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October 28, 2013

Rule changes threaten to remove physicality from women’s basketball

NORMAN — Get ready for more whistles.

NCAA officials will be enforcing rules more tightly this year. Physical play in the post, on shooters and on ball handlers will no longer be tolerated.

It’s all an effort to increase the freedom of movement for players, which coaches hope that will lead to increased scoring.

“We make take a step back early but it’s going to help the offense in the long run,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “All the coaches are for it to help improve the game.”

It’s hard to argue with the numbers. Last season, women’s basketball teams shot 39 percent from the field that resulted in an all-time low of 62.1 points per game. That’s down nearly eight points from the first year of NCAA play in 1981-82.

Longtime DePaul coach Doug Bruno sent out a letter to his fellow coaches over the summer detailing how the game had become too physical and that making “one change” would help solve some of that problem.

“Let the athletes be athletes,” Bruno said. “People need to learn to play defense by moving their feet and not their hands or bodies. It may be a lot of whistles early on, but in the long run it’s what the game needs.”

Coaches will have to adjust their defense or risk having no one left by the game’s end.

“Well, you can expect everyone to play more zone this year,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “You’re going to need at least two zones or you’re going to have no players left.”

Walz’s team was highlighted more than a few times in a NCAA officiating video that all Division I coaches were required to watch or get fined.

“It’s funny because if you look at it, the highest scoring game in the NCAA regional semifinals was our 82-81 win over Baylor and that’s the game everyone’s talking about,” Walz said.

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