June 19, 2015
THE FLATS –
As many student-athletes return to campus this week at Georgia Tech, the nearly year-round process of work has resumed for men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory, his staff and players. This is the time for heavy lifting and foundational construction before more nuanced fine tuning that will come in the fall.
There are considerable tweaks to consider, however, as the NCAA rules playing committee last week approved changes to the game.
Trimming the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 may be attracting the most attentions from fans, yet Gregory is not sure that adjustment will most change the way the game looks.
After a recent team weight lifting session and before an open gym, he offered thoughts on most of the rule changes for 2015-16.
TGW: With the rules committee committed to speeding up pace of play and increasing scoring, cutting the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds is making noise, but will that make a big difference in the way the men’s game appears to fans?
Gregory: “I don’t think you’re going to see that big of a change. I really don’t. I think it’s garnered the most attention, but I think some of the other rules are going to change more in the way the game is played.
“I think the no closely-guarded rule [where previously a ball handler had to pass or shoot within five seconds if a defender was close enough] . . . I think you’ll see a change in play due to that more than anything, potentially, because you can keep the ball in one guy’s hands, and he can dribble forever.”
TGW: We see in the NBA more situations where a player just pounds the ball into the floor for a while, although with a 24-second shot clock it does not seem a problem. Might that be different with a 30-second shot clock?
Gregory: “End of game, one guy can hold the ball, and you’re going to have to trap him. You can’t just have one guy on him trying to pressure because if he’s big and strong enough he can hold off the defender, have his back to the basket the whole time and just dribble it. I think it’s going to change some offensive tendencies.”
TGW: What else figures to alter the way the game’s appearance?
Gregory: “The other thing is if a charge is called, there is no basket no matter if the ball was released . . . before the [shooter] hits the defender. It’s no basket.”
TGW: That adjustment in conjunction with the restricted area under baskets moving from three feet out to four might work together to modify the way the game is played near the goal, right, for both offensive and defensive approaches?
Gregory: “A secondary defender has less room to take a charge. The majority of those bang-bang [charge-block] plays happen right at the basket. I think the rule change with no basket on any charge was to make the game easier to officiate because that’s a hard call to make.
“More and more guys are shooting runners and floaters so it’s getting a little more noticeable, but with that restricted area you probably won’t see that play as much because that’s where that play occurs.
“I like the restricted area. It’s going to put a premium on good defensive teams being in position earlier because if you were late you used to still be able to take [a charge] right at the rim.
“The teams that are great at taking charges are still going to be able to take them, but you’re going to see more guys going for blocked shots or what you’re starting to see in the NBA where guys are challenging shots — defenders jumping straight up and keeping their hands up, like Timofey Mozgov and Roy Hibbert.
“That’s something we talked about in our staff meetings and with our bigs. Now, the question is will they call it like they do in the NBA [where a defender is not to be called for a block even if contact is made in the air so long as the defender has elevated straight up and maintained space that he first established]?”
TGW: There may be more potential substance behind rule changes other than the shot clock, yet few would argue in defense of standing pat at 35 seconds.
Gregory: “I think the shot clock was needed just for a more uniform approach to the game of basketball. We were the only ones who play with a 35-second clock. Why was that? I think that put pressure on the rules committee. I don’t think it’s going to help scoring or speed up games or anything like that.
“I don’t know what the stats are but somebody said in our league meeting that even Wisconsin took 80-some percent of their shots in the first 20 seconds. They played with a 30-second shot clock in the NIT, and I don’t think you saw a difference in a slow team having to speed up or a fast team having to play even faster.”
TGW: With a shorter shot clock, might defenses now try the reverse — defend harder early to condense the offense’s possession even more?
Gregory: “Maybe now you’re pressing three quarters to make teams take more time getting the ball up court (and leaving less time in scoring position). Will you see more zone? You may see a greater effect in how some teams play defense [rather than offense]. That may be a bigger impact than on the offensive end.”
TGW: “On the flip side of that notion, will the elimination of the no-closely guarded five-second rule prompt less aggressive on-the-ball defense at times? That would seem like imprudent energy burn against outstanding ballhandlers.
Gregory: “You’re going to see some straight, 20-dribble, one-on-one, keep the ball in one guy’s hands possessions.”
TGW: Will this change recruiting to where a greater premium is placed upon players with superior ball handling abilities? Are some coaches going to want a guy who can pound the rock endlessly?
Gregory: “Yeah, oh yeah. It adds more value to a big guy, a [forward] who can handle the ball. Who’s usually the guy who can put more heat on the ball [defensively]? It’s usually your point guards and your twos. They can get into you more one-on-one. [Forwards] aren’t usually as good at it, so if you’ve got a [forward] who can handle the ball, and he’s strong enough to keep a guy off, some of the teams that really like to extend their pressure aren’t going to be able to have the same effect [forcing the ball out of an opponent’s hands].”
TGW: There will be exploration in the next postseason (but not the NCAA tournament) allowing players to accumulate six fouls before disqualification, but that would seem counter to speeding play. The game is eight minutes shorter than the NBA, where they give six fouls. Surely, more fouls to give would prompt more aggressive `defense’ and more fouls made. That would slow games, right?
Gregory: “That’s a pretty good point.”
TGW: The women’s game is going from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters. Is that change coming for the men?
Gregory: “If we went to quarters, I don’t think it’s a big deal. They’d have to change TV timeouts. There’s nothing wrong with having subtle differences between games.”
TGW: Speaking of timeouts, the men’s game will drop to no more than three in the second half rather than four. Additionally, with a nod toward expedition, coaches are to sub in a new player for one who has fouled out in 15 seconds rather than 20, and there will be emphasis for officials to start play more promptly after timeouts, and making Class B technical fouls like rim-hanging a one-shot foul rather than two. Conversely, allowing officials to use replay at any point in a game to arbitrate shot-clock violations and penalize players for faking fouls might add time. What will be the net effect of all changes?
Gregory: “I don’t think there’s that big a difference in the elimination of one timeout. I think the biggest change in the look of the game will the [elimination of the] five-second dribble. You’re going to have fans when a guy is being closely guarded screaming for a five-second call the whole year.”