Oct. 24, 2013
VOL HOOPS REPORT: Adjusting to Rules Changes
The national scoring average in college basketball was 67.5 points per game last season - the lowest average since the 1981-82 campaign. Tennessee came in just below that mark at 66.3 ppg a season ago.
As the Volunteers prepare for the upcoming campaign, they must adapt to new rule changes aimed at raising scoring averages across the board.
"One of the reasons why scoring is lower is because the game has become so physical," National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Executive Director Jim Haney said this past summer. "The officiating has allowed that physicality."
The NABC proposed multiple rule changes during the offseason that have now been adopted and will be enforced this year. These changes are primarily designed to boost offensive output in the college game.
Kansas City Star reporter Blair Kerkhoff (the NABC is headquartered in Kansas City) recently managed to provide a clear and concise review of those rules changes.
"Fouls will be expected to be called when a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent; puts two hands on an opponent; continually jabs by extending his arms and placing a hand or forearm on the opponent or uses an arm bar to impede progress," Kerkhoff wrote.
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin and his staff have been working with the Volunteers to adjust to the rule changes this preseason, and they brought in a trio of officials for Wednesday's practice at Pratt Pavilion and conducted three 10-minute games.
So how did the Vols adapt to the new points of emphasis?
"The officials (Wednesday) said they thought we've done the best job of the three teams they've seen (this preseason)," Martin said before Thursday's practice. "We play a physical brand of basketball and defend at arm's length without fouling. I thought we did a decent job. There were still some hand-checks here and there, but for the most part, we did a solid job."
The Vols' imposing frontcourt tandem of Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes has thrived on physical play in the paint. This season, they may be forced to alter their style defensively, depending on how officials enforce post physicality.
"Jeronne's a guy who plays physical. He can defend on the perimeter, and he can defend in the post," Martin said. "I think the biggest question mark moving forward for us - and for a lot of teams - is how you defend in the post. With guys like Jeronne and Jarnell - the way the scrimmage was called (Wednesday) - they're going to get fouled almost every time down the floor because they're so physical and you have to keep them off the glass."
Stokes seemed somewhat unsure of how the new points of emphasis might impact his game personally, eventually suggesting that they may have opposite effects on each end of the floor.
"I think that was one of coach's biggest reasons for having the scrimmage (Wednesday), so we could get adjusted to the rule changes," Stokes said. "I'm a little scared of the new rule changes because I was already a guy that got in foul trouble a lot. I now have to be extra careful. But I guess it will help me out on offense."
Another player positioned to benefit offensively by the limitations placed on perimeter physicality is All-SEC wing Jordan McRae. On Thursday, however, he sounded more concerned with how he might have to adapt on defense.
"You can't really touch anybody anymore," McRae said. "One of our keys on defense is to stay at arm's length. So for us, doing that this year is going to be really important."
So for an experienced team like Tennessee that boasts several battle-tested veterans, but also prides itself on its toughness, will the rule adjustments be a benefit or a hindrance?
"I think they can hurt, if we're out there pushing and shoving guys" McRae said with a grin. "I mean, we're going to be as physical as we can be, up to the point to before they can call a foul."
The block/charge call - perhaps one of the most critiqued and debated rules in the college game recently - also has been tweaked for this season.
"A defensive player cannot move into the path of an offensive player once he has started his upward motion with the ball to attempt a field goal or pass," Kerkhoff wrote. "If a defensive player is not in a legal guarding position by this time, it's a blocking foul.
"Currently, rules call for a defender to be in legal guarding position before the offensive player lifts off the floor. The idea of the tweak is to allow for more offensive freedom and provide officials with more clarity in making this call."
From an offensive standpoint, Martin is instructing his players to attack the rim whenever the opportunity presents itself.
"If the officials call games the way they say they're going to call them, I think you'll see a lot of teams getting wide open threes as opposed to keeping guys out of the lane. One of the things we stress on offense is really keeping your head down and getting to the rim. If you can do that, you can get to the free-throw line. If a (defender) is not already in front of you, it's hard for him to stop you."
"FAMILY PLAN" AND "STARTING FIVE" TICKET PACKAGES ON SALE NOW
The start of the 2013-14 Tennessee basketball season is right around the corner, and the UT Ticket Office is offering a pair of value-packed ticket packages for those interested in being part of the action at Thompson-Boling Arena.
In addition to standard season-ticket options, Tennessee also offers a special season ticket "Family Plan." Available for seats in sections 312, 313 and 314, the Family Plan costs $95 per ticket - just $5 per game for all 19 home games.
The "Starting Five" plan allows fans to choose five of Tennessee's nine home SEC games for a package cost of just $50 per ticket. That is a $5-per-game discount from the individual game ticket price of $15. The Starting Five ticket package is available in all 300-level sections of the arena.
The Vols host SEC foes Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Missouri this season.
Non-conference home games include contests against Florida Southern (exhibition), Southern Indiana (exhibition), USC Upstate, The Citadel, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, NC State, Morehead State, Virginia and Tusculum College.
To purchase tickets, visit the UT Ticket Office at Thompson-Boling Arena, call 1-800-332-8657 or go to www.UTtix.com.