New rules are offensive-friendly

In a move designed to open up scoring, the NCAA basketball rules committee has introduced two big changes this season – a crackdown on handchecks and a more rigid interpretation of the block-charge call.

The idea is to relieve the physicality of the game, but it may take some time for players, coaches and referees to adjust.

The EA Sports Maui Invitational next week at the Lahaina Civic Center will be an incubator for the new rules.

In Baylor’s 66-64 victory over South Carolina last Tuesday, 55 fouls were called and 77 free throws were shot.

“I think people used to watch the Maui Invitational and watch games that lasted two hours,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Now we are going to get more TV exposure as they go 2 1/2 (hours). We are still adjusting to them and we will get better and better with them, but definitely the games are longer.”

Last season, the NCAA scoring average per team was 67.5, the lowest since the 1981-82 season.

In 1994, the NBA eliminated handchecking, and cracked down on arm bars three years later. During the 1997-98 season, NBA teams averaged 95.6 points per game and committed 1,837 fouls. Last year, the average was 98.1 points with 1,626 fouls.

Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade led his team in steals each of the last two seasons.

“I have learned when I can handcheck and when I can’t,” Wade said. “So, I’m baiting my opponents now, turning them a little more, making them go into bad situations like traps, making them go into situations that they are not comfortable. I’m just trying to keep my hands off of them, try to beat them to the spot – if I can, try to touch the ball, and hopefully my team can come up with it.”

In a release from its rules committee in June 2012, the NCAA said: “Before the offensive player (with the ball) becomes airborne, the defender must have two feet on the floor, be facing the opponent and be stationary to draw a charge. Otherwise, it should be a blocking foul.”

That interpretation is a major point of emphasis this season.

California senior guard Justin Cobbs is averaging 13.0 points and 5.7 assists per game for the 3-0 Bears after putting up 15.1 points and 4.8 assists last season.

“I love the new block-charge rule,” he said. “A lot of times you get a fast break and you want to rise above someone and often times someone flies under you, quick charge foul. With that new block-charge rule a lot of blocks are being called, so now guys aren’t scared to go to the basket.”

Cobbs said it will open up the game.

“Especially when you have that one foul in the first half, go to the basket aggressively – guys used to be scared to get that charge,” Cobbs said. “The handchecking rule, it gives myself – being a point guard and being so quick – so much freedom. I feel like I can get anywhere on the court now.”

Cobbs said that the handchecking rule is leading to more zone defenses.

“We are seeing a lot of zone now because of that rule,” he said. “Guys are getting in foul trouble, putting their hands out, and handchecking can’t stop the quicker guards from getting to the basket. So, I love that handchecking rule. It gives me a big advantage of getting to where I want to get.”

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has always used a zone defense.

“I think the block-charge rule is very good,” Boeheim said. “I think it will cut back on some of the flopping, jumping in front of people at the end. I think it’s a good rule. They are calling everything right now and they will adjust a little bit as we go along and the players will adjust.

“Overall it should be a good rule for our game, but we are going to have to be patient with it for a while.”

Baylor’s Cory Jefferson, a 6-9 senior forward, has committed 12 fouls in three games, while averaging 12 points and 9.3 rebounds. Last season, he averaged 13.3 points and 8.0 rebounds. He has two blocked shots in three games this year after averaging 1.9 blocks per game last season.

“It changes it a lot because a lot of players are used to using their hands,” Jefferson said. “That’s something that you can’t do anymore, so a lot of players are still adjusting, including me and the rest of my team.”

Jefferson said he spoke to a referee before a game recently about those adjustments.

“I know one of the refs told me before we started our first game that he did a game that they called 85 fouls,” he said. “It’s going to be a little bit longer.”

* Robert Collias is at