Rule changes for the 2016-17 college basketball season

Posted at 12:00 PM, Nov 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-11 12:08:55-05

College basketball season officially kicks off Friday night, and despite being an "off" year for rule changes, there are some points of emphasis and new interpretations of rules that could have an impact on the game.

J.D. Collins, the NCAA national coordinator of men's basketball officials, posted this detailed explanation to Youtube. 

Here's a rundown of some of the major rule interpretations for the upcoming season.


Reducing Physicality

...which could mean more foul calls, especially early in the season. Six areas are outlined in all -- but the major areas are post play, and rebounding.


Post Play

This breaks down to six major principles:

  1. If the offensive player dislodges the defender, it is a foul on the offense. If the defense dislodges, it is a foul on the defense.
  2. If the offensive player posts up with his arms straight out to the side to ward off an opponent and contact occurs with a defender who is attempting to get around the offensive post player to front him, it is a foul on the offensive player.
  3. If the defender uses a "swim stroke" in an attempt to front an offensive player who has his arms in a legal position (bent at the elbows), it is a defensive foul.
  4. If the defensive player "lays" on the offensive player with more than incidental contact, it is a defensive foul.
  5. If illegal contact occurs by the offensive player using a straight arm and the defense using a "swim stroke" at approximately the same time, this is a double foul.
  6. Officials will be instructed to call the first foul.


My Thoughts


Number five is particularly interesting -- we don't generally see a lot of double fouls in college basketball, and with the alternating possession rule, this could have an impact on tie-ups late in games.

The impact of these rules is a bit hard to predict. The NCAA tried similar rules two seasons ago -- what we saw was referee's calling a lot of fouls in November and December, but after numerous complaints from just about everyone, including coaches, many backed off in the second half of the season. In a lot of ways, this is an attempt to re-implement those rules that didn't stick well the first time.

Scoring was up that season -- but so were free-throw attempts.



The following situations are fouls:

  1. Displacement of an opponent.
  2. Free throw situations in which the offensive player on the lane line (the second player position on the lane line) shoves the defensive player in the first position to gain a rebounding advantage.
  3. Shoving, wedging, using the knee/leg on an opponent to gain an advantage



I think for the most part we agree here -- these are fouls. The one thing I do wonder about, though, is whether this could impact larger (and generally stronger) players over the more tall-and-lean interior players.

Knowing these will be consistently called -- there will be flopping. Oh, will there ever be flopping. The question is: can officials consistently weed out the flops and only call the actual fouls.



There will be increased emphasis on enforcing the traveling rules especially when players reset their feet on the perimeter and in the post when players drag or change pivot feet or exceed the legal number of steps in making a move to the basket.



This is one area the NBA has 100% right, and the NCAA has 100% wrong. No one wants to see guys called for moving a pivot foot. Yes, there has to be a line, and the NBA rules may be a bit over that line, but traveling isn't a scourge on the college game. They should have left this one alone.


Coaches Calling Timeouts

Coaches still can't call live-ball timeouts, but they can now call a timeout after a made basket before the entry pass. This is a no-brainer.


Restricted Area Arc

Two things to note here:

  1. A secondary defender located in the restricted area may now jump straight up in the air in a "walled up" position with two arms straight in the air in an attempt to block a shot. Any resulting contact when the defender conforms to these principle of verticality requirements may result in a no-call or an offensive foul.
  2. When a secondary defender remains grounded in the restricted area, he is still subject to all of the restricted area rules even though his arms/hands may be straight up over his head. Illegal contact with the offensive player will be a defensive foul under these circumstances unless another rule applies.



I suspect the first rule above will come into play about once in the entire season; players who jump straight up in the air get called for defensive fouls all the time. It also complicates the arc rule quite a bit. If he's standing in the arc, it's a defensive foul, but if he's jumping in the arc, it's an offensive foul, assuming the refs will call it. Then what's the point of the arc?



I saved the most complicated of the new rules for last. The idea behind this rule is "freedom of movement" for ball handlers. Defenders can no longer "belly up," and offensive players must be allowed space to make a "normal basketball play." None of that part is new -- that's what was implemented last year.

This season -- the change mostly affects wild swinging of the elbows. Previously, if an offensive player swung the elbows and hit a defender, it was a foul on him, period. Now, if he deemed making a "normal basketball move" and the defensive player "invaded the cylinder of the offensive player," the foul may be called on the defender...UNLESS, the offensive player is holding the ball at chest level and swings his shoulders, that's on the offense.

So, to summarize:

Offensive player swings arms above the shoulders? --> Foul on the defense
Offensive player swings arms between the waist and shoulders? --> Foul on the offense
Offensive player swings arms below the waist? --> Foul on the defense

Oh, and to add one more dimension of complication to this rule, if the offensive player's forearms are more vertical than horizontal, then it's considered a normal basketball play. If the opposite, then it's not.

Got all that?



The idea here is simple: give the offensive player enough room to play basketball. This will lead to fewer turnovers, and likely increased scoring. I love the idea. The execution? Well, slow-motion instant replay on television broadcasts is going to make this a joke.

First -- a referee, in real-time, is supposed to be able to tell immediately not only where the player is swinging his arms, but be able to identify whether that player's forearms are vertical or horizontal? That's two judgment calls right there, added to the third of whether the defender impeded on the "cylinder of the offensive player." So an official three judgment calls all have to be made to accurately call a single foul. Every one of these calls in big games is going to be picked-apart by fans and commentators alike.