The goals were simple: Start the season with a significant pop, make the game more offensively entertaining and ultimately cleaner, free of boorish behavior that can emerge in a competitive sport.
All of those plans are coming to fruition this season with the season tipping off for the second year in a row with the Champions Classic, this time in Madison Square Garden, and a handful of new rules that will affect the game.
“People were concerned the season didn’t start with the type of fanfare that it deserved," said NCAA vice president Dan Gavitt, who is in charge of men’s and women’s basketball for the membership. “We were fortunate that when we moved the start of the season to Tuesday that ESPN moved the Champions Classic to opening night."
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And that meant the top four teams in the country — Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas and Duke — were on tap to play.
But there are a number of other games throughout the week that pit potential NCAA tournament teams against one another like Saint Mary’s vs. Wisconsin in Sioux Falls, S.D., Baylor vs. Washington in Anchorage, Alaska in the Armed Forces Classic and the annual rivalry game between Florida State and Florida.
“This gives us games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday leading into a college football weekend," said Gavitt. “It’s worked out a lot better as it should."
And in these games fans will see four new key rule changes that will likely enhance the overall product. NCAA.com caught up with NCAA coordinator of officials J.D. Collins, in addition to Gavitt, to break them down.
New 3-point line
Men’s college basketball moved the 3-point line from 20-feet, nine inches to 22-feet, 1.75 inches. The women’s line remained the same, meaning on a number of college floors there will be two lines.
Collins said there is a spot along the sides where the line goes straight to the baseline, which is similar to the NBA. That means players may step out of bounds in the corners. This 3-point line was used in the NIT last March and there were seven out of bounds calls.
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“Players have been shooting it deeper," said Gavitt. “This should create more driving opportunities and posting opportunities. The difference in 3s taken and made may end up being marginal. Players can make that shot to the FIBA distance."
Gavitt said the multiple lines may be more of an issue for the women’s game, since it’s human nature to drift to the furthest line. If there is a court with three lines (NBA, men’s and women’s) then Collins said officials will know to watch the middle line. If it’s a court with two, it will be even easier since it will be the farthest line.
Shot clock resets to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound
The plan with this change was to increase the flow of the game and add more possessions. The thinking was that there was no need to reset the shot clock to 30 seconds when teams wouldn’t need those 10 seconds to get the ball up the floor since they would already be in the offensive end of the court.
Collins said the main issue will be a technical one since a shot-clock operator would have two buttons at his disposal — one to reset to 30 seconds and one to reset to 20. If it’s a bang-bang offensive rebound then it might be difficult to manage in a split second or two.
Collins said if the ball were to get batted back to the mid-court line then it would be reset to 30.
Get rid of flopping
Gavitt said this will be the closest one to watch in November and December and as a result, be a teaching tool early in the season.
"The rules committee made it clear they want it out of the game," said Gavitt. "We will see a bunch of calls early and it will cause some anxiety for players and coaches but everyone will adjust."
The rule is 4-10.1.C.4 and it is used to identify faking a play, likely on a block, charge, 3-point shot or any other tactic to fool the official.
Collins said the flop is a delay of game, much like putting the ball out of bounds, not coming out of a huddle in time, crowding an inbounds pass. And if there is a flop, it will be a warning first just like these other items. If there is one delay of game and then a flop then it becomes a class B technical. Teams will get one warning for a delay of game. The second is a technical foul.
What are officials looking for?
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On a 3-point shot, Collins said they will be looking for any contact. If the player is shooting and the defender is flying by him without contact and the shooter goes to the floor then that’s a flop. They will also be looking to see if the shooter initiates contact, jerks his head back in an attempt to try and fool officials.
On a block or charge, if the player’s head goes back before the body does then the player could be flopping. Can there be a foul and a flop? Collins said yes. That’s when the offensive player makes contact with the defender and hits him enough that the defender steps back and embellishes the contact. That can be an offensive foul and a flop.
A flagrant 1 foul is two shots and the ball and that means excessive in nature or unnecessary or avoidable, uncalled for or not required by the circumstances of the play.
A flagrant 2 foul is two shots and the ball and the player is ejected from the game. The rules committee added more words to describe this scenario, including brutal, harsh or cruel or dangerous or punishing.
“There will be more opportunities for teaching,” Gavitt said. “Everyone will adjust and a cleaner game for it."