As the NCAA Tournament swings back into action tonight with the Sweet Sixteen, there has been a lot of talk about the quality of play so far--most of it negative. "Not enough scoring", "terrible shooting" and "games are boring" are among the most common comments--and not just from those who watched the Badgers play. Some leading talking heads like Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb and Seth Davis believe major rules changes are needed--like doing away with charge calls involving off-the-ball defenders or shortening the shot clock.
I think just one rule change is needed. The 3-point line needs to be moved back. And I don't mean back another 9-inches like the NCAA moved it a couple of years ago. I'm talking about going all the way out to the NBA distance--23-feet, 9-inches. You can always tell the first time someone is on an NBA-marked court because they go out to that 3-point line and they get this look like "Holy crap, that's a long shot". You make one from out there, you deserve the extra point. Other than that change, better offense and increased scoring only require simple changes from those on the court itself: the refs, the coaches and the players.
First off, refs need to enforce the rules on physical contact--especially away from the ball. Guys without the ball are getting mugged all over the floor. Cuts on offense are hindered by holding and body checks. Call that junk away from the ball and the offensive flow will improve immediately. Contact on shooters has be called tighter as well. After a shooter leaves the floor, there should be no contact--with the hands, arms or the body. The way things are called now, so long as you don't hit a guy on his shooting arm, pretty much anything goes. Protect the shooters better, and I bet shooting percentages will go up.
Secondly, coaches have got to loosen up. When you have Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo going into games saying their main objective is to "limit their possessions" you know you're going to be in for a grind-fest. Does that mean you shouldn't play any defense (like a Grinnell)? No. But on offense, let your kids look to attack before the final 8-seconds on the shot clock. I see at all levels now point guards that need to check the sideline for what play is being run--and every possession has to include a minimum number of passes. Letting kids play would also help. In last week's win over Butler, Marquette's Buzz Williams made 79-substitutions! That is two players coming in and going out EVERY MINUTE of the game! How is a kid supposed to get into an offensive rhythm if he's coming out every three minutes?
Finally, players have to develop better all around games. I always say that there is a "dead zone" on the floor in today's game. You hardly see any shots taken between 6 and 18-feet away from the hoop--and when you do, not that many are going in. That is because players today have two offensive moves: drive to the hoop or jack a three. That's why I want to move the 3-point line back--because then you wouldn't see so many guys willing to put it up from 19-feet. And if Jay Bilas wants fewer charges, then he should be encouraging guys to pull up and shoot a six foot jumper, instead of running over defenders in the lane.
It's doubtful that we will see any of these changes anytime soon--especially since less-talented teams gain more advantage from the way the college game is played now. And when you consider that just this week a coach that took his team to three Final Fours and had just won his conference title got fired, coaches won't be giving away any edge they can get any time soon.