NCAA official 'cautiously optimistic' as conference play begins with new rules

New NCAA coordinator of officials J.D. Collins is "cautiously optimistic" six weeks into the season that the impact of the new rule changes, and a more free-flowing game, will sustain itself through conference play.

Statistics, obtained by ESPN through Sunday's games, show that scoring has increased more than five points from this time a year ago -- while fouls have increased .89 per game. Points per possession have also increased slightly -- from 1.03 to 1.04.

"It's a positive, but we've got to carry it forward," said Collins, a former referee who took over for John Adams this past offseason.

Two years ago, there was a push to increase the freedom of movement. Collins, however, said a clear directive was given to officials prior to this season to clean up excessive physical play and increase freedom of movement.

Collins said he's also received minimal pushback from coaches about the new rules.

"By and large, coaches have adjusted," Collins said. "But there are still some games with 45 fouls and 60 free throws."

Collins said it's not just the referees and coaches who have adjusted. The players have also altered the way they play.

"They don't want to be on the bench," Collins said of the players learning quickly.

One of the issues two years ago was that veteran officials, when conference play began, reverted back to their old ways. Collins said he's made it clear to everyone, including league coordinator of officials, that they won't work the NCAA tournament if they don't officiate the game according to the new directives.

The six major officiating concerns are handchecking/body bumping, freedom of movement, physical post play, rebounding, screening and offensive initiated contact with legal defenders.

"This is the carrot I hold," Collins admitted. "I hate when it comes out of my mouth, and I don't want to say it in an arrogant way. But if you refuse to officiate with the new directives, I can refuse to use you."

Collins said this is still just the start of an ongoing process intended to make the game more pleasing to everyone.

"We all want the game to be better, to look better and feel better," Collins said. "The key is we need to make progress each year. We can't have slippage in January or February this year."

"As I continue to say, I'm cautiously optimistic," Collins said. "The reason I say that is because there are so many variables. Conference play is starting, and we have to do our part. I'm optimistic, but I'm a realist, too."