PEMBROKE — Most of the rules changes the NCAA approved for men’s basketball this week came as welcome improvements to Ben Miller, head coach at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. But he sees one big exception.
Changing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds will improve the pace of the college game, he said during a phone interview Tuesday, bringing it close to international rules.
Fewer timeouts will also speed up games, he said. The Braves coach views taking timeout calls away from coaches during live-ball situations as a step toward putting the game back in the hands of the players rather than the sidelines.
Forcing offenses to bring the ball across the half-court line in 10 seconds, regardless of whether someone calls timeout or deflects the ball out of bounds, should also encourage more aggressive play.
“You’ll see more teams working on a full-court press,” Miller predicted, in turn requiring ball-handlers to know how to attack those presses.
Each of these changes should contribute to more active play, rewarding defenders who go after the ball and offenses that don’t just sit still.
That’s exactly why Miller finds the other major change such a head-scratcher. The NCAA is eliminating the 5-second count for players who dribble the ball while under pressure.
“It will encourage some (players) to stall and dribble the ball instead of passing,” Miller said.
He also noted that this punishes teams like the Braves who have focused on defensive toughness. “We’ve got a couple little guards who are good at putting pressure on the ball,” he said.
As disappointed as Coach Miller was, his assistant, Drew Richards, was even more outspoken. Richards emailed members of the NCAA rules committee about the matter.
“This is the least-talked-about rule change yet I believe is the biggest and most impactful for the game of basketball in the years to come,” Richards wrote. “The elimination of this rule not only negates many coaches’ ideologies and playing style, but also will lead to one-on-one basketball … (that) renders the ability to defend the guard position almost impossible.”
Richards worries that the change will encourage offensive players to attack defenders with their heads down, hoping for a foul. “Is it too much to think good defense should be rewarded as much as good offense?” Richards asked.
“This does not seem like good basketball,” Richards wrote, “but more an open-gym mentality of the offensive player attacking without hesitation.”
Richards, in a Wednesday morning email to The Robesonian, credited multiple members of the committee for responding with explanations and talking with him at length about the NCAA’s reasoning.
“They have all been very cordial and informative, but my objections to the revocation of the five-second closely guarded rule stand,” Richards wrote.
“It sounds like a big reason why it was revoked was the referees’ ability to judge the distance of the defender to the offensive player and/or the referee forgetting to call it altogether.
“My response is, whether they called it or not, just having the offensive player know he has five seconds to make a decision with the basketball increases (his) speed and makes (him) prone to mistakes, which (is) one of our main defensive goals.”