Coaches torn on rule changes

Many coaches, including Louisville's Rick Pitino, are ecstatic with the new rules that are set to take effect this season in an effort to increase scoring and freedom of movement, but others are concerned this isn't the best avenue to improve the game.

"It's the biggest change to our game," Pitino told ESPN.com. "No question. Last season was terrible. It was an ugly season. We need to change the game. The one thing the coaches can't do: They can't gripe about it. The first six weeks will be a transition for the players as well as the coaches."

A video was sent out to all Division I coaches last week with all the rules changes. Art Hyland, the secretary rules editor of the NCAA men's basketball rules committee, highlighted the proper enforcement of hand-checking rules, which has been moved from a guideline into the official rule book.

"It requires fouls to be called when such action occurs against the player with the ball," Hyland said.

These rules include:

• Keeping hand or forearm on an opponent.

• Putting two hands on an opponent.

• Continually jabbing an opponent by extending an arm or placing a hand or forearm on the opponent.

• Using an arm bar to impede the progress of a dribbler.

NCAA director of officials John Adams told ESPN.com that it will take time for coaches, players and officials to adjust. The changes could well result in an increase of fouls early in the season and also could force star players to the bench with foul trouble.

"The best way to increase scoring and make the game better is to create situations to get more shots," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "More free throws doesn't make the game better."

Adams is aware that the early portion of the season could feature an excess of whistles and lengthier games. But he is optimistic that by midseason an improvement in overall play will be noticeable.

"Touching a dribbler is not a foul," Adams said. "Keeping a hand on them is a foul, putting two hands on them is a foul, constantly jabbing at them is a foul."

"I think it's good for the game," Kentucky's John Calipari said in a news conference Tuesday. "But we're all wondering whether they will make the same calls in January, February and March that they make in November and December. I think they are convinced they are."

"I think they are really going to do it," Self said. "It's no longer an emphasis. It's a rule."

Adams said the goal is to attempt to get consistency throughout the country -- which is no easy task given the setup for men's basketball officiating. Adams held regional clinics and also a two-day seminar in Indianapolis in September. The difficult part, however, is that there are 32 leagues, 20 officiating coordinators and 838 Division I men's basketball referees -- as opposed to 62 in the NBA, who are under the control of one officiating coordinator.

Another rule that should clearly benefit the offense and is likely to increase scoring is the block-charge call, which now states that a defensive player is not permitted to move into the path of an offensive player once he has begun his upward motion with the ball to attempt a field goal or a pass. Previously, the player had to be in legal guarding position when the offensive player lifted off the floor.

"There will be no more flopping," Calipari said.

Adams said that the referees get more than 90 percent of all calls correct, but that number was at about 65 percent last season with regard to block-charge calls.

"It's a tough play and it happens incredibly quickly," Adams said. "A big reason for the change was aimed to help the officials get the call right."

Not only will it give the referees a little more time, but it should also favor the offensive player.

However, the most discussed topic remains hand-checking calls on the perimeter.

Pitino has said his players will continue to press on defense and that he feels quick players such as Russ Smith will be "unguardable" with the new rules.

"Does it guarantee that we're better off just because we're putting more points on the board?" said Self, who is concerned about an increase in free throws. "I'm worried there will be less flow."

Said Adams: "The idea is to make the game better, not call more fouls."