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Sign off on the dotted line

1/25/2010

In the offseason, in the interest of making college basketball less clustered in and around the hoop, the NCAA decided to change the way referees would call the block-charge. To earn a charge, a defender could not be under the hoop; his entire body must be outside the imaginary sphere that extends from the orange rim down to the floor. It's now January 25, and college hoops season is officially in its meatiest time. So how is this new rule working out?

Actually, not so bad. In fact, this is the first time I've had occasion to mention it since the season began. The mere fact that I haven't noticed it -- and commentators, analysts, bloggers and fans haven't been complaining about it -- makes me think most people are pretty happy with the arrangement. Most expected this rule, which asks referees to do so much in the matter of one second, to fail miserably. That hasn't happened.

According to the Associated Press, it appears coaches haven't had much of a problem with it, either:

"I've been to 35 games in person and I have yet to see that play occur meeting the parameters of the rule," said John Adams, the NCAA's coordinator for men's basketball officiating. "I watch games at home with DVR with a remote in my hand and run a play three or four times and still can't get a guy standing completely under the basket."

. . . The officials, after calling a few too many blocking fouls early in the season for Adams' taste, have seamlessly added the rule to their checklist of things to watch. The rule, like the line, has been virtually invisible.

"I haven't really noticed it," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "If I haven't noticed it, at least in our games, I wouldn't say we've had issues with it at all."

This is undeniably a good thing; remember what I wrote earlier about making Bill Self angry? Anything that gets referees yelled at less by large, scary men like Self is a win for humanity.

But this rule, though apparently successful -- at least in so far as no one is loudly complaining about it, which must be considered "successful" by an organization as occasionally inept as the NCAA -- is far from perfect. Referees and coaches still want an NBA-style dotted line around the hoop. This was the original idea, but the NCAA decided not to implement a painted circle because, well, that would have taken a long time, and the NCAA wanted to do the job quickly (read: poorly) rather than slowly (read: correctly). The NCAA is like the guy who keeps trying to patch my house's roof instead of just fixing the roof completely. Just fix the stupid roof!

That said, for now the NCAA's patch appears to be working. Water isn't leaking. Coaches aren't whining. Players aren't whining. I'm not whining. This is a win for the NCAA. The process is far from over, though, and that semicircle needs to get painted. Let's make this thing official. Even after this shockingly non-disastrous outcome, it's still the best idea.