The NCAA announced on Friday that teams competing in the NIT this season will do so under an experimental set of rules, including a shorter, 30-second shot clock and a wider restricted area in the lane.
And honestly, this idea couldn’t come at a better time for the NCAA, as slow pace of play and poor charging calls are two of the biggest things harming college basketball right now.
Let’s start with the shot clock experiment, which I’m totally in favor of. Many people have already written about how this is shaping up to be college basketball’s slowest season ever (most notably Ken Pomeroy and ESPN). Currently, the average number of possessions per college basketball game is 65.2, which is the lowest number since the advent of the shot clock. More and more, teams with less talent are realizing that if they can limit possessions, they can play closer games and potentially pick up wins against better teams.
That has led to decrease in scoring, which hurts general interest in basketball. While someone like me — a junkie who lives and breathes basketball as opposed to having a life outside of the sport — can appreciate the efficiency of what teams like Virginia and Wisconsin do on both ends, that’s not for everyone. General fans like games with scoring and shot-making. In theory, a decrease in the shot-clock should lead to at the very least a slight bump in scoring due to a higher number of possessions. And anytime the game of college basketball is growing with the general public’s universe, that’s great news for the sport.
And it’s not like we’re lowering it to NBA levels here either. A 30-second timer still gives college teams time to set up their offense and roll through all of their options. It should just involve a bit more urgency. This seems like the best of both worlds, and it’s smart to experiment to see if this has any impact in the way that games are played.
The other big news here is the wider restricted area in the lane. Simply put, the charge problem in college basketball has gotten out of control. Nary a night can go by on Twitter where there isn’t someone (normally CollegeBasketballTalk’s Rob Dauster) Vine-ing an awful charge call that either should have been a no-call or a block. I don’t know that a wider semi-circle — where a defender cannot establish legal position to have a charge called — will help with all of these, but it’s worth a try at this point. At the very least, it may make the referees’ jobs a bit easier, as there will be less space near the basket where players will be outside of the restriced area.
All in all, these are excellent ideas by the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee, and I applaud Rick Byrd — coach of Belmont — and the rest of the group for experimenting and seeing what they can do to fix some of the things that are hurting college hoops.
For the first time in a while, the NIT has become appointment viewing. I, for one, will be looking forward to seeing these rules in action.