The NCAA has revamped and more clearly defined fouls that must be called on hand checking and other impediments to free-flowing play, and has been adamant in its private presentations to member schools and in public comments as to the tactics that will be whistled this year. Those directives have been met with varying levels of skepticism from coaches, and Bob Huggins isn't sure how they can all be called without making the game a foulfest.
"I think the fallacy is we're not going to have contact," Huggins said at Big 12 Media Day. "You can't put ten people that big, that strong, that fast in such a confined area. They're going to run into each other. I mean, it just happens, and it's always been a contact sport.
"I think what they're trying to do is free up the guy with the ball more. I don't know. Ask me a year from now, and I can eloquently answer your question."
The way in which checking, either with the hand, an arm bar or the body, is called off the ball is of huge importance to Huggins, who preaches disruption of offensive cuts as vital to defensive success. If defenders aren't allowed to position themselves to stop or reroute their foes on offense, one of the big linchpins of his scheme will be removed.
Earlier this week, Huggins noted that the new rules may also change how his team guards ball screens, which are a staple of many collegiate offensive systems. He observed that teams might not hedge or come over the top of screens quite as much, but that he would also have to see how it was called in early games before predicting any adjustments.
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West Virginia obviously didn't have a good first season in the league, as it battled internal and external issues. Huggins sees a shift in the way in which his team will play, and again commented on the adjustments that have been made in terms of travel.
"We're going to be more of a perimeter team," he said, referring to Eron Harris and Terry Henderson as focal points. "Those guys went from being very shy, skinny little guys to not knowing what to do and kind of being not very assertive to taking a leadership role. We don't have any seniors, and we only have five returning guys, so those five guys kind of have to assume a leadership role for us.
"It's kind of fun watching those two guys grow into that role, helping the younger guys with the things that I think they struggled with maybe initially a year ago.
"But they're both talented guys. They're both talented guys and they're both really good guys. So we look for them to have big years for us."
While Huggins reiterated his appreciation to the league for helping WVU with its travel issues (two games are played before the second semester begins, and two others will be played on one trip), he also mentioned the nature of road Big 12 venues as another big difference that his team may not have been prepared for. In the Big East, a number of off-campus venues made for less than optimal home support, but that's not the case in the Big 12.
"The atmospheres are night and day," he said. "You go from a league where you play maybe half of your games in NBA arenas that are downtown, away from campus, and you don't have the student involvement that you have in the Big 12. I think the atmospheres in the Big 12 are far tougher to play in than they are in leagues where you don't play on campus.
"So there was, I think, a great deal of adjustment for not just the coaches, but I think the players as well." But as we tell our guys all the time, those students can't block a shot to get a rebound, and I'm sure sometimes they don't call a foul. But there are other things they can't do, so, you know, just play.