How will new NCAA basketball rules affect Aaron Craft, Ohio State?

Joe Robbins

While the rest of the internet spent today geeking out over this year's Starbucks Christmas Cups, we over at LGHL spent it poring over the changes to the NCAA rulebook that will take effect this season. Read on to learn what these changes are and how they'll impact the Buckeyes in their 2013-2014 campaign.

Ed. note -- Meet Chuck McKeever. As our LGHL family continues to grow, Chuck will be part of our expanding basketball coverage, as well as dabble in non-revenue sports as well. Welcome Chuck in the comments below.

The looming prospect of holy matrimony (sorry, ladies) won't be the only change in Aaron Craft's life this coming year. Ohio State's star point guard, along with his teammates, will be faced with a few adjustments to make in the aftermath of the NCAA's rule changes for the 2013-2014 season. The changes will be made in four main categories, per the NCAA:

  • Blocking and charge calls
  • Hand-checking on defense
  • Video review
  • Elbow rules

The changes received mixed reviews from coaches around the B1G during media day, and it seems likely that the first few weeks of the season will be full of growing pains for teams trying to adapt to the new regulations. On to the changes:

Change #1: Blocking and Charge Calls

In short, defenders are now required to establish position before their man leaves his feet and begins his shooting motion in order to draw a charge. Gone, in theory, are the days of guys sliding in and setting their feet while a player is already on his way up to the hoop. Attempting a move like that will now result in a blocking foul.

The B1G Reaction:

The move generally gets a seal of approval, marred slightly by the fear that basketball will begin to lose the element of contact. See, for example, Michigan State's Tom Izzo:

I’m really in favor of the block charge because I felt people were just running under guys and falling down like bowling pins. And I didn’t like that. But if we want to make this into a complete non-physical game, you know I worry that is that going to be longer games, boringer games, is it going to up scoring, are people going to play more zone? (ed. note: Using the word "boringer" during a press conference is only going to reinforce the stereotypes about your school, coach Izzo.)

The Ohio State Impact:

Just over seven months ago, the Buckeyes pulled out a nail biter against Iowa State in the NCAA tournament. While Craft's game-winning three-pointer is a new favorite highlight among fans, the foul call that preceded the buzzer-beating shot was one of the most controversial plays of the year. Craft positioned himself in front of Iowa State's Will Clyburn and went down upon contact, negating Clyburn's finish and returning the ball to the Buckeyes. Twitter chaos ensued, and many believed the upstart Cyclones had been robbed. The NCAA officiating committee later supported the call. Still, one has to think that under the increased scrutiny that accompanies these rule changes, a similar situation in '13-'14 could very well go the other way.

Change #2: Hand-checking on Defense

This rule change will greatly limit the degree to which a defender can use his hands and arms to defend his man. Essentially, defenders can no longer keep either hand pressed against their opponents while defending, nor can they repeatedly "jab" at a player who is dribbling the ball (otherwise known as the go-to strategy for people who are awful at basketball video games). Using an "arm-bar" to inhibit an opponent's movement will now also be treated as a no-no.

The B1G Reaction:

There seemed to be a mixed bag of emotions regarding this one on B1G media day. Reactions range from high and haughty (Michigan, who else) to cautiously optimistic (Iowa) to outright skeptical (Purdue). To wit:

"...we led the country in not fouling last year. I think we were number one or number two in not fouling. So I don’t think there’s going to be a big change in how we coach." -John Beilein, U of M
"It will be interesting to see if the moves out front and the touch fouls will be sustainable. I think in theory it will work." -Fran McCaffery, Iowa
"If you’re telling me the way the games are going to be called and exhibition games are the way they’re going to call them in the Big Ten, we’re going to have a lot of good players watching basketball." -Matt Painter, Purdue

At this point, the new hand-checking rules have to fall into the "wait and see" category. In a perfect world, the threat of these foul calls would reinforce fundamentals and make for a cleaner game, but in practice it's going to be much harder to change horses in mid-stream and force guys to play an entirely new style of defense.

The Ohio State Impact:

Again, Aaron Craft is the first OSU name to come to mind when the impact of these changes is considered. Craft and his fellow hard-nosed, scrappy defenders (or however else you choose to describe short guys who can also play D) will be hard-pressed to reform their ways before the new season starts. Our rosy-cheeked renaissance man doesn't express frustration nearly as comically as either of the Manning brothers, but don't be surprised to see him annoyed and having to spend some extra time on the pine early on as he learns to adapt his style of play.

Change #3: Video Review

Here, the NCAA's panel has adopted a policy that will allow referees to go the monitor for several reasons during gameplay. Officials can now look for/at:

  • Possible shot clock violations (last two minutes of regulation or overtime)
  • Which player last touches the ball when it goes out of bounds (same timing as the shot clock review)
  • Which player commits a foul when the offender is not immediately obvious (entire game)
  • Whether or not long-range field goals are good for two or three points (entire game, automatic during last four minutes)

The NCAA has created a situation that allows for some leeway on the part of the officials, as hotly contested or unclear plays during crunch time can now be reviewed for accuracy. These changes will almost certainly lengthen games, as they allow for increased stoppages during a time period (the last few minutes of the half) that is already rife with timeouts, fouls, and turnovers.

The B1G Reaction:

Mostly radio silence as far as the video rule changes are concerned. The B1G media day interviews largely focused on the rules that change the letter of the law, rather than the ones designed to review previous plays. Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, spoke more broadly on the subject of rule changes:

"What's going to be hard is to get sustainability. We really do have three separate seasons -- we have November and December, conference season and March. I think if we're honest with ourselves, the NCAA tournament is different than two months in the conference...I think everyone's gotten the message that the game needs to be a bit more open. We have to get predictability and sustainability."

The Ohio State Impact:

The Buckeyes, like the other teams in the country, will have to wait and see how effective these video reviews are down the road. Unlike the foul calls, which could conceivably be scaled down over the course of the season if there is too much backlash from coaches and fans, the new video review rules are likely here to stay. In light of events like the Craft controversy during March Madness, the league has chosen to sacrifice time efficiency for technical accuracy.

Change #4: Elbowing Fouls

Previously, the rules regarding players' elbows contacting opponents above the shoulders were pretty rigid. Flagrant 1 fouls were being called in situations that did not merit them due to the rule's inflexibility. Under the new rules, officials may examine video evidence to determine whether a Flagrant 1, Flagrant 2, or no foul (incidental contact) is the correct call. This rule's intent is to hold players accountable for their physicality without games being turned on "letter of the law" moments, where the officials know that no foul has been committed but are forced by the rulebook to call a flagrant foul regardless.

The B1G Reaction:

None of the coaches in the Big Ten addressed the elbow rule specifically at media day, but the response from the sporting world at large has been overwhelmingly positive. This adjustment should help clarify situations like the one that reared its head in the tournament's Creighton-Cincinnati tilt, where the Bluejays' Doug McDermott elbowed a Bearcat defender seemingly without intending to. The officials upgraded the foul to a Flagrant 1, giving Cincinnati an opportunity to pull within four points late in a game that Creighton eventually won anyway. Look for this season's decisions on that score to be clearer and more consistent.

The Ohio State Impact:

There's a bit of a lacuna in the "Flagrant Fouls Stat Keeping" department for college hoops, so unfortunately there's not much hard data on which Buckeye players might benefit most from the rule changes. Still, B1G conference play and the ensuing tournament are always chock full of tight, physical games. We here at LGHL look forward to the implementation of any kind of rule that restores a little sanity and objectivity to the game and lets the players play.

The Buckeyes tip off their season this afternoon at home against the Walsh College Cavaliers.

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