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Sports Authority

Concannon: Evaluating the NIT’s experimental rules

| Thursday, March 22, 2018

College basketball’s postseason is in full swing. The upsets have been constant. The energy has been high, and the games have been airing constantly since the bracket was released two Sundays ago.

Naturally, I’m talking about the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). Teams from across the country snubbed from the Big Dance have now entered the medium-sized dance, only to see many of the rules they are familiar with have been changed. The NCAA is using the NIT to test new potential rules for the game. This has become common practice, as the 30-second shot clock was first tested in the NIT before implementation into the game.

The new rules include four 10-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves, a wider free throw lane, a slightly extended 3-point line and the shot clock only resetting to 20-seconds after offensive rebounds.

So what are fans of college basketball to make of these changes? Let’s start with the good. The shot clock resetting to 20 seconds instead of 30 is an excellent rule change. The 30-second shot clock is designed to allow teams time to bring the ball up the floor. If a team pulls down an offensive rebound and kicks the ball back out to restart their offense, they have a fresh 30 seconds to work with. This slows the game down and leads to incredibly long possessions.

This change will minimize marathon possessions and increase scoring and pace of play. This is a long overdue change, as international basketball has been resetting the shot clock to a tight 14 seconds after offensive rebounds in recent years. Fourteen is too short, 30 is too long, but 20 is just right. Good job by the rules committee here.

Second is the lengthening of the 3-point line by 20 inches to the international competition length. This is inconsequential for the fans, but good for the players. The average team shot 35 percent from 3-point range this season and that number has been relatively constant in recent seasons. If that went down by a few points at first, the fan experience would be unaffected. Don’t worry, your favorite team is going to continue to make it rain from deep.

The real positive here is player development. Players looking to play professional basketball internationally or in the NBA will benefit from the deeper line. Players going international will have no adjustment to make, and players going to the NBA will have to make a much smaller adjustment. This will also allow NBA teams to more accurately determine whose shooting will translate to the next level. This is another good change for the game.

Finally, the change to quarters. It seems irrelevant at first. According to my calculator, four 10-minute quarters and two 20-minute halves yield the same amount of time. This change has a pretty large residual effect on the game, however, as it would get rid of the single bonus. Instead of seven fouls in a half for the “single bonus” and then 10 for the “double bonus,” the new format would just be five fouls in a quarter resulting in the double bonus.

For those unfamiliar, if a team commits a non-shooting foul that is its seventh, eighth or ninth of a half, the other team shoots a “one-and-one.” This means that a second free throw is only awarded if the first free throw is made. Men’s college basketball is the only major basketball league in the world that plays by halves and has the one-and-one.

The rational part of me agrees with many professional and international basketball fans that the one-and-one is an odd addition to the game, designed largely to arbitrarily increase odds for comebacks. However, as someone who mostly follows college hoops, I’m not ready to let it go.

So many times, a team goes to the line late protecting a two- or three-point lead in the single bonus, and the knowledge that that first free throw needs to go in adds a level of energy that the double bonus can’t match in those situations. Call it arbitrary, call it dumb. That’s fine; just leave it in the game. I’d rather they stick with halves.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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