MOUNT CARMEL — It wasn’t as if the women’s college basketball game was broken and needed a fix. Still, the NCAA announced major changes to the sport Monday, changes as dramatic as any in the history of the sport.
Wabash Valley College women’s coach Zach Loll isn’t about to quibble over the reasoning behind the changes. He is embracing them.
“I am excited for the changes,” said Loll Tuesday between sessions of a youth basketball camp at Spencer Sports Center. “It gives a breath of fresh air into the women’s game. It’s been picking up a lot more attention nationally and you see a lot more younger girls playing the sport.”
NJCAA schools like Wabash Valley, which advanced to the Division I national tournament in a 28-7 season completed in March, will also be making the switch. Juco schools automatically use NCAA standards in all sports.
The most notable change is the switch to a four-quarter system effective next year.
Gone are 20 minute halves, replaced by 10-minute quarters. “College basketball is the only level where they don’t play quarters.”
There are other major changes that fans will have to get used to when they return to Spencer to watch Loll’s Lady Warriors in November.
“There’s not going to be a 1-and-1 free throw any more,” Loll said. “In each quarter, once a team reaches five fouls they will shoot two free throws.”
The women’s game reinstalled the 10-second line two years ago after a lengthy absence. It isn’t going away. But, a twist has been added for next year.
“If a team takes a time out or if the ball gets knocked out of bounds, the clock will not reset to 10. It will continue from where it’s at,” Loll said.
Also, in the final minute of each quarter, if you have the ball in the backcourt and you call a time out, Loll said “you can advance the ball all the way to half court (for the ensuing inlet) like they do in the WNBA.”
Thus, “sideline out of bounds plays” will become critical for teams, he said. Especially “late in games.”
Fans (and for that matter players and coaches) who like to hound officials about the physical nature of post defense should take note: the NCAA will now allow defenders to place a forearm or an open hand with a bend in the elbow on an offensive post player with the ball whose back is to the basket.
However, Loll doesn’t think that particular rule tweak will have much of an overall effect. “That is always a call which depends on the officials interpretation and how they view it game-to-game,” he said.
One of the genuine concerns of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee was about the length of each game. “They talked about trying to improve the flow of the games. They said the media timeouts were slowing the game down,” Loll said.
In response, one media timeout in televised games will be permitted for each quarter. Media timeouts would occur at the first dead ball at or below the five-minute mark of each quarter and at the end of the first and third quarters. However, if a team calls a timeout before the five-minute mark, that would be treated as the media timeout. Additionally, the first called team timeout in the second half would be treated as a full media timeout.
While dealing with the increasing length of games, the NCAA committee did not make any “rule changes which are going to change the scoring,” according to Loll. “It all goes back to fundamentals and being able to shoot the basketball. The game just doesn’t have the shooters it once did, all the way from the NBA all the way down.
“It isn’t rules which are going to increase scoring. It’s the players. They’re going to have to become better shooters. That’s the bottom line.”
So, for now, the U.S. men’s college game will stand alone in keeping the 20-minute half format. How long will that last?
“If these rule changes accomplish what they want with our game, I could see the men moving forward and going to a four-quarter system also,” said Loll.
Tweaks to the men’s game, announced Tuesday by the NCAA, include shortening the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds (where it has stood since shortened from 45 seconds to 35 prior to the 1993-94 season).
Also, the restricted-area arc in front of the basket has been increased by one foot to four feet, and timeout limitations have also been imposed for the men’s game.