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The Courtmaster On Rules

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session, and this week I’m going to rule on rules. That’s right, it’s time for a ruling on rules. Is there a rule against that? Hey wait a minute, I rule!

Now that I got that out of my system, I’m doing to discuss (more like rant about, really) rule changes I would like to see in college basketball, and the sooner the better.

I’ve been thinking about this since I read one of the books from the college sports library in my chambers (almost 600 titles and growing) about the first official NCAA basketball championship in 1939, won by Oregon.

The NCAA had only recently eliminated the jump ball after every basket. A rule still in effect then inspired my first and most radical recommendation for change. It involves coaching, or rather the restriction of it.

Back in the 1930’s, coaches were not allowed to give instructions to their players during the game, including timeouts. They could make substitutions and complain to officials, but that was it. Imagine that, the players actually played without coaches pulling the strings like puppeteers.

I would love to see this type of rule implemented in today’s game. I know it is wildly unrealistic, but I can dream, can’t
I? The specific rule change I am suggesting is to forbid coaches from talking to the players on the court, period. No quick sidelines gatherings during stoppages in play, no barking out instructions regarding where to stand or who to pass the ball to. They could only confer during called time outs.

Coaches would have to prepare their players in practice and then actually allow them to play the game. Let them do hand signals to set up defenses or call offensive sets during the game, but that’s it. This would reward good preparation and teams that have players with good basketball IQ.

I’m also tired of seeing dozens of shots of coaches during a televised game. If one of them picks his nose or trips over someone and falls, fine, that would be worth seeing. If coaches are no longer the stars of the game and the players are, hopefully the cameras would change their focus.

Speaking of television coverage, let’s eliminate the halftime interviews of coaches. They don’t want to do it and almost never say anything interesting, so why take up our time with it. While I’m on this issue, does any other head coach besides Coach K refuse to do those interviews and send one of his assistants in his place? If that’s the case, how does he get off doing that when everyone else makes themselves available? Come on readers, educate me.

Are you tired of the last two minutes of a game stretching out into what seems an eternity? Sometimes, the teams spend more of this time huddled up in a timeout than actually playing. The answer here is to restrict time outs at the end of the game. I propose teams have only two to use during the final two minutes of regulation and only one in overtime, regardless of how many have been burned in the first 38 minutes.

I would also want the elimination of back-to-back timeouts. If team A calls time to set up a play, team B could not then take another one without some time running off the clock. Let’s keep the game moving and put it in the hands of the players.

Of course, we also need to eliminate the possession arrow. Instead of a game being swung by the luck of the arrow, let the players decide it by winning a jump ball. I know when it was originally eliminated one of the concerns was that officials didn’t toss the ball well. With three-man officiating crews now in place, surely one of them can toss a ball straight.

While I’m at it, I would propose eliminating the double-bonus rule after the 10th foul of each half. The ability to make free throws, I believe, is more greatly rewarded if players have to constantly make the first of one-and-one situations to earn their second attempt. There are some teams that really stink at one of the more critical skills in the game of basketball. Clemson is threatening to post the worst team percentage in the history of the ACC. That should be a greater disadvantage than it is now.

The theory behind putting in the double-bonus in the first place was to try to limit the benefit to teams that would have to foul to make up a deficit late in a game. I don’t see where that rule reduced the end-game fouling, so let’s make those situations a bit more interesting.

As for the foul lane, the three-point arc, and the height of the basket, I’m happy leaving all of them where they are for now. Does anyone really think moving the arc out nine inches, the most common proposal, will make any significant difference in the game? The only benefit from that change would be for the people who get paid to paint over the old arcs and paint new ones on the courts.

My revised game of college basketball would be a much more free-flowing, albeit sloppier, one than we see now. I’m not saying that college hoops desperately needs a makeover like it did in the mid-1980’s, when the shot clock and three-point shot were introduced. I’m just offering my ideas to make a good thing even better.

Let me know what you think about my suggestions or offer different ones on the message board or by e-mail at

The CourtMaster’s Briefs

Well, I see the issue of “Duke gets all the calls” is at the forefront again. If one defines the “conspiracy theories” as actual acts of memos or directives being issued or everyone getting in a room and deciding that Duke would receive favoritism, that is of course ridiculous.

Lengthy pieces have been written explaining how that couldn’t happen and concluding that, therefore, there could not possibly be any Duke bias. Of course, that is also ridiculous. Blue Devils’ basketball, through accomplishments and intimidation, is at a place where, more often than not, they will gain the benefit of the doubt from game officials. Back in the days of Dean Smith, North Carolina was in a similar place.

There will be games that officials will get carried away with that and Duke will gain a significant advantage at the foul line. There will also be occasions, especially during cycles where this issue gains more public attention, that officials will overcompensate and put the Blue Devils at a disadvantage.

While Duke is residing at or near the top of the college basketball world, they will have an edge similar to that of a heavyweight boxing champion. The old adage is “you have to knock out a champion to take the title.” If you play Duke even, or just slightly better, you will most likely lose. As a rule I don’t have a problem with that. It worked that way for Smith’s Carolina teams and John Wooden’s UCLA teams. It other teams want to change that they need to start beating Duke.

Speaking of Duke, I thought their win at Maryland was one of the best played games I’ve seen this year. The Terps hit Duke with everything they had, but the Blue Devils really seemed to put all the pieces together in College Park. Greg Paulis’ three-point shooting gives opponents yet another thing to worry about.

I felt bad for NC State’s Gavin Grant at the end of the Wolfpack’s surprising loss at Georgia Tech. With State down by three points, Ilian Evtimiov grabbed an offensive rebound and wisely dribbled out past the three-point arc. He then unwisely passed it to Grant, who had no idea what to do with the ball. By the time Grant passed it to Engin Atsur, the clock had run out. I noticed Evtimov throwing his hands up in the air at the end, but he would have done better to throw up a shot rather than put Grant in a bad spot.

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Until next week, court is adjourned!