NORMAN — I attended a Big Ten basketball game in Bloomington, Ind., a few years ago where I was seated so close to the floor that I had to keep my feet pinned under my chair so I wouldn’t trip the referee as he raced up and down the court. The view from courtside left me with one shocking reaction: I no longer had any idea what was a foul.
There was banging, pushing, shoving, probably even tripping, but nary a whistle was blown by the officials. The disclaimer of “no-harm, no-foul” was truly enforced.
Now as another basketball season begins to unfold this week, could all of that be about to change? This year we are being told to expect something much different. A new no-hand check rule will be introduced, and fouls also will be called on defenders who body-bump offensive players on their way to the hoop.
The idea behind these rule changes is to increase scoring and reduce the grind-it-out, rough-house style of play. But that might not be the case. Instead of high-scoring, fast-breaking action, fans could just as easily be fed a diet of games where players repeatedly spend time on the free-throw line trying their hand at one-and-the bonus.
If games become a free-throw marathon, it could easily stretch them out another 20 minutes or more.
Some coaches think that the changes could re-introduce pure athleticism to the game. If so, that would be good for the 2013-14 season. There’s a wealth of talented freshmen coming into the college game. That would be especially true at Kentucky and Kansas.
John Calipari is expected to start four freshmen, but this will be anything but a rebuilding year. He’s even talking about the possibility of going 40-0 and winning another national championship. Undefeated might be a stretch — it hasn’t happened since 1976 — but hanging another banner in Rupp Arena is a real possibility.