Published Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 9:17 pm / Updated at 9:53 am
BASKETBALL
Notes: Coaches adjusting to recent rule changes

CHICAGO — “Move your feet and don't use your hands.”

That's Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's advice for college basketball teams in dealing with rule changes this season designed to decrease contact when guarding an opponent with the ball.

What did the coaches say to that Thursday at media day?

Simple theory, complex application.

“I don't know yet,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said when quizzed about the new rules that ban putting two hands on a foe, keeping a hand or forearm on a foe or using an armbar to impede a dribbler.

“I don't want to avoid the question. I've got to see it for a couple of weeks, and I want to see it across the board for about a two- to three-week window to analyze it.”

The idea is to introduce more offense to the game. Scoring in college basketball last season hit a 61-year low, as teams averaged 67.5 points a game. Three-point shooting also was the worst (34.1 percent) since the shot was implemented in 1986-87.

Delany is on the side of good, watchable basketball.

As a player, he was a starting guard on a Final Four team at North Carolina. As a commissioner, he's been part of a competition committee gathering data from Final Fours since 1950 to look for trends and why the game has become relatively low scoring.

“People are giving up two hours of their time to watch a college basketball game,” Delany said. “That's a big 'ask.' So it's got to be fun to watch.”

Conference officials and coaches are hoping games stay near the two-hour mark. But after some scrimmages and exhibition games, there were reports of 35 to 40 fouls and 60 to 80 free throws shot. That would make for 2Ĺ-hour games.

“If we want to make it into a completely non-physical game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, “I worry there are going to be longer, more boring games. And people are going to play more zone (clogging the middle).”

Delany met with Big Ten men's and women's coaches Wednesday night.

“Everybody is sort of tentative and working with officials to understand what will be,” he said. “But they are all interested in the flow of the game and opening it up. I hope we can find something sustainable and consistent.”

Getting to knowing Eliason

New Minnesota coach Richard Pitino is a fan of Gophers junior center Elliott Eliason, though the coach isn't sure the junior from Chadron, Neb., was all that enamored of him in early practices.

“When I first got the job,” Pitino said, smiling, “all I did was say his name on the court. That's normally not a good thing. Now, I don't normally talk about him, which is a great thing.”

Eliason has added 15 pounds to get to 260 on his 6-foot-11 frame.

“He's been really good,” Pitino said. “He has put on that muscle, and he's in great shape.”

Last season, Eliason was a role player, averaging 2.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 14 minutes a game. But he played key minutes in two of Minnesota's biggest wins last season — over No. 1 Indiana and against UCLA in the NCAA tournament.

Pitino said 25 to 30 minutes a game for Eliason isn't a stretch.

“He's going to have a really good year for us,” the coach said. “He has improved a lot. And he's a great kid.”

Recruiting chain of command

Izzo drew big laughs when asked whether he has seen changes in the “dynamics” of trying to recruit in Chicago, an obvious reference to the glut of AAU and summer-league coaches hanging around top prospects.

“If there are good players, there's going to be a lot of coaches around,” he said. “And if there are a lot of coaches around, there are going to be issues.

“I don't know what else I can say. I don't want to get slapped by somebody for saying the wrong thing about recruiting.”

Then with perfect timing, Izzo said the following phrases slowly: “A lot of good players. ... A lot of coaches. ... And a lot of middlemen.”

Bits and pieces

Purdue potentially has one of the most skilled big men in the country in 7-foot sophomore A.J. Hammons. But he has been suspended for three games for violating team rules. Said coach Matt Painter: “Whenever there is disciplinary action, you've got to take the next step. Everybody says the right thing in the huddle, but you've got to go out and do the right thing.” ... With more fouls likely to be called this season, will Iowa practice free throws more? “We won't,” coach Fran McCaffery said, “because we shoot a ton already.” ... Preseason player of the year Gary Harris, a guard from Michigan State, said he is healthy for the first time in nearly 10 months after playing last season with shoulder and ankle problems.

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht

lee.barfknecht@owh.com    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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