CLEMSON — While South Carolina coach Frank Martin and Clemson coach Brad Brownell differ in their approach to the new age of playing defense in college basketball, they’re alike in acknowledging the headaches ahead in the short term.
South Carolina (1-1) at Clemson (2-0)
WHEN: Sunday, 5 p.m.
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum
WEB/RADIO: ESPN3.com; CTSN/GRN
When the Gamecocks (1-1) and Tigers (2-0) clash on the hardwood Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m., they’ll aim to play a good, hard, clean game and try to keep it under the running time of a full-length Hollywood film that takes 20 minutes too long to complete.
When average scoring dipped to its lowest level since the 1981-82 season (67.5 points per team per game), the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee retooled the way block/charge calls will be made.
The rules changes indicate the following actions should be consistently whistled:
When a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent (commonly known as “hand-checking”).
When a defensive player puts two hands on an opponent.
When a defensive player continually jabs by extending his arm(s) and placing a hand or forearm on the opponent.
When a player uses an arm bar to impede the progress of an opponent.
“Anything that impedes player movement is going to be called a foul, and I’m in total agreement with it,” Martin said. “That’s the way it should be.”
As players adjust, the goal is to open up the offensive end of the floor, allowing shooters more room to shoot and prospective scorers off the ball to more freedom to roam the floor, both in and out of the paint.
That’s in the long term. In the short term, though, is a conga line to the charity stripes as officials stamp out traditional defensive strategies.
“You worry about putting teams in the bonus at the 13-minute mark of a half,” Brownell said, “and then watching a game kind of run out of your hands that way.”
According to KPI Competition Analytics, a blog operated by Michigan State director of basketball operations Kevin Pauga, Division I teams are averaging 4.1 more free throws per game from the first six days of 2012-13 (20.3) through the first six days of 2013-14 (24.4), the result of 2.7 more fouls per game per team year over year.
Also comparing the first six days of scoring averages, teams are up 5.9 points per game this year over last. So the scoring motives are working.
But there’s a sacrifice. When Oregon defeated Georgetown 82-75 halfway across the world on Nov. 8, fans in South Korea sat through 59 fouls and 74 free throws. At the Champions Classic in Chicago, No. 2 Michigan State beat No. 1 Kentucky 78-74 and No. 5 Kansas beat No. 4 Duke 94-83 in two games combining for 99 fouls, 116 free throws and more than five hours of elapsed time.
“The concern for everybody is, now if you’re playing a TV game and all of a sudden there’s a million fouls, the game’s going to last two and a half hours, three hours,” Brownell said.
In the Gamecocks’ 66-64 loss at Baylor Tuesday, the teams combined for 55 fouls and 77 free throws.
There were 37 fouls and 46 free throws in South Carolina’s season-opening win over Longwood.
Clemson’s games haven’t felt the wrath of fouls and free throws piling up yet; wins over Stetson and Delaware State totaled 65 fouls and 66 free throws.
In preseason press conferences, Martin and Brownell expressed various views on how they combat the crackdown on physical defensive play.
“Young kids’ initial reaction when they’re going to get beat, they put their hands on people,” Martin said. “That foul has always been called against us and anyone else that does it.”
Martin preaches against grabbing opposing players in his man defense, which is why he supports the new rules. He’d like to see the hip checks and hedge screens reeled in away from the basketball in half-court sets.
“The teams that press, they’re not the problem. They’ve always been called for hand checks,” Martin said. “It’s the teams that play from the top of the key and in defensively, they’re the ones that there’s a lot of banging and chucking and all kinds of stuff going on in the paint that’s never been called.”
Without a senior on his team, Brownell suggested the Tigers will sprinkle in more zone defense this year while the young players learn how not to foul.
“It’s a little bit harder to be as aggressive as you want to be. That’s a little bit of a concern,” Brownell said. “It’s not really a new point, but it’s something that they’re seriously going to call.”
Brownell understands why the new rules are in place. He just worries there will be blowback when fans and television networks balk at longer-than-ever games.
“It’s just trying to get a little more movement, a little more scoring. I think it can be very good for the game,” Brownell said. “It’ll be a little bit troubling if we have games that do last two and a half hours and everybody ends up watching free throws. That’s something that people won’t be happy about either.”
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