NORMAN — There have been no major rule changes for college basketball this season. But one change in how a rule is interpreted is having a massive impact.
Defenders can no longer place two hands on an offensive player, continuously place a hand or forearm on an offensive player or use an arm bar to impede the progress of an offensive player.
Technically, these have been fouls since the rules of basketball were written. Over the previous 30 years, referees had stopped calling fouls in these situations.
The NCAA decided to re-emphasize them in an effort to increase scoring and free-flowing movement on the offensive end.
The Sooners (2-0) have seen the good and bad of it. The good is, they’ll face Idaho (1-0) at 7 p.m. tonight at Lloyd Noble Center averaging 88.5 points a game. The bad is OU has shown a penchant for giving up easy layups early in games.
“A lot of people are concerned about that right now. We can’t be more concerned about fouls as much as sliding our feet and covering the ball. We can’t use an officiating rules change as a reason not to guard the ball,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We’ve got to work hard, slide a little better, contest at the rim a little better, and all those things defensively. But there were a lot of good things. There are a lot of things to work on and the good thing is that I know this group will do that.”
If they do, the rule change appears to be one that will greatly benefit the Sooners. The type of players that should see the greatest benefit are guards who can penetrate. OU appears to have the ability to play at least three, and more often than not four, that can consistently get into the paint.
Only 15 of OU’s 64 made baskets have come on 3-pointers, and 79 of their 177 points have come in the paint.
“I think that’s going to be a big part of how our team is built,” said forward Tyler Neal, who fits the mold of a perimeter player who can drive to the basket. “We have a lot of guys that can attack and draw fouls that way. Getting in the bonus early in the half is good for this team and I think that’s one of our strengths.”
There’s also the added benefit of getting guards to the free-throw line. OU’s Buddy Hield, Je’lon Hornbeak, Cameron Clark, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins are a combined 28 of 35 from the free-throw line in the first two games.
Hield seems to be the biggest beneficiary. He’s shooting 50.0 percent from the field and having no problem getting to the rim.
“I’m just always in attack mode, whether I miss two shots or three. I just try to stay in attack mode and let the game come to me,” Hield said.
Of course, things will likely get tougher as the season goes along. Teams will adjust to how the game is being officiated. But in the very early part of the season, the Sooners seem poised to take advantage of the way the NCAA wants the game to be played.
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