Positive changes to block/charge, handchecking could be in store for 2013-14
In a major step toward implementing much-needed changes that should aid offenses, the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee has recommended an adjustment in the way block/charge calls are made, as well as encouraging more consistent application of current rules regarding the limitation of freedom of movement on the floor.
According to a release from the NCAA, the proposed rules changes must be approved by the "playing rules oversight panel" (which next convenes via conference call on June 18) before becoming effective for the 2013-14 season.
The block/charge call is the most difficult in the sport, but there is a prevailing sense that has emerged over the past couple of seasons that the balance of that call had tilted way too heavily toward calling charges. The implementation of a charge circle was supposed to help offenses by not allowing defenders to camp underneath the rim, but it just ended up being a crutch for officials, who were forced to look at multiple things (foot placement and defensive positioning) at once, and ended up calling a lot of charges that should have been blocking fouls simply because the defender was outside the circle.
The change in the rule, which will require a defender to be established in legal defensive position prior to the offensive player beginning to raise the ball to initiate a shot attempt (rather than when he leaves the floor) should help shift that balance, and won't reward defenses for last-second slide-ins after primary defenders are beaten off the dribble. It will be interesting to see what impact that will have on teams that teach and use help defense in that way.
The other changes, which really are just a re-emphasis of existing rules on the book, will require officials to consistently and, perhaps exhaustively, crack down on handchecking, armbars, and other techniques used both on a primary ballhandler and on cutters moving through the lane. If the officials do call this regularly, we'll end up with a lot of fouls and free throws early in the season, and then hopefully teams will adjust and we'll see better, more free-flowing offense later in the campaign. The off-ball contact in the lane is an especially big problem in the college game, and it will again challenge coaches who teach this as part of their defensive approach to find another way to successfully guard. As a supporter of the now-ineffective charge circle two years ago, it's clear that what sounds good on paper doesn't always mean it will work in practice, but these seem like reasonable improvements. It doesn't mean there won't be block/charge controversy, as the rule change would just be moving a blurry line, but if the benefit goes to the offense more often, it's a good thing. Once these changes are observed, then a more educated decision on the length of the shot clock can be reached. These are good starting steps in an evolution of the game that is sorely needed.