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Looking back at the rule emphasis after nearly a season

BY JACOB SHEYKO | FEBRUARY 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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Before the women’s basketball season started, coaches and players from each of the Big Ten teams met at the Big Ten’s media day.

As it always is, the event was filled with optimism. Some of it was justified, some was wishful thinking.

But aside from coaches and players talking about their teams’ chances to contend in the Big Ten, another common topic was the NCAA’s officiating emphasis on offensive freedom of movement.

For the 2013-14 season, officials were instructed to crack down on a defender’s use of hands or forearms to impede a player’s movement.

It was implemented to increase scoring and provide a more entertaining product of collegiate women’s basketball, but numerous coaches worried about whether it would be consistently officiated by the array of Big Ten officials.

With about two weeks remaining in the Big Ten regular season, the effects of the rule emphasis are pretty clear. And by looking at the Big Ten’s statistics thus far, the results have provided a more entertaining brand of basketball, particularly if you like offense.

As expected, fouls have increased from last season to this year.

Big Ten teams have been whistled for about two more fouls per game — an increase from 15.3 fouls per game last season to 17.6 this year.

This may not seem as an enormous effect on a game, but a lot of Big Ten matchups come down to a few points, so the difference between shooting free throws in the bonus or double bonus could also be the difference between winning and losing.

But this increase in foul shots isn’t the biggest change that has occurred as a result of the rule emphasis. Instead, that comes with the offensive production throughout the Big Ten.

Last season, Big Ten women’s basketball would be best defined as a defensive struggle. Offensively, there wasn’t anything that spectacular. 

The NCAA as a whole wasn’t very offensively exciting. Teams across the nation averaged 62.1 points per game, which was a record low and nearly 8 points fewer than the average in the inaugural season of NCAA women’s basketball, 1981-82.

Scoring around the Big Ten was even worse; teams averaged 57.3 points per game. Of the 12 teams in the Big Ten, only one averaged more than 70 points per game — Penn State at 73.6.

With the new rule emphasis in place, scoring has skyrocketed. Big Ten teams are averaging 71.5 points per game.

And whereas in the 2012-13 season Penn State stood alone in scoring over 70 points per game, six teams have surpassed that mark this season.

More factors go into this scoring increase other than the rule emphasis — especially with roster changes occurring every season. But the scoring increase in just one season means that the rule emphasis is doing exactly what the NCAA expected it would.

Some of the fouls may seem too touchy, but the NCAA set out to make the game of women’s basketball more entertaining. In this case, that means making the game faster paced and higher scoring.

It hasn’t even been a full season, but the rule emphasis has done that and then some. 


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