Gators adjusting to new rules

College basketball wants an increase in scoring. That's the design behind new rules being implemented by the NCAA this season, causing teams across the country to adjust their defensive schemes. The goal is to make eliminate hand checking and most contact on the offensive player possessing the ball. The Gators spent the offseason learning the rules to prepare for Friday's season opener.

The new rules eliminate hand checks and keep defenders from using arm bars or riding the player with the ball through the rain as used to be allowed. There's also a change to the block/charge call. A defender isn't allowed to move into the path of the offensive player once he has started his offensive motion to attempt a field goal or pass. Previously, a defender only had to be in legal guarding position when the offensive player lifted off the floor.

The NCAA wanted to see scoring increase after teams averaged 67.5 points per game last season, the lowest marks since 1951-52.

Most speculate more zone defense will be played across the country. Teams have been forced to reevaluate how they teach defense and what they focus on while on the defensive end of the floor.

"The main foundation for defense is that you play with your feet and not your hands in the first place," Florida center Patric Young said. "This really reinforces that, being in the right position, being quick on your feet, being able to bounce back and do both is what we always say."

Florida head coach Billy Donovan prepared the team by bringing NCAA officials into the facility to talk to the players about how games will be called. The referees also stayed at the Florida basketball facility to officiate practice as if it were a regular season game to show the Gators what it will be like this season.

What it showed was an increase in free throws.

Young said he heard about a Morehead State scrimmage that lasted two-and-a-half hours, including a 10-minute span that included one minute of actual play. Officials will call more contact this year, causing an increase in free throws. The goal is to make the game cleaner with more scoring in time, but that might not happen at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, which begins for the Gators against North Florida at 3 p.m. on Friday.

"This is going to be different for everybody," Donovan said. "You can end up looking at a stat sheet saying, ‘wow, we held this team to 30 percent from the field and 31 percent from the free throw line,' and then you look at the stat sheet and a team took 35 free throws. We're going to have to do a good job of adjusting, as everybody is, to some of the new rules and the contact and those things. That's going to be really, really important."

The Florida defense was third in points per game allowed last season, and Donovan has voiced his concerns about this year's unit. The Gators allowed 88 points to Florida Southern in Friday's exhibition game, letting the Mocs shoot 22 free throws.

Florida Southern is a perimeter-based offense that still shot seven more free throws than the Gators allowed last season.

HEALTH/SUSPENSION UPDATE: Florida guard/forward Dorian Finney-Smith, forward/center Damontre Harris and point guard Scottie Wilbekin remain suspended for Friday's season opener. Donovan offered no update on when any of the trio could return to the team. None of the three sat on the Florida bench for last Friday's exhibition win.

Guard Michael Frazier (mono) will test himself on Thursday in practice to see how he feels, but it's possible that the sophomore will play on Friday.

Kasey Hill (back) has been in and out of practice this week but is expected to play. Eli Carter (leg) is cleared to play. Will Yeguete (knee) will also play and is expected to start.

NORTH FLORIDA: The Owls will start two seniors, two sophomores and one freshman on Friday. Senior forward Travis Wallace scored 12 points in the O'Connell Center as a freshman and averaged 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds as a junior.

Sophomore guard Beau Beech averaged 7.9 points last season, and according to Donovan, he can "really, really shoot the ball."

Freshman guard Dallas Moore will start for the Owls. Donovan saw him plenty in high school since he played on the same AAU team as Florida freshman point guard Kasey Hill. UNF freshman forward Chris Davenport was also on that team.

"They lost some guys from a year ago, but they shoot it from three or four different positions," Donovan said. "They're athletic across the front line. This is a very good basketball team. They are going to play hard. They'll play with great energy and great effort. They've got a lot of different pieces, and even though some of those pieces are new, I think they still have some very, very talented pieces."

Fightin Gators Top Stories