November 12, 2015

Don't be surprised if you show up a few minutes late to the start of a women's college basketball game this season and only see 9 minutes left on the clock.

No, you haven't missed the first 11 minutes of the game. The sport decided to go away from playing two halves this year and will go with four quarters instead - a system used in the pros and in most high school leagues. That's one of a few rules changes going into effect when the season starts Friday.

Others include shooting two free throws on every foul after the fifth in each period, longer timeouts and the ability to advance the ball to midcourt following a timeout in the final minute. All of which are being done to help speed up the game and create more excitement. Games averaged about 1 hour, 49 minutes last season, according to the NCAA.

The change in timeouts may actually cause the biggest stir. All games on ESPN will have timeouts that are 2:45 in length - up 30 seconds from last season. A big reason for that change is that there are only seven media breaks now as opposed to the nine that there used to be.

''They are long. You really are going to get time to let kids rest,'' Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. ''I don't know what you're going to do with 2:45. You're going to have time to get with your assistants, discuss a plan. If things are going well it will break up the flow of a game. If you're team is struggling it's not a bad thing. If you're doing well, it's not a good thing.''

Coaches used to prepare for 4 minutes of play between media timeouts. Now with only one media timeout per quarter, a coach could use that to their advantage. Call a timeout in the first 30 seconds and then if the other team doesn't want to call one, the rest of the quarter would be played without a break.

''There definitely is a different mindset now,'' Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.

The end of games could be more exciting as coaches are allowed to call timeouts in the final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime to advance the ball to the frontcourt as they do in the NBA.

''It definitely sets up a whole new set of plays and situations,'' Walz said.

Other rules changes include:

- 10 seconds backcourt: Not rewarding an offensive team with a new 10 seconds in the backcourt following a defensive deflection out of bounds, a held ball with no change in team control or a technical foul assessed to the offensive team.

- Post defense: Allows defenders to place a forearm or an open hand with a bend in the elbow on an offensive post player with the ball whose back is to the basket.

- Bands and music: Amplified music or bands are now allowed to play during any dead ball situation as opposed to only during timeouts and halftime.

- Foul disqualification: A coach now only has 15 seconds, down from 20, to put a sub in the game after a player commits their fifth foul and fouls out. If the player doesn't report in time it's a technical foul on the coach.

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