Losing its charge

Jonathan Daniel

New tweaks to the NCAA basketball rulebook could benefit the Spartans.

The NCAA announced some changes to men's basketball rules yesterday. Most prominently:

Under the revised block/charge call in men's basketball, a defensive player is not permitted to move into the path of an offensive player once he has started his upward motion with the ball to attempt a field goal or pass. If the defensive player is not in legal guarding position by this time, it is a blocking foul.

This is . . . how you say . . . good. The proliferation of defenders gaming the system by sliding in under players driving toward the basket (driven in part by the addition of the semi-circle around the basket, which created the illusion of a black and white delineation as to when to call a charge) has been annoying on its own terms. But it's also been a clear negative for Michigan State. That's because Tom Izzo doesn't just not teach his players to flop, he basically doesn't teach them to draw charges period.

A couple years ago, the MSU media notes used to track how many charges Spartan players had drawn. Draymond Green was the only player with more than one if I recall correctly. Then they stopped even bothering to keep track. Of the players on the current MSU roster, Travis Trice is the only guy I can recall drawing charges with any kind of regularity.

So the rule change should help to reduce an advantage that teams with more charge-friendly defensive philosophies (photographic hint provided above) have had against MSU for a number of years.

(I do think there is some danger for the game that the pendulum swings too far the other way and the game loses its team-oriented feel as more talented players attack the rim on their own with more regularity. I'd like to see more no calls when the offensive and defensive players basically arrive at a spot at the same time. The offensive player will have a harder time scoring, while the defensive player will be out of position for the rebound. Equal disadvantage.)

In an additional effort to increase scoring, which is at a 30-year low, officials will also be encouraged to call hand-checking more stringently. Also good. There will be some complaints about excessive officiating early in the season, but if they apply it consistently it will make for a better game come tournament time. Other rule tweaks include expanded monitor reviews in the final two minutes of the game and an effort to reduce undeserved flagrant fouls on elbow reviews. (In the women's game, they're instituting the 10-second backcourt rule, with officials using the shot clock to determine violations. I've always wondered why they didn't do that in the men's game, rather than having officials pretend to precisely measure off 10 seconds of time by moving their arms back and forth.)

The effect of rule changes can be exaggerated, but this seems like a distinctly positive development for the 2014 MSU basketball team--a team that will have a multitude of attacking guards. Gary Harris, in particular, should benefit from the ability to move more freely on the perimeter and attack the rim once he's beat his initial defender.

So that's that. Now, just four more months to kill.

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