NCAA Basketball Rules Committee Moves Toward Sanity With Timeout Proposals


While the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee got it wrong with proposed shot clock changes, it got it right with proposed timeout changes.

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There has been great weeping and wailing about “pace of play” in college basketball. Not enough shooting and too many delays are drawing the game away from Dr. Naismith’s intent.

Besides the ill-conceived notion that a shot clock time reduction improves offensive play, the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee does have the right idea – there is too much dead ball time.

Even the most casual observer knows there are too many time outs in college basketball. With so many available, coaches use them as mulligans to do over poor inbounding and back court execution, as well as to avoid held ball situations. Timeouts have become a coaches tool to manipulate play from outside the lines. Let the players play.

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The Committee’s modest proposal is a one timeout reduction per game. That’s a start, reducing total possible stoppages from a maximum of 18 per game to 17. The Committee also proposed allowing timeouts near or after a media time out mark to count as the media timeout. Now we are getting somewhere, though we are not there yet.

The Committee also proposed removing a coach’s privilege to call timeouts during live balls. While coaches use timeouts to manipulate on court action, this proposal will have little effect. Players will learn to watch coaches carefully for timeouts. Still, it will make “taking a mulligan” on inbounds plays more difficult (a ball becomes live when it is at the disposal of the thrower when inbounding) and require players to use their own judgment when taking a timeout to avoid held balls.

While the committee used a pen knife to cut timeouts instead of chopping a more appropriate two or three per team, it used a bazooka to attack the gnat-sized problem of delays resuming play after a timeout. Delay of game warning when a team does not comply and a one-time technical foul on subsequent violations are the proposed consequences for breaking the timeout huddle late.

A better solution would be to do what is done in high school basketball. If the offensive team is not on court at the end of the second horn, put the ball at the spot of the throw in and start the five-second count. If the defensive team is not ready at the end of the second horn, make the ball available to the offensive team. DOTD guarantees the problem is solved by the end of the first half of the first game of the season.

But while the committee took a small step forward regarding timeouts and delays, it took a step backward with video review. The Committee proposed allowing officials to use television monitors to review potential shot clock violations on made field goals throughout the entire game. More video reviews means more delays during the de facto timeouts.

At some point one asks, is a video review worth the extended delay? Despite the rants and complaints of TV talking heads (very often because the talking heads don’t know the rules or officiating procedures) college officials are highly competent. They have invested enormous time and money over at least a decade to prepare, they have been vetted extensively, are critiqued nightly and are held accountable to a high standard. To get the fans home at a reasonable hour, it might be worth trusting the on court call more, not less.

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