College basketball will have "china shop" rules this season.
The new rules emphasis has been discussed widely at various conference media events.
They will be cussed by almost everyone once the games begin.
The intent is to inject more offense into the game, put the emphasis on individual athletic skills.
The risk is many games could degenerate into plodding games of HORSE and free-throw shooting. The challenge is that most teams better go 10-deep in quality.
Basically, the traditional, full-court pressing, man-to-man, in-your-face defense will be no more — or at high risk, minimal reward.
Hand-checking on defense will not be allowed. "No harm, no foul" transforms into "touch, and it’s a foul."
The charge-block rule has been redefined. Coaches have been instructed by officials and directors of officials that if there is doubt whether a maneuver is a charge or a block, it will be called a block, favoring the offensive player. If a defender tries to take a charge, he better be clearly set and the charging call indisputable.
Some coaches have already characterized it as "sissified basketball."
There will still be aggressive defenses but probably more with zone principles with the emphasis on driving an offensive player into a double team rather than relentlessly harrasing him on-ball.
The adjustment and adaptability will be a challenge to players, coaches and officials.
Already in some preseason scrimmages with referees of various conferences, both teams have reached the double-bonus mark (10 fouls) by the 10-minute mark of the first half.
"There will be an adjustment period for everyone," said Northwestern State (La.) coach Mike McConathy, who has coached college basketball for 31 years. "We will have to adjust how we play. And we’re all probably gonna have to shoot free throws pretty good."
McConathy freely substitutes and usually plays a lot of players. The changes could work to his team’s advantage — or at least not hurt the Demons as much. Those teams with a thin bench will be severely tested because more players (particularly the defensive specialists) will get in foul trouble and foul out more this year than ever before.
Will some games be decided on who has the best second team? Could be.
The intent of the change is to put the emphasis on individual athleticism of the players for a theoretically more high-scoring, wide-open style, bringing the game closer to what you see in the NBA.
That is, if it is called loosely.
Officials have warned everyone that the new hand-checked rules will be strictly enforced.
It is inevitable that, particularly early, there will be some really, really, really ugly games. They will almost surely be longer.
Will the fans like the new style?
Depends on the result.
One major challenge among athletic officials will be to keep things interesting and entertaining. It will particularly affect teams that now play women-men doubleheaders, such as UCA, Hendrix and Central Baptist College. Will the games turn into a constant series of whistles and boring treks to the free-throw line? And will the games be so plodding, will fans stick around for the second half of the second game — or even the first half of the first game?
It’s a gamble on whether finesse can trump strength and whether the officiating can be consistent enough to ensure a smooth flow of play.
"Maybe the new rules might lead to more major upsets because teams won’t be as handcuffed by bigger, stronger guards," said McConathy.
In attending a game, I will suggest getting a program, bringing a book or magazine and having plenty of good smart-phone apps.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)