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New NCAA rules come with learning curve

Players, coaches and officials have spent the summer learning and practicing the new rules implemented for the upcoming season. While the rules will definitely have a positive impact on the game as a whole, it may take time for everyone to adjust to the new way of life in women's college basketball.

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Teaching an old dog new tricks rarely happens overnight. Things take time, and expecting a different result in women's college basketball this season may lead to some being disappointed.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved new rules for the upcoming women's college basketball season, including, most noticeably, four ten-minute quarters and less media timeouts. Other rule changes were made to how players can play defense in the post, as well as allowing teams the ability to advance the ball in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

These rules changes are a great first step in making the women's game more universal, and ultimately will make the product on the floor more appealing to the average fan flipping through the channels in late February looking for something to watch.

While all of the rule changes sound great in theory, there are some things people may be forgetting. Asking any human being to adapt to a new environment with new rules never goes as smoothly as people probably think it should.

Let's start with the fewer timeouts per game teams are going to get. This means less chances for coaches to stop play when things are getting away from their team, meaning less impact by coaches on the game overall. Especially early on this season that could mean the more talented and older teams are going to have a huge advantage.

Coaches and players are both excited about the rule changes, however are going to have to adapt to their new surroundings and a learning curve is inevitable.

"I like the fact that it changes a little bit of your strategy and how you've got to go about things," George Washington Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis said at A-10 media day. "I am a big believer that the best coaches in any sport continue to adapt and learn. You have to, as a coach, educate your players on a lot of things, and this is just something added onto that, but I'm really looking forward to (the rule changes).

"I hope, especially with the end of game situations, that it will bring even better excitement to our game."

That excitement Tsipis mentions may unfortunately come in a form of confusion early in the season as everyone is still getting used to the new rules. The end of games will definitely be different from past years because teams can now call a timeout to advance the ball to the frontcourt in the final minute of action. As many coaches said this offseason, physically practicing the way these new rules work is the only way for players to fully understand them.

"It's important to have a lot of special situations (in practice)," SMU Head Coach Rhonda Rompola said. "The other day in practice we were in a scrimmage, and our male practice players were shooting free throws in the fourth quarter with under a minute left. I told our kids let's call a timeout once we get the rebound just to practice it.

"I think four out of five of our kids knew what to do, and the one who didn't know what to do got the rebound, dribbled once, and called the timeout."

The other coaches listening to the story at media day gasped, knowing if that had happened in a real game, Rompola's team would not have been able to advance the ball because her player took that one dribble before calling the timeout. It's the little things like this Rompola says both players and coaches just have to play through and coach through.

These little errors will also drive some fans crazy, especially those who expect every player to know all of  the new rules from day one.

The change in the way the post can be defended also makes me worry just how games will be officiated early on the season. The NCAA will now "allow 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."

Let's not forget about the officials, who just like the players and coaches, will be going through a learning curve of their own. UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma says, "coaches have to buy into the new rules, and they have to be enforced."

"I think the games are a lot of the time controlled by officiating," Auriemma said. "I don't mean they win and lose games, I don't believe that at all. I don't think they have that effect on the game, but I think the amount of calls, when they come and how frequent the foul situation is, I think has an effect on the game: the quality of play, and the style of play the game takes on."

Failing to bring up the officials when talking about these new rules is crazy. Not only do they have to learn all of the new rules, but they have to be able to implement them correctly on the fly in real time as things happen.

The new rules are going to do great things for a rapidly growing women's college basketball game. To think these changes are going to happen smoothly across the country is asking a lot of the players, coaches and officials who all need time to adjust. I am just here to tell fans to be patient. But, hey, at least college basketball season is back and should be more exciting than ever.