College basketball could be less ugly next season

semerson@macon.comMay 14, 2013 

ATHENS - This is how ridiculously physical the game of college basketball has become: Georgia head coach Mark Fox has been using a drill in practice that he learned by watching the Georgia football team.

Yes, basketball teams are now borrowing from football teams. Although if you've watched college basketball the last few years, you're not surprised the two sports are starting to resemble each other.

“We have really gotten out of bounds," Fox said. “The game has become so physical that it’s really not as aesthetically pleasing as it used to be. Movement’s not freely done, and it’s a game that’s become really who’s the most powerful.”

Fox's team barely averaged 60 points per game this year (60.6 to be exact), which a few years ago would have been by far the worst in the SEC. This year it was better than two other teams (Mississippi State and Vanderbilt). Five years ago Georgia, during the season Dennis Felton was fired, was the only SEC team to average under 70 points. This past season, most of the conference did. In fact, eight of the 14 teams averaged under 67 points per game.

Yes, the SEC was down, only getting three teams in the NCAA tournament. But poor offense, and just general poor basketball, has been an increasing problem in the sport.

“College basketball, scoring is an issue. We (as a team) don’t score enough points right now. But we’re not the Lone Ranger," Fox said. "I think college basketball scoring average across the country is the lowest it’s been in nearly 50 years this past year. And the reason that that has happened is the game has become so physical.”

As Fox was speaking on Thursday, the NCAA was announcing an effort to attack the problem. Here's a story on some of the proposed changes by the men's basketball rules committee, including:

- When it comes to the block-charge, making it harder for the defender to draw a charge call.
- More consistency on officials calling the hand-check foul.
- More emphasis on calling fouls against defenders who try to impede the movement of an offensive player, whether it be arm bars, jabbing, or just general physicality.

If you're watching the NBA playoffs right now, it's not arguable that you're seeing a much more fluid and offensive game than the college version. The professionals are obviously better shooters, but the officiating is also better when it comes to stopping physical play. It didn't always used to be that way, but the NBA decided a few years ago it would tone down the physicality, and gradually the result has been a more exciting brand of basketball.

Now college hoops is hoping it can fix its game as well.

Of course as Fox has pointed out often, it's not just the officiating: Coaches are also to blame for emphasizing defense and physical play over offense. Fox has freely admitted he coaches that way, but wishes he didn't feel he had to.

"We do, as coaches, have to get our game under control," Fox said. "Because college basketball today is not better than it was 10 years ago. The NBA has taken their game and made it less physical than the college game. We need to follow suit, so it becomes a better offensive game.”

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