As recently posted at the Seattle Times, the NCAA will be instituting a painted 3-foot arc under the basket next year to help the referees better determine when to call a charging foul or not. Under the current rules, a player standing directly underneath the basket can not take a charge. Thus, no matter what the defensive player is doing (or not doing), if an offensive player drives to the hoop and collides with a defensive player under the rim, there will be a blocking call. I have often wondered why such a rule needs to be put into place. If a player has established position, why should he be penalized? No charging? I can live with that. But, automatically a defensive foul when the player makes no attempt to disrupt the shot? A no call would seem the fairer action.
Seth Davis at Sports Illustrated explained the rule changes this way:
As Mississippi State swingman Ravern Johnson drove by his defender and soared towards the basket, Washington Huskies center Jon Brockman slid across the lane and established position under the ring. The two players collided, Johnson missed the shot, Washington got the rebound, and no call was made by the official watching the play. The narrator’s voice then intoned, “Call this play a blocking foul. You no longer have the option of passing on this play.”
“This change is a very good attempt at stopping the incessant flopping that’s been going on for years,” says Siena coach Fran McCaffrey, who joined the rules committee this month. “In the past, the ref wouldn’t call anything. He’d say, ‘Get up, you’re flopping.’ Meanwhile, a guy missed the shot because the defender disrupted him.”
While I semi-disagree with the under the basket rule in principal, I do understand the motivation. Flopping is all too common in college basketball. It is amazing how a little 5’8″ guard driving toward a huge 6’10” power forward can cause the defender to slide halfway down the court on his butt. These players have practiced and learned how to flop, sometimes even before contact, in order to draw attention and get the call. There are many times I am frustrated by the charging calls, and sometimes I even laugh when they go UW’s way and I know it wasn’t real contact.
But, there are a myriad of times when blocking calls are made that shouldn’t be. How often do you see the referees call blocking on a defender who is trying desperately to move out of the way? A player backing up often results in less contact than had he stood his ground. How often does the driving player actually go around the defender and there is virtually no contact at all, yet the blocking call is still made?
But, I digress…
So, the most obvious question for Husky fans is whether this new line will work to the advantage of the Washington Huskies or against. Because of Lorenzo Romar’s aggressive man-to-man defensive schemes, it is critically important for weak-side defenders to rotate across the key to help when a player is beaten off the dribble or a pass comes inside to streaking wing or a big man posting up.
Often this rotational scheme results in the defender drawing a charge when offensive players drive to the hoop too aggresively and collide with the weak-side help. Unfortunately, for many of us fans, we find ourselves pulling out our hair when the referees call blocking fouls (especially on the big men) when their feet were clearly set. Whether this new line will help or hurt a team like the Huskies who play aggressive man-to-man defense depends first on whether the referees in general were more likely error on the side of the offensive player or the defensive help when the collision occurred in the fuzzy zone near the hoop.
It is hard to know definitively what the answer is quantitatively without watching a whole season of tape. However, from purely anecdotal evidence, I tend to feel the referees more often gave the benefit of the doubt to the offensive player and they call many marginal blocking calls on Husky defenders even when their feet were set. Although the arc will be 3-feet from the basket and the previous rule called for an imaginary 2-foot line, I think the painting of the line will actually be of a benefit to the Huskies.
By painting the line on the floor, the defender is going to have a known location that they have to get to in time. If that player does not feel they can get to the spot and establish position in time, they are more likely to avoid the type of contact that would result in a blocking call. I also think that with the way Romar teaches defense and the type of athletes he recruits, those players will have both the physical ability and court smarts to get to the spot, even though it is a foot further away, to establish position and draw the charges.
But, there will also be more free looks at the basket for opposing teams than in the past. When the defenders can not get the spot, they will have to make a decision; either let that player have an unobstructed lay-in or foul hard to send him to the line. No more can you have just a slight disruptive contact and hope there is a no call.
This rule change will hopefully also be good for our much maligned Pac-12 referees. It will give the referees less of a reason to make phantom calls against the defense. With a line clearly established, one can hope that the referees will not have to be confused about which call to make, which as we all know in the Pac-12 is a common occurrance for the officials.
So, will the new arc help or hurt the Dawgs? It’s hard to say until we see the games. But, I am off the opinion that it is more likely to help than hurt. What do you think?