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It’s not a coincidence that scoring and fouling are at historically low levels

Apr 25, 2013, 12:09 PM EDT

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The general consensus this season was that while the best college hoops games this season were thrilling, overall it was an ugly year for the sport. No one seemed to be able to score and every game looked more like a rugby match than it did a basketball game.

Now that the season is over and we can reflect, the numbers back that sentiment up. From Daniel Uthman of USA Today:

  • Scoring in Division I men’s basketball is at its lowest point since 1951-52. Teams averaged 67.5 points per game in 2012-13.
  • Team 3-point shooting percentage declined to its lowest mark since the 3-point line was introduced in 1986-87. Teams shot 34.05% from 3-point range this season, continuing a decline that began in 2011.

And perhaps an explanation why:

  • Foul calls reached an all-time low, and teams shot the fewest free throws of any season since 1976. Teams averaged for 17.68 fouls each per game, and they shot fewer than 20 free throws a game (19.76) for only the fifth time in history.

Over the last season or two, Jay Bilas has made a point out of emphasizing the need for more fouls to be called. His argument is that, essentially, if we want scoring to increase, we need to allow freedom of movement. Players need to be able to cut through the lane without being held or grabbed. They need to be able to dribble the ball without having two hands in their back. They need to be able to drive to the rim and trust that a foul will be called if they get clobbered.

This may make the games a bit tougher to watch initially, but as players and coaches adjust to how close the game is being called, it will open things up. Scoring will increase. There will be fewer slugfests. According to Rick Pitino, this is precisely what the NBA did when their game looked like it was becoming tackle football.

“What happened in the NBA now is they stopped all the arm bars, all the standing up of screens, all the coming across and chopping the guy,” he said at the Final Four. “They stopped all that. Now there’s freedom of movement in the NBA and you see great offense.”

“When you coach in the Big East, you should wear body guard. Peyton wears body guard, shoulder pads, because you can’t cut, can’t move. The referees are caught in a quandary. They’re saying, We’re going to ruin the game, we’re on TV. Jay is 100% right, if we want to get back, take a page out of the NBA, have freedom of movement.”

All of this discussion about lowering the shot clock to speed up the game is great, but all the evidence you need to discern why college basketball has become so defensive-oriented is right there. You win by being more physical, because physicality isn’t being penalized.

Call fouls and you open up the game.

It’s really that simple.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. jcmeyer10 - Apr 25, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    I would like to see the shot clock trimmed down a bit. Never made sense that there is a longer shot clock for a shorter game.

    After watching “Survive and Advance” and watching NC State’s opponents hold the ball for the last 1:35 seconds, I am grateful we are not there.

    Though I do agree with this article and the proponents of that theory.

  2. kingghidora - Apr 27, 2013 at 6:20 AM

    I hate the idea of a shorter shot clock. That ruined pro basketball IMO. I’ve always like college ball better and that is the main reason why. You can’t run an offense in 24 seconds. All you can do is make one or maybe two passes and shoot. I liked college ball when there was no shot clock. It made the game about strategy. The 4 corner offense ruined that though. That was too, too much. It was like watching paint dry. Dean Smith changed the game forever with his ridiculous strategy of never shooting until the other team was just so ticked off they didn’t care any more. It wasn’t a sport at all. So now we have a shot clock. It’s not too bad at 35 seconds but a shorter clock will ruin any strategy part of the game except “give me the ball and get out of my way”. That’s pro basketball only I don’t think it is basketball. I like the real rules of basketball myself.

    Calling fouls is crucial. The thing is refs use a rough game as a way of controlling things. We almost always see a second half comeback from a team that is down. Nobody watches a blowout so the refs let one team play very physical and the other gets called all the time until the game gets close again and then they call it straight up – usually. Some teams are stopped from dominating by officials that control the game through allowing the other team to be physical against the good team. Again they don’t like a runaway winner. It’s bad for business.

    Anyone who thinks the NCAA doesn’t play favorites is living in La La Land too. UCLA was given a free pass to cheat every way imaginable because they wanted a west coast team to dominate. And what better place than the home of Hollywood? The same is true of the highly populated eastern cities and the mid-west to a lesser degree. Proof? Corey Maggette, North Carolina and their fake classes scandal that will never be punished, UCONN getting a slap on the wrist, Syracuse getting nothing at all, etc. etc.. How does Ohio St. get to use players that broke the rules until after the bowl game? How do players from one team (Josh Selby at Kansas) get to take money from an agent while players from another team (Enes Kanter of Kentucky) get banned permanently for doing something the NCAA told him was ok? Kentucky is NOT a favorite of the NCAA. Just the opposite. The trumped up investigations of the late 1980’s that found nothing but almost ended in a death penalty come to mind. An envelope opened up? You can’t be serious. The lawsuit won by the coach who got accused of that was a huge windfall for that coach. Yet the NCAA managed to find stuff anyway – stuff they had zero proof of happening that is. Yet there is a mountain of proof that UNC cheated like crazy and NOTHING is being done. Gregg Doyle called it the worst academic scandal in NCAA history yet those championship trophies still sit on the shelves at UNC. If that had been UK they would never play basketball again. It would be worse than SMU’s penalty. Why do they hate UK? Great team, small market – that’s it. The same thing happened to Jerry Tarkanian (who also won a huge lawsuit but against the NCAA) at UNLV. They tried like crazy to get rid of the Shark. They eventually succeeded. What really irks them about UK is they have never really made a dent in their success. They know they can’t keep going back with investigations while other teams skate. It would be the end of the NCAA instead of the end of UK most likely. People are fed up with how they operate. They don’t much like the way the media plays favorites either.

    Media favorites? When ESPN was founded the ACC had won TWO championships in their entire history. With the national sports recruiting machine known as ESPN recruiting for their teams they started to win big. That network started out as a regional sports network. Dick Vitale does promo commercials for the state of North Carolina and talks about Duke in every game he calls (Coach K even asked him to stop doing that) yet he told all coaches to avoid the job as head coach of UK. He told UK fans to accept parity and how great a coach Tubby Smith was. He almost cried when Smith quit UK. Vitale blamed the UK fans. I wonder why he ever cried when Minnesota FIRED Smith after much less time than he had at UK? There was nothing at all said about that. I guess he was no longer a great man and a great family man blah blah blah.

    Corruption is the big problem in college sports. Cam Newton, Ohio St., Enes Kanter, North Carolina, Corey Maggette, Lance Thomas, Josh Selby, – this is a very long list. Let’s talk about the horrible officiating in the title game this year. NBC wrote an article about how awful the calls were. They didn’t mention that Michigan was on the short end of about 12 truly horrible calls. One of the Final 4 refs called 6 Kentucky games this season. UK lost 5 of those games including a game at home. How often does UK lose 5 out of 6 games for any reason? Tony Greene, who called the title game, has a web site dedicated to him being bought off with a lot of evidence listed. I fully expect this post to be deleted too. NBC goes along with the program too – the “pick your favorites program” that is. When someone gives me a good reason why UNC still hasn’t had their championships vacated I’ll start to believe the NCAA isn’t corrupt. Where is NBC on that story? They had hundreds of FAKE classes. But the big scandal is that Auburn may have changed ONE grade. How about thousands of grades being faked?

    College sports are so corrupt it’s sick. Fix that and the game will take care of itself. People are catching on to this. Major coaches say the NCAA will be gone soon over the corruption. And the current CEO of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, is the most corrupt ever. It’s funny how Enes Kanter was told he was eligible as long as he was going to go to Washington, where Emmert was president at the time. When he switched to UK all of a sudden his eligibility was gone. Funny how that works.

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