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Daniel Uthman, @DanUthman, USA TODAY Sports

It didn't take Connecticut men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie long to figure out how new rules on physical contact would affect his team this season.

The NCAA men's basketball rules committee adopted a more strict approach in the offseason, and after observing the nuances of officiating in November, Ollie knew what was best for his team.

"Calls we used to call ticky-tack are now being enforced," he said. "It's allowed us to get to the free throw line when our guards are aggressive. It's been a great benefit to get to the free throw line as much as we did."

The Huskies lead the American Athletic Conference in made free throws and in a small way have helped contribute to one of the most significant statistical developments of the 2013-14 basketball season.

With the regular season complete, free throws made and attempted and overall scoring are up from 2012-13, a season in which free throw attempts dipped to their lowest mark since 1976 and scoring fell to its lowest point since 1952.

Teams are scoring 71.2 points a game this season, up from 67.6 at this point in 2012-13. Free throw attempts are up to 22.6 from 19.8 per team per game in 2012-13. Last season's mark was the fifth time in recorded history that attempts dipped below 20.

Foul calls also are up, from 17.7 to 19.2.

Coaches credit the changes in rule enforcement for the statistical shift, but that doesn't mean they all like them.

"I'm just not a fan of 'em, personally," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I don't like having my best players on the bench. I just think the emphasis has been put so much on it that they have to change it to six fouls or your best players will be on the bench or playing apprehensively.

"I was in favor of (six fouls) and the widening of the lane. I think there are other things that could be done. We have a weird sport; nobody's disqualified in any other sport unless you punch somebody. The game can be changed so much by someone being disqualified (for too many fouls)."

As the NCAA tournament nears, teams will encounter different officiating crews than they see in conference play. There might be an adjustment period similar to the one Ollie and Illinois coach John Groce alluded to Monday when talking about the early stages of the 2013-14 season.

"The goal was points per game being up and offense being improved," Groce said. "If you say, 'Did they accomplish the goal?' I'd say yes."


March 11, 2014




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