Ranking the NCAA Rule Changes

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

The NCAA made official  a number of rule changes across college basketball.

While the NBA is holding the majority of the basketball community’s attention with one of the more closely-contested finals in recent memory, the NCAA went out and made official its set of offseason rule changes Monday afternoon.

Largely intended to help gain back the casual fan, let’s lay out the changes that were made, and then rank the significant ones by how much they should help the overall game experience.

The following are a handful of minor rule changes which I don’t think will have much of an impact on the game. 

– Coaches can no longer call timeout when the ball is live.

– Coaches only have 15 seconds to replace a disqualified player, rather than 20.

– During video reviews to assess possible flagrant fouls, officials can penalize players who fake fouls. – Class B technical fouls (hanging on the rim, delaying the resumption of play) are now one-shot, instead of two-shot technical fouls.

– The five-second closely guarded rule while dribbling the ball is no more.

7. Officials may use the monitor to review potential shot clock violations on made field goals throughout the entire game.

This is probably the rule change I like the least. It won’t be a factor too often, but this adjustment flies in the face of a lot of the pace of play initiatives that were a focus of this offseason. I know every possession counts the same, but really, no one is looking back on a potential blown shot clock violation call in the first half as a reason they lost the game. Less in-game stoppages, please.

6. Shot clock reduced from 35 to 30 seconds.

It’s not that I dislike this change, it’s just that I don’t think it’s going to make much of an impact. The rule is meant to increase scoring because teams will get more possessions per game. However, in an article for Deadspin, Ken Pomeroy noted when the rules were utilized in the last NIT tournament, it only resulted in about two extra possessions per 40 minutes. Things like efficiency and shot distribution were not significantly different, so early findings show we’re maybe looking at between an extra 2-4 points per game. Not exactly ground-breaking. Still, it’s less time teams are simply holding the ball in late-game situations so it can’t hurt.

5. The restricted-area arc was expanded from 3 feet to 4 feet. 

Another change intended to goose scoring, this change should theoretically result in more block calls versus charge violations, and thus, more free throws. Ostensibly, the league says it’s also about player safety by reducing the number of collisions around the basket, but I personally think scoring is more what they’re aiming for with the change. Ultimately, I’m in favor of players being rewarded for having an attacking mentality and going hard to the basket rather than settling for jumpers.

4. Teams now only have a total of only 10 seconds to advance the ball to the front court, rather than the 10 seconds resetting if they call timeout.

It never made sense to me that a pressing team could do all sorts of work to hound the opposition for 8 seconds or so, just to have them call timeout and get a fresh 10 seconds. I know a lot of the rule changes are meant to help scoring to help make the games more exciting, but high-pressure defense can be exciting as well. Teams should be rewarded for being effective in that area.

3. Teams have one fewer timeout in the second half; they can only carry over 3 instead of 4. Given the media timeouts which occur every 4 minutes, there were always too many timeouts provided to teams. More often than not, those stoppages would just be hoarded until the end of the game, when coaches would micro-manage every possession and make the final minute of the contest stretch out for 20 minutes in real time. Hopefully, this change leads to more free-flowing end-game scenarios and more harmonious relationships in living rooms across the country when guys tell their gal there’s only a minute left in the game, but it ends up dragging on indefinitely.

2. Players can dunk again in pregame warmups and at halftime.

Finally! If the NCAA is going to insist on treating student athletes as amateurs, at least loosen the reins a bit and let them act like kids and have a bit of fun out there. Chicks dig the long ball in baseball, but dunks are the crowd pleasers on the hardwood. Players will enjoy getting to throw down, fans will certainly have a more exciting pregame viewing experience, and in an era where Joel Embiid’s warmups are must-see TV on social media, granting more exposure to the sheer athleticism of college stars can only help the game.


1. Timeouts called within 30 seconds before a scheduled media timeout, or any time after, become the media timeout.

In my opinion, this adjustment is the single best, no doubt about it winner of the offseason. Nothing took both players and fans out of a game flow more than a coach calling a timeout, teams coming back and playing one or two possessions, and then the media timeout causing a break once again. Such situations were the equivalent of the NFL only showing a kickoff in between commercial breaks.

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