Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
When the season began, Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt couldn't so much as lay a hand on an opponent with the ball without drawing a whistle.
It was a result of the NCAA's mandate to call hand checking and arm bars more tightly in an effort to free offenses and increase scoring. More recently, though, he has noticed officials being more lenient --- Georges-Hunt said he can put a hand on an opponent as long as he doesn't keep it there.
"As long as you're not steering him around, you're all right," he said.
The hand-wringing over games being over-officiated seems to have subsided. As the ACC is now about a third of the way through its league schedule, whistles are down from the start of the year. Tech coach Brian Gregory has seen both players and referees adapt.
"I think right now, it may be not as tight as it was early, but maybe it's not as tight as it was early because the players have adjusted and there isn't as much (hand checking) out there," he said.
In the first five games of each ACC team's nonconference schedule, referees called an average of 39.0 fouls per game. In the first 39 conference games before Tuesday's games, the average was 35.1. That's up slightly from last year's 33.5 fouls-per-game average in ACC games.
While the emphasis was introduced to improve offense, scoring is down in the ACC. Through Monday's games, ACC teams had averaged 65.0 points per game in league games. The average last season was 66.9. It's not an ideal comparison, as the ACC expanded by three teams this season.
Regardless, the change, designed to make defenders use their feet and to give ball-handlers more space to use their skill and quickness, has been an improvement to Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik.
"I thought the college game was becoming much more physical than the NBA game," said Bzdelik, who scouted and coached in the NBA for 15 seasons.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said he wants to see more consistency among officials.
"There are times when you get a touch foul on the perimeter and a guy's got two hands and a knee (against somebody) in the post," he said. "So we've either got to call it one way or the other, but I think officials are adjusting to it because they've been calling it a certain way for so many years and all of a sudden their role is changing and what they're looking for."
The rules change may be playing a role in teams switching to zone defenses. Hamilton predicted more teams will switch to zone, as it can limit the hands-on defending common in man-to-man defense. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that in the nonconference schedule, he saw more zone defenses than he had in any previous entire season at Duke.
Tech guard Trae Golden is an expert on the topic. Entering Tech's Tuesday night game at Boston College, he and Georges-Hunt shared the team lead for personal fouls, with 40, and Golden had taken the most free throws, 103.
"I think it's kind of leveled off," he said. "It's not as tight, but it's still there. But at the beginning, it was really soft, like they were making sure you knew.
"But now I think it's (permitted to be) a lot more physical."
Still, he said, hand checking is being called more tightly than last season. Officials still bring it up when he talks with them before the game in captains' meetings.
"You've still got to play physical defense because if you don't, you're going to get lit up," he said. "You've got to make sure you're just ready to play defense every time they get the ball."