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Proposed NCAA rule changes met with conflicting opinions by coaches

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In its efforts to improve the game, the NCAA has looked to change some of the rules, which would align the NCAA rules more closely with the international game. The proposed changes to the shot clock and timeouts have the potential to increase scoring, but would the potential increase in scoring improve the quality of play?

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the regular season, the NCAA surveyed its member coaches to gauge the interest in rules changes for upcoming seasons. Essentially, the proposed rule changes would move the college game closer to the international game.

The primary differences between NCAA women's basketball rules and FIBA rules involve the shot clock, timeouts, and quarters. Rather than a 30-second shot clock with a 10-second backcourt violation, FIBA uses a 24-second shot clock and an 8-second backcourt violation.

Additionally, in FIBA, when the ball is knocked out of bounds in the backcourt, the 8-second count does not re-set; when the shot clock hits 16, the ball has to be across the mid-court line.

FIBA restricts the number of timeouts compared to the NCAA, and timeouts do no carry over from one half to the next. There are no media timeouts in FIBA, which means fewer stoppages in play. Additionally, FIBA prohibits live-ball timeouts; when a player is in trouble, or the team is about to be whistled for a 5-second violation on an inbound pass, the coach (or players) cannot call a timeout.

Timeouts are requested with the scorer's table and granted at the next eligible stoppage in play. The final timeout difference is in the last two minutes, the ball is moved to the front court after a timeout, as with the NBA.

FIBA uses quarters, not halves. A FIBA game is four 10-minute quarters, rather than two 20-minute halves. The biggest impact of the quarters is that team fouls re-set at the end of the quarter. Rather than a team moving to the bonus on the seventh foul of the half, and shooting free throws thereafter, teams enter the bonus on the fifth foul of the quarter (and shoot two free throws; no one-and-one).

At the end of the quarter, the fouls re-set. In an NCAA game, if it takes 8 minutes for a team to enter the bonus, it shoots free throws for the remaining 12 minutes; under FIBA rules, the team would shoot free throws for the next 2 minutes.

Coaches around the country have different opinions of the potential rule changes, although most coaches are unfamiliar with FIBA rules because of their experience with the current rules. Many coaches felt that they needed more time to evaluate the potential changes.

University of California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb reflected the opinions of many others coaches, and said, "I am open to anything that improves the game, and we cannot be stagnant in our mindset" she said, although she cautioned that women's basketball has a tendency to jump from idea to idea.

"In general, in women's basketball, we need to think about how to make the game more entertaining and more high scoring, but I just don't think it's a certainty that a 24 second clock would yield a better game, and I would need to do more research or thinking on that," Gottlieb said.

Villanova head coach Harry Perretta is opposed to shortening the shot clock, although he is not opposed to the other changes. "A shorter shot clock does not help the game generally because the shorter shot clock does not allow for multiple styles of play.

A shorter clock makes the game less competitive, and I believe that parity creates interest in the game. A change would likely limit the ability of lesser talented teams to compete." Perretta was unconcerned with the other changes because they would not alter the ability for multiple styles of play. As Gottlieb said, "Allowing the offense to advance the ball on a timeout is strictly about entertainment."

Perretta added that it was an attempt to increase scoring, but it would not fundamentally change the game, whereas a shorter shot clock would restrict the opportunity for different styles of play. Perretta would prefer a move the other way, with the adoption of the current men's rules, and the 35-second shot clock.

Whereas most coaches are unfamiliar with FIBA rules because of their experience with the current rules, New Mexico Highlands head coach Brianna Finch has been a head coach in Europe using FIBA rules and in the NCAA using its rules.

Finch is a proponent of the rule changes. Finch said, "Shortening the shot clock, disallowing the live-ball timeouts, and reducing the number of timeouts minimizes some of the coach's impact on the game, and emphasizes the skill of the players."

The shot clock is the most contentious issue among coaches, but the live-ball timeout appeared to have its detractors. Some coaches desired the ability to effect the game by calling a timeout to save a possession, whereas others were intrigued by the potential change to put the game more in the hands of the players.

The ability to move the ball to the front-court on a timeout in the last 2 minutes was met with almost universal improvement, while quarters versus halves generated no strong opinions either way by any coach who was interviewed.

The concern in the media over the last several seasons seems to be for the output of points in games, although it is debatable whether or not points per game correlates with excitement or quality of play.

Will a shorter shot clock restrict the style of plays? Will it lead to a higher quality of play? Will it lead to greater skill development, as many proponents suggest? These are the questions that NCAA member coaches will have to answer over the next several years.