If you weren't unfortunate enough to tune into the Seton Hall vs Niagara game on Fox Sports 2 this Saturday, you missed a game which featured 73 fouls and 102 free throws. By the time it was over, the game in the next time slot (Lamar vs Butler) was already at the under-8 timeout in the first half. The reason it took so long is because of the new rules.
Everyone is concerned about scoring in college basketball. Because it's down. And it is. Almost 3 points a game from 30 years ago. Of course, that has everything to do with tempo, and nothing to do with the quality of offense, but that's an argument for another day. To "fix" this problem, the NCAA has implemented new rules which make it more difficult to guard your man. Personally, I'm all for it. All the hand checking and arm bars (not to mention flops) make it difficult for offenses to operate with fluidity. And that's what we want to see. That's what makes basketball exciting. When the clock is moving, when there's compelling action, the game is the most intriguing of all sports.
The problem is that neither the refs nor the players know what to do about the new rules. Foul calls have been quick and inconsistent. In the Seton Hall vs Niagara game, both teams took at least 50 free throws. Two teams taking 50 free throws in the same game hadn't happened since 2009, and that game featured two overtimes. I couldn't find last time a regulation game had as many free throws as Saturday's.
Seton Hall and Niagara aren't alone in the 50-free-throw club either. Five other teams have already attempted at least 50 free throws in a game this year. And the season is three days old. In the past decade the average number of teams per year who attempt 50 free throws in a game is less than 14. This season is currently on pace for 280 of those games.
The hope is that players and refs will get more used to the new rules. Then fouls will drop, and the game will become more fluid. I don't doubt that that will happen. But when? How long will it take? Are we in for an entire season of really long games? If you're a Lamar or Butler fan, you missed the first 12 minutes of clock time because Fox Sports 2 was broadcasting an endless parade to the free throw line in a game you didn't care about. When I miss most of the first half of my team's game, I know I'm going to be pretty pissed.