College basketball is going to have a different look next season with many rules changes that were approved to the men’s and women’s games Monday.
But Mercer head coaches Bob Hoffman and Susie Gardner are taking a wait-and-see approach to how the changes actually will affect their games.
The most notable change in the men’s game is a move from a 35-second shot clock to a 30-second shot clock, while the women’s game will switch from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters. The men’s shot clock last was changed when it went from 45 seconds to 35 for the 1993-94 season.
“When we went from 45 to 35, everybody thought the shooting percentages and scoring would go up, but they have gone down,” Hoffman said. “You just don’t know. In general for the fans, it can be a good rule because it makes it go back and forth quicker, more of a tennis approach instead of sticking on one end.”
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Still, Hoffman isn’t sure the change will affect his program much. Last year, the Bears played in the College Basketball Invitational, which used a 30-second clock so they got a small taste of the change.
Other rules changes included cutting the number of timeouts each team can use in the second half from four to three, while the arc underneath the basket will be extended out another foot to 4 feet.
“A couple of years ago on our foreign trip, we played with a 24-second clock. Then we played with 30 in the CBI last year,” Hoffman said. “When I coached women, it was 30. In the ABA and NBA, it is 24. So for me, you might have one less bail-out play, as I call it, or others might call it a ball screen. That’s really it.
“We try to play as fast as we can. Sometimes it depends on our personnel just how fast we can play. I think our team that we have this year is going to be well-suited for it. I think it hurts teams that are not as organized.”
Gardner said the switch to four quarters won’t adjust the coaches’ strategy too much, except for how and when to use timeouts.
“We have been discussing it for a few months. Obviously as coaches, we look at the why, the pros and cons and how it’s going to affect us as players and coaches,” she said. “But really everyone who plays the game in women’s basketball, high school, international, FIBA and the pros, plays four quarters, except for college. I think we’re just trying to bring everything together and be like the rest of the world.
“The biggest thing is going to be as soon as we call a timeout in any of those quarters, it becomes a media timeout. It will lessen the media timeouts, which the fans will enjoy, so it might make us hold on to those a little longer. We’re trying to speed the pace of the game a little bit and maybe have some more end-of-half, end-of-quarter, end-of-game situations.”
The big change, Gardner said, is giving teams the option to advance the ball into the frontcourt after timeouts immediately after a made basket in the final 59.9 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime.
“That’s the one I’m really going to have to adjust to because it has never been part of our thought process. So I’m going to obviously come up with a few more sideline plays,” Gardner said with a laugh. “It will always been in front of our bench, so we have to adjust to that. That will be the biggest adjustment as a coach.”