Tough Calls


The NCAA men’s basketball rules committee has recommended several changes for the upcoming season.  The changes will likely be approved on June 18 and go into effect this November.

The most notable, in my mind, is an adjustment in the block/charge call… the toughest and most controversial whistle in the game.

The most recent change in this rule added the restricted area underneath the basket marked by a half circle.  A defender must be outside of that arc, set with both feet on the floor and facing the opponent in order to draw a charging foul on the offensive player.  The addition of the arc helped.  A little.  But there is still a lot left to the judgment of the official as to who got there first… the driving offensive player or the defender trying to get position.  The rules committee cited examples of how this call affected the outcome of several games. (Two of them were Iowa State losses, against Kansas and Ohio State.)

The change in the block/charge call is this:  The defensive player cannot move into the space once the offensive player has started his upward motion with the ball.  Not when he leaves his feet, but when he starts the upward motion.

In other words, once the offensive player has picked up the dribble and started to jump for a shot or pass attempt, the defensive player cannot “slide in” or “slide under” to draw the charge.

Midco Sports Network basketball analyst (and noted Kansas State fan), Brad Newitt says this.

“Seems like a reasonable change, there have been way too many charging fouls called that were not charges (with the exception of KU and Iowa St).  With that said, hopefully this results in more blocking calls made in these situations or better yet the defense not trying to slide under offensive players.  The one thing that this rule can’t fix though is the fact that this call is the toughest call for officials to make in the game because they must be watching both the offensive and defensive player simultaneously.”

It is a subtle change.  Calls will still be wrong.  But Newitt is correct in that the change might deter defenders from the late step-in which is dangerous, puts the official in a nearly impossible situation, and often unfairly penalizes the offensive player.

I know coaches love players who step in and take charges, but the only charging call should be a blatantly obvious charging call. (in my opinion)

Another proposed change is in the “elbow” rule.  It would allow officials to go to the replay and reverse or adjust a Flagrant 1 or Flagrant 2 “elbow” foul.  Currently, no change can be made once the initial call is in the book.

“This is a change that had to be made,” says Newitt.  “The old rule was way too confining on officials.  It didn’t give them any room to truly determine the severity or the intention of the act.  I really like that the official can also wipe the foul away.  I feel like some of these elbow fouls that have been called on offensive players in the past were preceded by defensive contact that went uncalled.  I would really like to see the defensive contact called when it happens.”

That last thought alone would go a long way… actually call the defensive foul when it should be called and don’t allow things to build up.

Anyway… The elbow call is another one that has been open to plenty of interpretation.  And while the proposed change does not eliminate the judgment of the official it at least allows them the opportunity to change the call and get it right.

Again, in my opinion, defensive players have been given too much leeway in crowding up on offensive players… and as long as there is not contact, that crowding is fine.  But too often, the defender is making contact and when the offensive player tries to regain some of that space, the elbows come up and the flagrant fouls come out.  Offensive players should obviously not be allowed to violently swing elbows at the defenders head… but at the same time, there should be room for the offensive player to reclaim space with an elbows-extended pivot in a legitimate “basketball play” that is within the rules.  A lot of the Flagrant 1 calls are made when they are merely either inadvertent contact, a hands-on foul on the defender, or just a foul on the offensive player for clearing out with the elbow.

(Side note---There is still no clear rule on a play where a player intentionally (?) smacks another player between the legs like Elijah Johnson of Kansas did to Mitch McGary of Michigan in the NCAA tournament this year.  Not sure there is a category in the rules for a violation like that.)

Finally, a third key change would allow college officials to go to the replay monitor in the last two minutes of a game when there is a close play on a ball knocked out of bounds.

Newitt says… “I like this change and I think that the officials like this change too.  It takes a lot of pressure off them and I think ultimately it will help ensure that the correct call is made.  Most importantly though is that blatantly wrong calls can be corrected.  I like that is only in the last 2 minutes of the game and not the entire game.  There’s no flow to the last two minutes of a close game anyway.”

That “no flow” thing is problematic and probably a different discussion for a different time, but should be addressed at some point.  Teams can carry three 30-second timeouts and one 60-second timeout into the final seconds of the game if they want.  (Those are in addition to the four media timeouts per half.)  Too many great games turn into frustrating snoozers at the end because of all the timeouts and referee trips to the replay monitor.

The timeout thing won’t be addressed for at least another two years… that’s the next time they can make rules changes.  Let’s just hope the officials use their ability to go to the replay only when necessary, and that if there is some flow in the last two minutes that they let it flow.


Filed Under Basketball | College