As a result, some say, while games have opened up some around the perimeter, they are more physical in the paint than ever.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose teams have always been good at taking charges, has now started questioning whether he should even teach his players to try to draw charges in those situations.
“[Teams are] just turning their guards loose, especially in transition,” Few said. “They’re coming at guys — almost recklessly coming at guys, because you really can’t take charges anymore.
“I think we’ve got to get to a balance where we’re letting free flow and movement, but I don’t think you should reward bad basketball, you know? Otherwise we should just go sign a bunch of track athletes and teach them how to dribble and run into people.”
The Gophers have appeared to adjust better than some teams — sending opponents to the free-throw line far less than the national average. For every field goal attempt, Gophers opponents have .35 free-throw attempts compared to the national average of .41, according to kenpom.com, the website for college basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy.
That’s somewhat surprising considering that the Gophers often employ a full-court pressure defense for 30-35 minutes a game. Pitino likes to praise players using their heads and fundamental footwork — players defending by getting in front of an opponent rather than with their hands.
But it’s hard to tell how much of their successes have been soundly abiding by the new rules and how much has been the variation between officiating crews. In the games against Montana and, most dramatically, against Florida State, officials seemed more aggressive in calls than other games the Gophers have played.
“Some calls didn’t go our way, with the guys just barreling into our players,” Andre Hollins said after the 71-61 victory over Florida State. “But that’s how it goes sometimes, and I like how we responded to that.”
The biggest complaint among coaches, in fact, is that calls haven’t been close to consistent early on.
Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has found new challenges in the team’s film sessions, when he goes over the previous game.
“[They’ll] say, ‘Coach, why could we play this way in the first half and not in the second?’ ” Izzo said. “And I’d have to agree with them.”
Most realize that this period, when everyone is trying to find a balance, will be the worst. Some think it’s only the start of more changes. Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis has said he thinks the next step is to widen the lane to open up the game even more.
Ultimately, the hope is that when the dust settles, the game will be better for the trouble.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Izzo said. “We think coaches are going to adjust immediately — they’re not. We think players are going to adjust immediately — they’re not. We think officials are going to adjust immediately — they’re not. This is a process. I don’t like it, I don’t love it, but I understand it and I’m going to do a better job of coaching it.”