I love college basketball. I always have. When I was a kid I memorized who won the national championship in college basketball every year from 1960-2008. No joke, come ask me sometime. It’s safe to say I’m about as big of a college basketball fan as you can find, so what I’m about to write pains me greatly.
One afternoon over winter break I found myself watching the South Carolina vs. Memphis basketball game. The Gamecocks won (which really should be the main point here, especially considering we easily could have disbanded our men’s basketball program five years ago without anyone blaming us), but that wasn’t what stuck with me. It was the 68 combined fouls called and the 99 combined free throws shot. That’s not a misprint. There were almost twice as many fouls called as shots made, and South Carolina had more free throws than Memphis had shots from the field. It was a prime example of why college basketball is almost unwatchable today.
For the 2013-14 season the NCAA passed new rules in college basketball. Dubbed the “freedom of movement” rules, they emphasize better fundamental defense; which, if you look at what a score-fest the NBA is, probably wasn’t a bad idea. The problem is that the rules cut out just about any contact between a defender and the man with the ball. The thinking process was that a dribbler should be able to move freely and make an offensive move to score without getting bumped or hit in any way. Unfortunately, the rule has been taken to an extreme level in the last two years, to the point that it is hurting the college game.
Today if you go up and get touched in the paint, it’s a foul almost 100 percent of the time. If you bump a ball handler 35 feet from the basket? Foul. It has almost completely eliminated the back-and-forth transition game in college because there’s a whistle on almost every play. Instead of promoting better defense, the new rules reward terrible basketball. Players throw themselves wildly into the lane because they know they’ll get calls, turning the game into a 40-minute free throw shooting contest. It’s horrible.
Here’s the bottom line: it’s impossible to not touch people in basketball. Guys shouldn’t get mugged going to the basket, but they shouldn’t get bailed out just because they were touched, either. You shouldn’t be allowed to grab someone dribbling the ball, but if you barely touch them with your hand, is that really a foul? Until the NCAA finds the happy medium between too rough and whatever it is we have now, the college game is going to suffer.