Rules committee talks changes

DALLAS -- It feels like a lifetime ago now, but back before the season started there was much fretting about new rules that many feared would lead to a game bogged down by whistles.

Turns out, the game survived and the new rules mostly did what they intended.

“I feel like we’re on a path to a better game,” said John Adams, the NCAA coordinator of officials. “There’s a level of predictability when you step on the court.”

Adams, along with Rick Byrd, chairman of the rules committee, and a handful of coaches and administrators met with members of the media on Monday at the Final Four to not only discuss the impact of the new rules but discuss what other changes need to be made.

It was a conversation more than a presentation, an open dialogue about the state of the game and ways it could be improved.

Plenty of ideas were discussed but the three everyone agreed needed to be addressed -- the freedom of movement for cutters without the ball, post play and the torturously long end of games.

“We’re not done,” said Art Hyland, basketball secretary rules editor said.

The question isn’t really what needs to be done, but how to do it. Some of it is simple -- allowing cutters to roam without impediment and stop penalizing post players with a foul when a perimeter guy merely leans in to draw a call.

“You know you’re going to get something if you jump into a guy,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, the previous rules committee chairman.

“It’s very difficult to defend if you can’t do it the right way,” Byrd added.

But the end game problem, for example, is trickier.

This isn’t a rules change year for the committee. Instead they’ll use this time to discuss a laundry list of changes and see which, if any, they’d like to implement.

On the agenda for discussion:

Reducing the number of timeouts allotted to each team in a game; widening the lane; limiting a coach’s ability to call a timeout in a live ball situation; allowing 10 seconds total in a backcourt situation rather than a new 10 seconds after an out of bounds play; reducing the shot clock; considering the NBA continuation; eliminating the de facto timeout that ensues after a player fouls out; and not allowing a player to score when a charge has been called.

No one expects consensus on any of the topics -- “Modern coaches want control over everything they can have control over,” Byrd admitted -- but the committee said it was steadfast in making changes that it believes would help the game.

The most controversial -- like reducing the shot clock -- will no doubt be the hardest to sell, but Hyland remembered when coaches also were reluctant to add a 3-point line and any shot clock at all.

“I think it’s time to really consider 30,” Brey said. “If it went to 24, they’d burn the castle down.”

Of course they wanted to burn the castle down at the beginning of this season when the freedom of movement rules came into effect, too.

Turns out, it wasn’t so bad.

As the year wore on, the complaints decreased and the scoring did, in fact, go up -- 2.7 points per game per team in the NCAA tournament (or 4.2 percent). Field goal percentage also improved, from 42.3 percent to 44.3 percent.

“As the season went on, I felt like the officiating matched up with the coaches’ expectations,” Adams said. “The more games, the less time there was complaining about the rules.”