INDIANAPOLIS— INDIANAPOLIS—The Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, a group formed last year to oversee competitive issues facing the sport, met last week in Indianapolis to discuss several topics, including the effect of the new playing rules and the officiating directives to reduce physical play.
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the promising news related to statistical trends, according to committee chair Dan Guerrero, is the fact the numbers have held up through a good portion of conference play.
“Early on, we saw an increase in the pace of play and an increase in scoring, but I think we were far from comfortable when we reviewed the initial set of data,” said Guerrero, the director of athletics at UCLA. “It was just too soon to get overly excited about it, so in the conversations I had with colleagues the consensus was, ‘Well, let’s see what it looks like in the middle of February.’ So here we are, and the numbers are holding up fine. I think that’s very promising.”
The goals of the rules changes and officiating points of emphasis were to improve the pace of play, better balance offense with defense and reduce physicality to create freedom of movement on the court. From the beginning of the season, the statistical trends indicated the changes were having the desired impact but as Guerrero indicated, it would not be viewed a success unless the trends held up over the course of the season.
Through games of Jan. 3, teams were averaging 73.8 points per game and scoring 1.043 points per possession. Two weeks later, scoring dipped slightly to 73.5, which can be attributed to every team having begun play against familiar opponents from within their conference. The points per possession number was still at 1.042 on Jan. 17, and remained at that level through games of Jan. 31, while scoring sat at 73.3. Perhaps the biggest concern was whether or not officials would call fouls at the same rate as they did earlier in the season. Through games of Jan. 3, there were 19.5 fouls called per game. By the end of January, the number was identical.
As of mid-February, the numbers continue to hold up against earlier points of the season. Through Sunday’s games, scoring is still at 73.2 points per game, points per possession sits at 1.043 and the number of fouls called is at 19.4. At the end of last season, scoring dipped to 67.6 points per game, points per possession was 1.028 and the number of fouls was 18.2. For context, it had been more than three decades since scoring was that low, and the number of fouls called continued a trend in recent years that saw the number dip below 19 in 10 of the past 11 years after being above that threshold for 40 of the previous 41 seasons.
“We have three weeks left in the regular season so obviously the pressure of these games rises as the focus of every sports fan centers on college basketball,” said Guerrero. “It’s important that all of the game’s leaders, including coaches, athletic directors, commissioners and officials, continue to support these initiatives put in place to make college basketball a better game. It’s imperative for the long-term health of the sport.”