NEXT GAME

Who: Clemson (13-6, 4-3 ACC) at Florida State (13-7, 4-4)

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Where: Tucker Center, Tallahassee, Fla.

TV: ESPN2

Notes: Both teams have lost two straight games; FSU has beaten Clemson five straight times, including a 56-41 win Jan. 9 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

CLEMSON - It's been half a season, and NCAA basketball hasn't imploded by radical change. Mission accomplished.

Fouls are up 9.8 percent, and free throws are up 14.6 percent, over last year, according to KPI Competition Analytics. That's a result of the crackdown on touchy-feely defenses, a cause of much preseason hand-wringing with the effect of nearly three free throws more per game compared to 2012-13.

And yet, the beat drums on in college hoops. No harm, no foul even with more fouls.

"I think they've done well," ACC supervisor of basketball officials John Clougherty told The Post and Courier in a Thursday phone interview. "Everybody involved, the officials, the coaches and the players . I don't think there's been much backpedaling."

The NCAA and National Association of Basketball Coaches each endorsed the decision to promote freedom of movement away from the ball, henceforth prohibiting defenders from clutching jerseys or biceps on the cutter, which not only leads to more free throws but opens up the flow of play. Ideally, better basketball results.

Not quite like the up-and-down, emphasis-on-athleticism National Basketball Association, but something like that.

"Scoring is never going to be like the NBA; they need players who can create and go one-on-one," Clougherty said. "College basketball is not really like that. In 35 seconds, you can run several sets.

"The NBA is not interested in taking charges. They're more interested in blocking shots. They've got a shorter shot clock, so there's more possessions. We have (college) teams that play possession basketball, so a lot of them look to shoot in the last 10 seconds."

Scoring is also up, about four points per team per game, which was the new rules' intent.

"I think the term everybody is using is, adjusting," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. "Right now, it's maybe not as tight as it was early, but maybe that's because there isn't as much (fouls) out there.

"I would just say, basketball is a physical game, though. If you're going to go down the lane or you're going to cut or you're going to fly in from the perimeter to rebound, there's a physical part to this game."

College offenses have roamed a larger domain, and in Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik's eyes, not yet to the degree of the professional ranks.

"I thought the college game was becoming much more physical than the NBA game, and having spent 17 years in the NBA, I think I'm qualified to say that," Bzdelik said. "As far as the new rules are concerned, I like them. You've got to play with your feet, get your hands off people. Quickness and skill are now important."

Consider it the invisible reason for Clemson's renaissance, by the way.

Obviously, the Tigers have an improved star player (K.J. McDaniels) and are playing more tenacious on defense, hence their 13-6 start that matched last year's win total in half a season.

The new rules clearly haven't fazed the Tigers, whose 298 fouls committed in 19 games through Sunday were the least in the ACC, and sixth-fewest in Division I basketball.

For a team that favors man defense, minimizing possessions and keeping opponents off the free-throw line has translated to Clemson's 56.1 scoring average on defense, tied with San Diego State for the best in the nation entering this week.

On a larger scale, it's hard to find a coach who speaks openly with disgust in his voice on the topic.

"I think they've adjusted pretty good to it. I think they understand it," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We've been in a few games where it's probably been looser again, maybe not interpreted as strongly. I think there's going to be some slippage, and I'm sure (NCAA officiating chief) John Adams and John Clougherty are on their guys to do that.

"But I think for the most part, players have really gotten the message and understand it."

About the only development which could sully the maiden voyage for hand-check rules would be a seismic alteration in the sport's most visible event: March Madness.

"There shouldn't be any change from conference play to NCAA (tournament) play," Clougherty said. "Unless some official goes wacky and says, you know, I'm going to impress everybody and start calling all these incidental contacts. I don't think there should be any change."