Those complaints have existed in college basketball for some time now and they seemed to boil to the surface last season, becoming a constant refrain for basketball analysts and fans throughout the year. Basically, the thought was that college basketball was not as fun to watch as it could be.
After grumbling reached an all-time high during the 2014-15 campaign, the NCAA took notice and last Friday the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee approved a package of proposed rule changes design to increase the pace of play and balance the disparity between offenses and defenses. The recommended changes still must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel and that group is scheduled to discuss the changes in a conference call May 8.
Rick Byrd, the chair of the rules committee and current men’s basketball coach at Belmont University is confident the proposed changes would be a step in the right direction.
“The committee has taken significant steps to reverse the trends in the sport that are concerning to the men’s college basketball world,” he said. “We have spent the past year collecting data, opinions and considering proposals that will help our game. Our anticipation is that dedicated officiating enforcement, along with this package of changes, will help balance the offense and defense in our game.”
While the proposed changes – reducing the shot clock to 30 seconds, eliminating live-ball timeouts and the expansion of the restricted area arc from three to four feet among other changes – seem to be a sign of progress for the sport as a whole, how might the specific changes effect Ohio State next season?
Reducing The Shot Clock
The committee has proposed a five-second reduction in the shot clock to 30 seconds. Clearly aimed at increasing pace of play, a 30-second shot clock was used experimentally at the NIT this season and received positive reviews.
The change has been a long time coming for Ohio State head coach Thad Matta.
“I’ve always been an advocate of the shot clock going to 30 seconds,” Matta said in a press conference March 3. “I would love to see that. I said that back when I first got here and we were playing Northwestern and Wisconsin and I’m saying, ‘Come on, I’m too impatient for this.’ I don’t think college players are good enough to play with a 24-second shot clock, but I think 30 would be a great shot clock.”
While the change clearly has Matta’s support, it may not help the Buckeyes next season. Ohio State will enter the season without an experienced point guard on the roster, relying on freshmen JaQuan Lyle and A.J. Harris to run the point. Those players will have to adjust to a shot clock of any kind and a 30 second time limit may make their adjustment to the college pace of play a little more difficult.
Still, Matta does not employ an offensive system that drains the shot clock consistently so the five second reduction may have minimal effects once the Buckeyes young ball handlers settle in.
In addition to eliminating a coach’s ability to call live-ball timeouts, the committee has proposed a removal of one team timeout in second-half. Again, this proposal is made with pace of play in mind.
In his time at Ohio State, Matta has mostly refrained from micromanaging his team with timeouts, often ending the game with a few unused stoppages.
“I like to keep mine as long as I can, but I think people don’t understand, they say you should call timeout here or there,” Matta said. “People don’t know this, the NCAA gives away a fishing trip at the end of the year to the guy who has the most timeouts saved at the end of games and I’ve been on that a couple times, I really enjoy it.”
All joking aside, the reduction in timeouts is unlikely to have a big impact on the Buckeyes. The inability for Matta to call one from the bench when the ball is live puts an added pressure on the Buckeyes ball-handlers to know when their team needs to regroup. This could again shine a spotlight on a very inexperienced back court for the Buckeyes, but that group was going to be scrutinized regardless of rule changes.
A Sixth Player Foul
The addition of a sixth foul for each player is not among the rules that could go into effect next season but rather is under consideration to be tried in experimental fashion during the 2016 postseason, much like the shorter shot clock was toyed with at the 2015 NIT.
While it wouldn’t become an official rule until the 2016-17 season, Matta is a proponent of the change.
“The one I’ve always said is I’d like to see like the NBA, give them six fouls,” he said. “Keep the best players on the floor, coaches are a little bit different, but you take a player out when he has two in the first half, that sort of thing.”
That change could be especially fortuitous for the Buckeyes top returning player next season. Jae’Sean Tate lead the Buckeyes in personal fouls last season with 88 despite playing the fourth most minutes on the team. He fouled out of three games while no other Buckeye fouled out more than once. Tate will still have to stay under five fouls next season, but upping that to six for his junior year would do nothing but help Ohio State’s physical leader.
Easily the most overlooked proposed rule change has nothing to do with the 40 minutes of basketball. Currently players are not allowed to dunk in pre-game warmups but the committee has proposed eliminating this silly rule.
Not only will this eliminate elite athletes from dropping the ball into the basket from well above the rim as they go through their pre-game layup lines, it will give walk-ons everywhere a chance to shine. Expect 6-7 senior walk-on Jake Lorbach to put on a show before Ohio State games next season.