Players, fans brace for new NCAA rules

Do block-charge rulings in college basketball leave you befuddled? How about that confusing elbow rule leading to a number of flagrant fouls? Want to see more replays to make sure calls at the end of the game are correct? Then you should be happy with the NCAA rules changes for coming season, which will get their first significant test during ESPN Events' early-season tournaments.

It all starts in November, with the Champions Classic, Charleston Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Old Spice Classic, Wooden Legacy and Jimmy V Classic. By December -- when the Diamond Head Classic tips, fans should be well versed on the new rules intended to clear up past problems.

While the rules committee didn't vote on a proposal to reduce the 35-second shot clock, there was a significant change involving the block-charge, considered one of the most difficult calls officials make.

Defensive players will no longer be able to slide into the path of a player with the ball in an attempt to draw a charge once he has "started his upward motion" to pass or shoot. If the player is not set before the player begins that motion and leaves his feet, it will be a block.

The NCAA rules panel believes the tweak will allow more offensive freedom and "enhance the balance between offense and defense."

"We think this will allow the officials to make the call correctly and perhaps increase the scoring," St. Peter's coach and rules committee chairman John Dunne told ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz.

Officials are also being told to crack down on existing rules for hand-checking and extended arms on defense in hopes of opening up the game. Points per game have dipped in each of the last four seasons. The 67.5 average of a season ago is the lowest since the 1981-’82 season.

Meanwhile, officials will also get more leeway in dealing with elbow fouls. Referees can go to the video monitor to determine if contact was made above the shoulders. If not, the foul can be rescinded. A flagrant foul can also be downgraded to a common foul. Players, however, can still be ejected for what is called a "flagrant 2" foul for intentional elbows landed above the shoulders.

And, get ready for more replay. Officials will now be able to check the video in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime to determine who last touched a ball that went out of bounds and if there was shot-clock violation. This is similar to the current NBA rule.

Referees will also be allowed to check the replay to determine who committed a foul, not just who the free-throw shooter should be. A smaller change will allow officials to stop the game with under four minutes remaining in regulation and overtime to determine if a made shot was a two- or three-pointer, rather than waiting until the next timeout.

There's also a significant rule change in the women's game, which will come into play when Connecticut visits Duke on Dec. 17 in the Jimmy V Classic. For the first time, there will be a 10-second backcourt rule. Previously in women's basketball, teams could keep the ball in the backcourt for the entire 30-second shot clock.

Not only will players have to adjust how they play. You, the fan, will also have to adjust the way you watch.