10 Rule Changes College Basketball Should Consider Implementing
Any college basketball fan could tell you that the game would benefit from experimenting with some rule changes.
Most of these proposed changes are minor and are intended to "fix" college basketball's endgame, but each one could have a massive effect on the way the game is played.
From oft-debated ideas like reducing the shot clock to possibly insane notions like adding a four-point shot, we've proposed 10 changes that should be considered sooner than later.
Be sure to add your own rule-change proposals in the comments, but try to come up with something better than, "Ban Duke from the NCAA tournament forever."
Please note that these rule changes are only concerned with actual on-court product. If you want to argue for players getting paid, changing the NCAA tournament selection process or amending the one-and-done rule to keep players in school longer, save it for another day.
Shorter Shot Clock
Might as well start this list with Captain Obvious.
Ask anyone what on-court rule changes college basketball should consider, and a shorter shot clock will be one of the first things out of his or her mouth. The NCAA probably shouldn't cut it all the way down to 24 seconds, but 30 seconds seems to be a popular and fair compromise.
The ACC will even be using a 30-second shot clock in exhibition games this fall, so this rule change is already moving in the right direction.
According to KenPom.com (subscription required), the average possession length over the past five years has varied from 17.8 seconds to 18.1 seconds. Some of those are three-second fast breaks off of turnovers while others result in a poor shot after 34 seconds. But for the most part, possessions end long before the shot clock even becomes a concern.
There's no guarantee that a shorter shot clock will increase scoring or speed up the pace of the game, but there's really no way of knowing what effect it will have without implementing it.
My guess is that a shorter shot clock will lead to an increase in one of the things that college basketball purists love the most: defensive intensity. It's hard to defend without fouling for 35 seconds, but reduce that length by 14 percent and we might see tougher half-court defense.
Defensive Three Seconds
You can tweak the verbiage in the block vs. charge ruling all you want, but it's always going to be a subjective call that we can barely even agree on during a super-slow-motion replay.
Expecting referees to consistently make the same block vs. charge call 100 percent of the time is about as foolish as wanting every home-plate umpire to have the exact same strike zone and never miss a call. Short of eliminating the charge altogether, it's an issue that won't go away.
But what if we reduced the number of times the call had to be made by limiting the number of players loitering in the lane?
We can probably agree that—more often than not—the controversial block vs. charge calls are the result of secondary defenders sliding over at the last second to meet an oncoming guard.
If they're farther away from the hoop because they aren't allowed to spend too much time in the lane, shouldn't that reduce the opportunities to impede a person's path by simply moving one step to the left or right?
Even if it doesn't have a drastic impact on those controversial calls, it should marginally increase scoring by forcing shot-blockers to actually move around and play defense rather than standing in front of the hoop like a goalie trying to prevent any shots within five feet.
Increase Number of Fouls Before Disqualification
On a nightly basis, games are drastically affected when one player picks up a couple of early ticky-tack fouls.
An example that most of us watched occurred in the round of 32 game between Saint Louis and Louisville this past March. Rob Loe played incredibly in the Billikens' overtime win over NC State, tallying 22 points and 15 rebounds. But three fouls in the first 10 minutes of the game against Louisville kept both him and Saint Louis from having much of a chance.
Too often we have seen a key player get whistled for two fouls in the first five minutes of the game and then miss the rest of the first half.
But what if we made it possible for those players to remain in the game despite a few judgment calls going against them?
Rather than simply allowing players to commit more fouls before being forcibly removed from the game, let's increase the penalty when their foul count gets too high.
When a player commits his fifth foul, the opposing team gets two free-throw shots and the ball—to even further increase the penalty, the team drawing the foul can pick whoever it wants to take those shots. On the sixth foul, it's four foul shots and the ball. Upon receiving a seventh foul, the player fouls out and the opposing team is awarded five shots and the ball.
But would a coach allow one of his players to stay in the game long enough to commit seven fouls?
Joe Average would still get treated the same way as he is today to keep him from picking up five fouls, but vital players would be far less likely to ride the pine for large stretches of the game because of a few whistles.
Add a Triple Bonus
Without question, the most insufferable part of college basketball is the final 90 seconds of a seven-point contest when the trailing team starts intentionally fouling to extend the game.
The rationale, of course, is that you can eventually catch up by making enough three-pointers. Even if the other team makes all of its free throws, you gain at least one point for every possession that ends in a made three-pointer.
So let's kill that line of thinking by adding a triple bonus.
As is, teams get a one-and-one after seven fouls and two shots after 10 fouls. But 10 fouls isn't cutting it anymore. Teams end up in the double bonus midway through the second half, and then nothing changes for the rest of the game.
In the infamous foul fest between Oklahoma State and Gonzaga in last year's NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs committed 18 second-half fouls while the Cowboys committed 21.
I'm not sure when the triple bonus goes into effect. Maybe it's after 13 fouls. Perhaps 15 is the magic number. Or perchance it's after the third foul that occurs in the final two minutes. Either way, at a certain point, the penalty needs to be increased to discourage coaches from fouling us to sleep.
Kill the Possession Arrow
The possession arrow might be the dumbest thing in college basketball.
For playing great defense and creating a jump ball, whether you're awarded the ball is based on either who won the opening tip or which team last (re)gained possession during a tie-up.
In the NBA, jump balls are decided by a tip-off at the free-throw line of the end of the court in which the scrum ensued. It's a better solution than the possession arrow, but it penalizes scrappy 6'2" guards—who are typically responsible for creating jump balls in the first place—by forcing them to be the ones who jump.
Why don't we just reward good defense for playing good defense?
