Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Changing The Rules

If TigerBlog had been told he could change any two rules in college athletics - in game rules, not NCAA rules - he probably would have chosen:

1) fewer timeouts in men's basketball
2) timing rules in women's lacrosse

And lo and behold, guess what? The powers-that-be in those sports took TigerBlog's telepathic suggestions.

Hey, that reminds TigerBlog of one of his favorite parts of one of his favorite movies, where one character says about another character: "that's a lot of alliteration from anxious anchors placed in positions of importance." Can you guess the movie? TigerBlog will give you a few paragraphs.

In the meantime, TB read stories in the last week about changes that were put forth by the rules committee in both women's lacrosse and men's basketball.

And guess what? Both of TigerBlog's wishes have been addressed.

The two rule changes basically are trying to solve the same problem endemic to both sports; namely, the end game in both have become very troublesome.

Let's start with men's basketball.

There are a variety of major changes coming to the college basketball next season. For instance, there will be a 30-second clock instead of a 35-second clock. The restricted area under the basket was extended from three feet to four feet.

All of the rule changes are linked to the idea that the college game was lacking in scoring and taking too long to play.

To address the second point, there will only be four team timeouts instead of five, and only three carry over to the second half. It hardly goes far enough, but it's a start.

Because there are nine media timeouts in a game and each team has four in a game, that's a total of 17 artificial stoppages of play. That's way too many - but at least it's less than the 19 of years past.

Actually, it might not be 17, because another rule change is that a team timeout called with 30 seconds of a media timeout will eliminate that timeout. That won't happen too often, but it's there.

The end of a men's basketball game takes forever, and part of the problem is that coaches will use every timeout they can get to try to control every possible situation. TigerBlog is pretty sure coaches would want twice as many timeouts, not fewer.

So, hey, three per team in the second half is better than four.

The movie from above? "Broadcast News."

Then there's women's lacrosse, whose rule changes won't be official until they receive official - and likely - approval from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel next month.

The rules committee in women's lacrosse has recommended a 90-second shot clock. This wouldn't take effect until 2017, which TigerBlog doesn't understand, because shot clocks are mandatory in men's lacrosse next year, so shot clocks will be on all Division I lacrosse fields anyway.

Women's lacrosse in the last few years became what men's basketball was before the shot clock. Teams had improved to the point where sitting on a lead with three minutes, four minutes, 10 minutes, however many minutes remaining became easier and easier.

It made for, well, dull endings. And it did so in the biggest moments.

The breaking point was this year's NCAA semifinals and finals, where Maryland ran out the clock for huge amounts of time to sit on leads. Hey, it was a winning strategy, and the Terps are NCAA champs, but it wasn't exciting.

Worse, it wasn't exciting when the sport had its biggest audience.

The new rule change vaulted over what the men's game has had in place the last few years, which is a 30-second clock when a stall warning is issued. This past season was the first with the option of having an on-field shot clock. As TB said, next year they're mandatory.

The shot clock in women's lacrosse will completely eliminate the issue of having a team sit on the ball endlessly when the game ends. In the interest of full disclosure, Princeton did it to Stony Brook in its win over the Seawolves in the NCAA tournament.

In fact, it will create an entirely new strategic issue in women's lacrosse. What do you do when the shot clock is winding down? Go to the goal? Throw the ball behind the cage and fall back on defense?

Imagine the NCAA championship game this year, a one-goal game with three minutes to go. Instead of running out the clock, now Maryland has to figure out if it's trying to score, risking transition the other way, or run out the clock and play D.

The watchability of women's lacrosse has skyrocketed because of this.

So yeah, those are two pretty good steps forward for the two sports.

And women's basketball is going to play four 10-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves?

TigerBlog didn't ask for that.

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