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BOGACZYK: Herd's O'Malley Says Rule Changes Needed

Jeff O'Malley
April 4, 2015



            HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Men's college basketball seems poised to make some needed changes to the game, alterations many who love the game say are overdue.

            Marshall's Jeff O'Malley is going to have a front-row seat for those moves.

            O'Malley, the Herd's associate athletic director and chief of staff, is a second-year member of the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee. That 12-man group is expected to make changes to the game to rules that have guinea pigs -- so to speak -- in the recent NIT, CBI and CIT.

            In those tournaments, games were played with 30-second shot clocks -- down from the regular 35 -- and the 3-foot restricted arc under the basket was pushed out to 4 feet. Both of those items seem destined for change by the time teams take the floor for 2015-16 ... and maybe more.

            "Honestly, I think this is going to be one of the most important rules committee meetings in quite a while," O'Malley said of the May 12 session in Indianapolis.



Among the rules committee, O'Malley brings a unique perspective. Not only is the New Jersey native the Herd's administrator overseeing men's basketball. He also is a veteran game official who works games in the Ohio Valley Conference and the Division II Mountain East Conference.

            O'Malley said he can't speak for the committee, which is chaired by Belmont Coach Rick Byrd and includes eight coaches across the NCAA divisional spectrum. But the Herd administrator, in his 13th year at Marshall, said he will bring his own two perspectives into the meetings.

            "I think -- from the perspective of a basketball administrator and a basketball official -- the state of the game is concerning right now, in terms of the pace of play, in scoring," said O'Malley, who has whistled college basketball since 1997 and worked in Division I since 2006. "When you look at what some of the other major sports are doing in trying to increase scoring, increase interest, basketball hasn't done that.

            "I think basketball needs to be cognizant of that and try to make it more offensive-oriented as opposed to defensive-oriented. Football is really on the uptick now with scoring, and fans seems to like it, but college basketball seems to be going the other way right now -- defensive-oriented, try to shorten the game, concentrate on the defensive end of the floor rather the offensive end.

            "I think that's a concern not only from the committee's standpoint, but also the coaches' standpoint, media standpoint, fans' standpoint. It's the state of the game we're talking about."

            O'Malley said the fact that the NIT and two third-tier events used the experimental rules means those subjects are ripe for change and will be on the committee agenda. Those rules, and others, have been the subject of media attention throughout the season, perhaps more than ever before.

            Back in February, polled Division I coaches on the shot clock, and 59 percent said they'd rather see 30 than the current 35 seconds. Thirty percent wanted the status quo and 10 percent wanted the NBA's 24-second clock.

            Herd second-year Coach Dan D'Antoni -- who came to Marshall after nine years as an NBA assistant coach -- voted for the move to 30.

            In 2013-14, men's college hoops played with an altered block/charge rule, for which the defender needed to be set when the offensive man began his upward motion with the ball. While it cleaned up play, the change was wiped off and the rule reverted to the defensive player needing to be spotted when the offensive player left the floor.

            This is one part of the game where an extended under-the-basket arc will come into play.

            "I think it will really help," O'Malley replied when asked if moving to a 4-foot arc (like the NBA) will make a significant change. "Is it going to make a drastic change, no, but I see that as more of an exponential change, the farther you go out.

            "There aren't too many defenses that set up 1 foot under the basket. As you move out, you're going to get more. As I watch these games, when you see that second defender come over, they know that 4-foot arc is there, so they set up outside of it. So, I think it will help, especially with the going back to the old block-charge rule we had a couple years ago.

            "The rule, when it was changed, it was too hard to officiate, too hard to coach. As an official, I thought it was very hard, because you're taught to officiate defense and so your concentration is on the defensive player. So, when you have to move out and figure out whether the offensive player in his upward motion -- is that ball in the upward motion and then check to see whether that defensive player is set.

            "And that upward motion is so subjective. Now, when it's `Is that player off the floor?' ... It  gives you a clear line of demarcation, and then you go back and look at the defender and see if he's still moving."

            While there has been some sentiment for widening the lane to help create more freedom of movement and limit physical post play, O'Malley doesn't see that as a likely change at this point.

            "The wider lane hasn't been a priority with people as much as it has been in the past," he said. "I think people see bigger problems right now than a need to widen the lane. I don't know the movement for that is there as much as it was."

            There also has been significant discussion this season over the number of timeouts in a game. In Division I, there are eight media timeouts (10 in NCAA Tournament games) added to the five per game available to coaches.

            Of those five, four are 30-second stoppages, and one of the five has to be called in the first half or it is lost. Division II and III do not use those eight media timeouts (unless the game is televised), and O'Malley said the flow of a Division II game -- where he works most often in the Mountain East -- is much better for spectators than the Division I game.

            As for the 30-second shot clock, the overwhelming feeling is that coaches and players will adjust quickly to the loss of five seconds, and the change will create an increase in possessions in a game -- and then the byproduct will be more scoring.

            Entering the last three games of the 2014-15 season -- tonight's NCAA Final Four semifinals and Monday's national championship game -- the average points per game (per team) in Division I hoops is 67.64 -- the second lowest of the 3-point shot era (67.5 in 2012-13).

            The scoreboard average numbers haven't been under 67 points since a 63.3 average in 1951-52. That was the last year the NCAA Tournament bracket had 16 teams.

            Ken Pomeroy, a prominent college basketball voice on analytics, wrote earlier week in a Deadspin piece that adjusting for matchups and expected points, scoring in the NIT, CIT and CBI was 5.6 points more per game (per team) than in NCAA Tournament games.

            If that increase were projected over the 2015-16 season, it would bring scoring to its highest Division I level since 2002-03.

            "There were coaches' surveys following games (in the NIT and CIT) on the experimental rules, and those will be compiled in some form by the NCAA and the committee will receive those," O'Malley said. "Whatever our committee does, it will go to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel. The PROP has the final say."

            Considering all that has been spoken and written this season about the kind of repair men's college hoops needs, it would be surprising if O'Malley and his 11 fellow Basketball Rules Committee men don't send significant legislation forward.