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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
Effective defense and consistent rebounding are supposed to allow any team to stay in any game against any opponent.
These were the constants of the game.
Then, along came Villanova. The Wildcats went against one of the best defenses in the country Monday night when they met Michigan in the Division I NCAA tournament championship game.
The result: Offense 1, Defense 0.
Villanova shot its way to the NCAA title. Offense beat defense, something Villanova proved during the season.
The 30-second shot clock, the 3-point line and teams' ability to play four guards, some of whom are closer in size to small forwards or low-post players, and the ability to spread the floor and fire away from the outside practically are turning some constants into optional features.
If that's the case, then it's time to make several other changes.
1. Go to a 24-second shot clock.
If college coaches and fans want a fast-paced, catch-and-shoot game, then it's time to make it a game of even more possessions, which the 24-second clock will do.
The drawback is that several times a game, someone who has no business doing so is forced to let loose a shot from 3-point range that threatens to knock down the backboard instead of find the bottom of the net. That seems a small price to pay if it means the real shooters will have more possessions to take more shots.
A 24-second shot clock also would offer an interesting test for teams that play the Pack-Line defense.
Pro: A team would have to play strong defense for six fewer seconds. Defense still has a chance to prevail.
Con: A Pack-Line defensive team usually grinds its offense to the last possible second, limiting possessions for both teams. That limit is less with a 24-second clock.
Con for Virginia fans: If the Pack-Line proved effective with a 24-second clock, Cavaliers' coach Tony Bennett would become an attractive candidate for the final frontier of basketball, the NBA.
2. Except in egregious cases, eliminate the player control, aka charging, foul.
College basketball has a 3-foot arc in front of the basket where the charging foul ceases to exist. That should be expanded at least to the 4-foot arc used by the NBA. Ideally it should encompass the entire lane and a foot or two outside the lane on the lower block.
Officials have to make split-second decisions on the block-charge call. Even in slow-motion replay, it's often difficult to tell what the defender established and when he established it.
Attempts to draw "charges" create dangerous situations for the defender, who is going to absorb a blow, but even more so for the player who is driving to the basket and is likely to be in the air when the contact is made.
When Newton formulated the law of gravity, he wasn't thinking of a basketball player soaring to the rim from the wing on a fast break. But a player who goes into the air is coming down. Given how high players fly en route to the basket, sticking the landing should not become a career-threatening move.
Offensive fouls still would exist. An offensive player can't shove a defender aside to create space for a perimeter jump shot or to drive into the no-charge zone. And an offensive player can't pick up his dribble, lower his shoulder and bowl over a defender as if he's attempting to gain a first down on fourth-and-1. Those are offensive fouls and should be called.
The block-charge situation is different.
The guardians of the game always want to "clean up" the area around the basket. Eliminating the charging foul will help.
As for judging contact beyond the lane, well, if there's one thing we've learned about college basketball, officials have a decent amount of leeway in using their judgment on such decisions as fouls, walking and who last touched the ball when it goes out of bounds under the basket. Allowing them to exercise judgment on what is or isn't a shove to gain an advantage is something they already do rather effectively.
3. For coaches who are furious a foul was or wasn't called on a shove near the top of the key late in the game, we have your ready-made postgame response when asked whether you agree with the call: "It's a matter of judgment, and I guess his judgment is different from mine."
Pointed, yet diplomatic. No league commissioner is going to issue a reprimand or fine over that.
Coaches, you're welcome.
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