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November 7, 2013

LINDLEY: College basketball fans should brace for longer games

NCAA wants to cut down on physical play.

I attended a Big Ten basketball game in Bloom-ington a few years ago where I was seated so close to the floor that I had to keep my feet pinned under my chair so I wouldn’t trip the referee as he raced up and down the court. The view from courtside left me with one shocking reaction: I no longer had any idea what was a foul.

There was banging, pushing, shoving, probably even tripping, but nary a whistle was blown by the officials. The disclaimer of “no-harm, no-foul” was truly enforced.

Now as another basketball season begins to unfold this week, could all of that be about to change? This year we are being told to expect something much different from the game’s three-man officiating crews. A new no-hand check rule will be introduced and fouls will also be called on defenders who body-bump offensive players on their way to the hoop.

The idea behind these rule changes is to increase scoring and reduce the grind-it-out, rough-house style of play that had come to dominate in the major conferences.

But that might not be the case. Instead of high-scoring, fast-breaking action, fans could just as easily be fed a diet of games where players repeatedly spend time on the free-throw line trying their hand at one-and-the bonus.

If games become a free-throw marathon, it could easily stretch them out another 20 minutes or more, causing interest and excitement to wane.

Some coaches think that the changes could re-introduce pure athleticism to the game. If so, that would be good for the 2013-14 season. There’s a wealth of talented freshmen coming into the college game this year. That would be especially true at Kentucky and Kansas.

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