MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Quite a discussion piece, these college basketball rules revisions that outlaw hand-checking and make charges rarer than eclipses.
Even within the same West Virginia locker room, reaction has been polarized to the freedom-of-movement emphasis that aims to increase scoring and, throughout the preseason, has increased foul calls exponentially.
Slashing guard Eron Harris welcomed the changes. Rough-and-rugged forward Kevin Noreen wasn’t a fan.
How will the crackdown on defensive contact impact the regular season? Teams begin finding out tonight as seasons tip off across the nation, including the West Virginia-Mount St. Mary’s game at the Coliseum.
Season opener: Mount St. Mary’s (0-0) at West Virginia (0-0)
Tip-off time: 8 p.m. TV: Local cable
In WVU’s exhibition against Fairmont State on Monday night, some 63 fouls led to 83 free throws. After the game stretched to nearly two-and-a-half hours, both coaches lamented the frequent stoppages and the, at times, incidental contact that drew whistles.
“I feel bad for the officials, and I never thought I’d say that,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “I can’t believe that just came out of my mouth.”
But Huggins understands officials are being mandated to call touch fouls—both on the ball and off—which threatens to have teams digging deep into their benches as players get into foul trouble.
Harris is looking forward to shooting more free throws, like the 20 he attempted in the exhibition.
“Now the people with skill are going to excel more than the big brutes who get to bang you and stop you from scoring just because they’re so big,” he said.
“The game wasn’t made for big humongous guys, or people who were stronger than other people. It was made for people with more skill.”
Just a few feet away sat Noreen, who aligns more with the lovable brutes. Though he’s 6-foot-10, the junior doesn’t have the hops to be isn’t a rim protector so he became adept at taking charges near the basket. Now, with defenders needing to be established before the offensive player begins his upward motion, collisions are far more likely to be deemed blocks.
“They’ve changed everything, and it seems like it’s going to be a lot harder to do that this year,” Noreen said. He and his teammates watched an NCAA instructional video that illustrated just how hands-free defenders need to be.
“The video made it sound like they are going to call 60 percent more blocking fouls that were charges last year, so I’m not that happy about it. You might have to just let the guy score to avoid the foul. But it seems like that’s what the NCAA wants.”
Harris wants it too. WVU’s leading scorer from last season felt he was brutalized by handsy defenders.
“I feel more confident now driving to the basket that I’m going to score, unless you foul me,” he said. “But last year, you could foul somebody and get away with it.
“The rules are the rules. The teams that adjust are going to win. The teams that don’t and complain about it are not going to win.”