Killian: Impact of new NCAA rules felt at MU, across nation


College basketball season is in full swing, and this year’s teams all across the country are forced to adapt a new style of play.

After last season yielded the lowest national scoring totals since 1952, the NCAA made a splash in the offseason with the addition of several offense-friendly rules.

Placing and keeping a hand on an opponent, putting two hands on an opponent, continually jabbing an opponent and using one’s arm to impede the progress of a dribbler are now strictly enforced penalties as referees cracked down hard.

Free throw totals ballooned in the first week of action, as it was commonplace for a team to be granted 50-plus attempts. The Big East saw some of the highest totals as Seton Hall’s win over Niagara featured a whopping 73 fouls and took two hours and 28 minutes to complete. Georgetown’s 82-75 loss to Oregon included 74 combined free throw attempts.

Marquette benefited from a record-high 53 free throw attempts in its season-opening win over Southern. Coach Buzz Williams said the rule changes marked a reversion to “the way we were taught to play the game,” with “our feet instead of our hands,” and his offensive game plan was duly affected.

“I think with some of the changes with the rules it’s going to become paramount that you get a shot every possession,” Williams said. “If you get a shot every possession then at least there’s a chance that you’re going to get fouled.”

Other coaches expressed mixed feelings. Louisville’s Rick Pitino labeled last season’s officiating “terrible” at times, and Kentucky’s John Calipari believes the new enforcements will be “good for the game.”

On the other end of the debate some, including Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger, anticipate frustration and anguish for players and fans alike.

“Tons of fouls, a lot of free throws, long, ugly games,” Kruger said. “Hopefully fans can prepare for that. It is going to be frustrating.”

In the grand scheme of the game, the new rules force teams to play much more proactive defense. This will likely benefit more talented squads, but for teams like Marquette that make a living through hard-nosed play, tightly called contests could present a huge challenge down the stretch.

High scoring basketball may please the viewing public, but could this change affect the Golden Eagles’ ability to reach the same levels of success they’ve enjoyed in recent seasons?

Williams is hesitant to make any such judgments so early in the season. Rather than complain or specifically endorse the new rules, he’s approached them with caution and is focused on making the necessary adjustments.

Time will tell if the NCAA’s decision is best for the sport, but if this week is any indication, fans are in for a rough period of transition.