It’s still great, but it’s not perfect. A few simple rule changes (and the retirement of Billy Packer) would definitely improve college basketball.

The first thing that needs to go is the alternating possession rule. This is what replaced the jump ball when two players on opposite teams are both deemed in possession of the ball. Currently, the opening tip of the game, and start of overtime are the only times that the refs jump it up. Dick Vitale has been harping on this for the last couple of years, and for once, I’m in agreement. What Dickie V never points out is the identity of the major proponent of alternating possession. It was the brainchild of John Wooden, the revered Wizard of Westwood. There’s really no nice way to say this, but we’re stuck with this rule as long as Wooden is still around. And he seems to be in very good health. Prediction: the rule will be scrapped the year after John Wooden’s departure from this earth.

Second, it’s time to move the three-point line back. Frankly, I’d like to see it junked altogether, but most people love it. When players pull up to shoot a three pointer on a three on one fast break, there’s something wrong. The idea of offensive basketball is to get high percentage shots, and the lay-up is a better shot than a jumper from 19’9”. In the last couple of weeks, Oregon went 4-34 on threes against Arizona State, and they took 70 shots in the game. They lost. For those of you that are mathematically challenged, that’s just short of half of their total shots. In their loss to Arizona, Washington also cast up 34 threes on 70 total shots (they made 13). They lost, too. Move the line back to the international distance of 20’6”, and maybe some balance will return to the game.

Third, bring in the NBA restraining line under the basket for those charge/block calls. No call is botched more frequently. There’s nothing worse than seeing a charge wipe out a nice drive to the hoop when the defender is standing under the rim. That’s not a good defensive position, and it should not be rewarded.

Richard Midgley has been victimized by this call more than once this season. They experimented with the restraining arc during the exempt tournaments at the start of this season, and we can hope it will be implemented.

Finally, a player should be required to have at least one foot on the floor in-bounds in order to call a time-out. It’s ridiculous to watch a player flying out of bounds into the crowd calling time-out in midair. If you're about to land out of bounds, and have no possibility of doing any of the acts central to basketball (shoot, pass, dribble), maybe you should not be able to retain possession. It’s a simple change, but it would remove one of those discretionary calls that referees make on an inconsistent basis.

Sometimes, “old school” is good. In most ways, college basketball is a better game than it was in the sixties. The early departures to the NBA (or, in the case of some players, to oblivion) have harmed the game, and the decline in solid fundamentals hasn’t helped either. As the rules committee continues to tinker with the game, let’s hope they look back to the era of jump balls, high percentage shots, and solid defense. Those “old school” values are timeless.




©Copyright 2005, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this very active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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