A jump ball should get awarded to the team that caused it. And in situations where players are jostling for a loose ball—off a rebound, for example—have a tip-off at the free-throw line on that end of the court.
In the first year of expanded replay review in college basketball, things hardly went smoothly. Not only did the referees seem to still get the call wrong an alarming percentage of the time, but the reviews occurred far too often and took an exceptional amount of time.
I can appreciate wanting to get the calls right during the portion of the game that gets the most scrutiny, but increasing the length of an endgame that is already too long is a hefty price to pay. Especially when the call that most needs a slow-motion replay (block vs. charge) isn't even on the table to be reviewed.
I'm not suggesting that college basketball completely get rid of reviews, but why doesn't it institute challenges like every other sport that has official reviews?
If you want to automatically review the clock or who touched the ball last before going out of bounds in the final two minutes of the game, that's great. But please figure out some way to speed up that process.
For the rest of the game, though, each coach should have two challenges to use on whatever they darn well please.
If a coach wants to argue a call without risk of a technical foul that adds insult to injury, he can just throw his challenge flag to dispute a foul, a three-second violation, a missed travel or whatever. If the point of reviews is to remove officiating errors from the game, then allow them do so.
And, of course, if a coach loses a challenge, he also loses one of the precious timeouts he loves to hoard until the final minute of the game.
Add a 4-Point Shot
I can't imagine many people will be on board with this rule change, but hear me out.
Rather than adding another line 28 or 30 feet from the hoop and calling it the four-point line, let's just use a line that's already on the court and add a point for shots made from beyond that line.
That line is the mid-court line.
The backcourt violation remains in effect, so once you cross into the offensive half of the court, you no longer have the opportunity to take a four-point shot. By and large, it would just be a Hail Mary play that potentially causes more intrigue at the end of close games.
For it to have any merit in the first 39 minutes of an offensive plan, though, you would need a player who can make at least one out of every four half-court shots. That's not a percentage many would be able to attain, and anything less than that is less valuable than a 33 percent three-point shooter.
But on the off chance that a coach is willing to let a player take the occasional 47-foot jump shot, defenses will need to consistently extend out to that point.
Rather than simply have your point guard dribble the ball up to within five feet of the top of the key and then start your half-court offense, ball movement would begin earlier in the court and in the shot clock, simultaneously speeding up the game and freeing up more space for movement in the frontcourt for a short period of time.
It wouldn't necessarily cause defenses to employ a full-court press, but it might keep them from getting into their half-court sets long enough to open up more passing lanes.
Maybe it's a stupid gimmick that fails miserably, but it could be worth exploring in exhibition games.
Amend the 10-Second Rule
This one could be changed in a couple of ways.
Much like the argument for reducing the shot clock, changing college basketball's 10-second rule to an eight-second rule would reward good defenses and encourage others to step up their full-court press.
Even if it doesn't result in more full-court pressure, reducing the length of time to cross midcourt could create a greater sense of urgency to get the offense started. Granted, it could result in a "hurry up and wait" approach in which teams quickly cross midcourt and then lollygag until the shot clock forces their hand, but it just might result in shorter possessions.
Another way in which the 10-second rule could be changed is to eliminate the ability of a team to reset the clock by calling a timeout.
There's nothing quite as disheartening as surprising the opposition with a full-court trap and completely shutting them down for nine seconds just to have the coach burn a timeout and get another 10 seconds to cross midcourt.
If the shot clock hits 25—or 20, if we're also changing the shot clock—and you haven't crossed midcourt, you lose possession. It's that simple.
And while we're on the subject of the midcourt line, let's change the rule that allows a team to throw the ball into the backcourt on an inbounds play from the frontcourt. You have 2,350 square feet in the frontcourt to find an open teammate. Figure it out.
Option to Advance Ball on Timeout
Though I hate the idea of getting out of full-court pressure by calling a timeout, I love the NBA's rule that you can advance the ball into the frontcourt by calling a timeout after gaining possession.
Do you know why Kentucky fans have been tortured with 500 replays of Grant Hill to Christian Laettner for 22 consecutive years? Because that kind of thing just doesn't happen.
The odds of connecting with a teammate on a 70-foot baseball pass and having him either make a shot or find another open teammate to make the shot are about as promising as the odds of essentially handing the ball to a nearby teammate and having him swish a shot from 90 feet away.
Everyone's heart might be in their throat while the ball is in the air, but the trailing team so rarely converts on those "opportunities" that they might as well not even try.
But by allowing the team to advance the ball and throw it in from the sideline in the offensive end, the coach gets to call a play that the team has worked on more than twice in the past six months.
Also, it gives some purpose to saving timeouts until the end of the game, rather than wasting our time by calling a timeout after you make a basket just to huddle everyone up to tell them to foul as quickly as possible.
Make Boundary Lines Act as Those in Soccer
It's a shame that Paul George's career had to be placed in jeopardy for something like this to be considered, but it's time to change the out-of-bounds rule to protect everyone.
You can blame the placement of the backboard stanchion for George's injury, but the real problem is that he was allowed to go into harm's way in the first place.
Sure, it's fun to see guys diving out of bounds and flying into the stands to save loose balls. We praise them for their hustle and their heart. But the risk is not worth the reward.
In soccer, once the ball crosses the out-of-bounds line, it's no longer in play. College basketball should implement that rule.
If you want to tweak it so players can still reach over the line as long as their feet remain in bounds, I'm fine with that. However, enough with the suicide missions to save a loose ball.
Not only is the NCAA putting players in jeopardy by allowing such daredevil behavior to continue, but it's also risking injury to fans, camera operators and commentators—all for a 50/50 chance of extending one possession.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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