University of Akron basketball fans will want to pay close attention to game officials once the season tips off.
Two significant rule modifications will be in force once the season begins and they could be a challenge defensively and a boon offensively.
The “closely guarded” rule gets a tweaking in that the NCAA wants it called consistently throughout the game. It should be enforced in the following circumstances, according to the NCAA:
• When a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent.
• When two hands are placed on an opponent.
• When a defensive player consistently jabs at an offensive player and places a hand or forearm on an opposing player.
• When an arm bar is used to delay progress up the court.
“Right now it’s affecting me, but all I have to do instead of bumping people is run in front of them,” Zips point guard Carmelo Betancourt said after Monday morning’s practice.
Ultimately, the NCAA is just asking officials to call the game more closely at a physical level.
“It really isn’t that big of a change,” Betancourt said. “All you really have to do is instead of bumping him is run in front of him. It’s probably better because I don’t have to be pressuring that much. All I have to do is contain and stay in front of them.”
But there is a decided downside for the Zips.
“Sometimes you can’t get as physical as you want to,” Betancourt said. “That’s how you get closer to a guard when you pressure them. Now you have to play it differently.”
Coach Keith Dambrot, who sits on the 12-member rules committee for men’s basketball, agreed with that assessment.
“I think the block-charge is the bigger of the two,” he said. “I think people are making a lot of noise over the hand check, but I think by midseason it will be very similar to what we’ve seen before.
“Early on you might see a lot of fouls, but I think as the season goes [along] it will lighten up.”
And if it doesn’t lighten up?
“I don’t worry about things I can’t control, so we’ll see how it’s called before we adjust,” he said.
Additionally, there was a change to the block-charge rule that states once an offensive player begins his upward motion with the ball to attempt a basket or pass, a defensive player cannot be in motion. If they are not in the correct guarding position, it is a blocking foul.
Dambrot said it’s little more than an extra step that an offensive player will get to the hoop.
“People are concerned that you can’t pressure the ball,” he said of both rules. “All they’re trying to do is clean it up a little bit so people can drive the ball to the basket. They’re trying to up scoring because we were at a -year low last year.”
Teams averaged 67.5 points in Division I games last season, representing a more than a three-decade low mark, according to the NCAA. The last time scoring hit such depths was the 1981-82 season when teams averaged 67.6 points per game. Points per game have fallen every season for the past four years.
Because of that, Dambrot willingly yields to pragmatism.
“So it’s still business,” he said. “We have to make sure that fans like the game and fans like scoring.”
Preseason basketball begins Friday and Dambrot continues to tinker with his lineup. Monday the team held an intrasquad scrimmage at Rhodes Arena.
“I have a good feeling as to who I think is going to play, but I don’t know how it all blends together yet — which is strange, but I don’t,” he said. “We have to figure out how we’re going to rotate those point guards, who’s going to start and who’s going to play where. How much Q [Quincy Diggs] is going to play, that’s probably the biggest choice we have.”
There has been a battle between big men Pat Forsythe and Isaiah “Big Dog” Johnson in which Forsythe holds a slight lead. Both are likely to receive a lot of playing time.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.