Some of the nation's prominent college basketball coaches like the changes that have been made in their game. Some don't. All agree that this season will be unlike any other.
"James Naismith is going to wake up and not recognize the game he invented," said George Raveling, coach of Washington State.
When North Carolina stalled away most of the second half in defeating Virginia, 47-45, for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship March 7, few suspected that nationally televised game would so radically change the course of college basketball. But 12 conferences have adopted rules that will make a repeat of last winter's slowdown virtually impossible.
The ACC took the most radical approach, adopting a 19-foot three-point field goal and a 30-second shot clock.
"I don't think it was just that one game, it was the whole season," said Maryland's Lefty Driesell. "We wanted to get rid of all that slowdown stuff."
The NCAA, taking note that scoring last season was lower than at any other time in the last 30 years, has given the conferences permission to experiment with a shot clock and/or a three-point field goal. Five conferences will try both. All NCAA championship tournament games, however, will be played by the old rules.
"The rules will open up the whole game from a fast-break standpoint," said Gerry Gimelstob of George Washington, "and initiate a lot of running and action."
"I think the new rules are going to destroy the team concept," said Oregon State's Ralph Miller. "There's already enough emphasis on one on one."
The Virginia-North Carolina game was a major topic of conversation three weeks later at the National Association of Basketball Coaches convention in New Orleans. Rules changes were discussed, but when it came time to vote, it was an overwhelming majority in favor of leaving the game alone.
"When we left New Orleans, I felt we all were thinking the same way," said Arkansas' Eddie Sutton, a member of the rules committee. "The overwhelming consensus was that we had a great game and didn't want to mess with it. But then, all of a sudden, the ACC says it is going to use a three-point shot and a shot clock and it started a snowball rolling. A lot of the other conferences didn't want to get outdone, so they changed their rules, too."
The shot clock is the answer to preventing a blatant stall and the three-point shot, it is felt, will discourage zone defenses and unclog the lanes.
"If you want to do away with zone defenses, then why not just do away with the zone?" asked Hugh Durham of Georgia.
When teams from different conferences play, the home team will have the option of offering its conference's rules to the visiting team, which will have the option of refusing and playing by NCAA tournament rules.
The coaches at Notre Dame, De Paul and Marquette -- the top three independent schools in college basketball -- all say they aren't going to agree to shot clocks or three-point field goals.
"We weren't involved in making any of the new rules and we aren't going to play by any of them, either," said Hank Raymonds of Marquette. "We play seven different conferences on the road, so it isn't fair to our kids to change the rules every other game. It's too much of an adjustment."
Ray Meyer at De Paul agreed. "How would we practice, with a movable three-point arc?" he asked.
The Atlantic Coast, Pacific Coast, Atlantic 10, Sun Belt, Ohio Valley, Big Ten, Big Sky, Missouri Valley and the Southern conferences all have a three-point field goal, ranging from 19 feet to 22 feet.
Many coaches feel 19 feet, which is two feet inside the top of the circle, isn't a difficult shot for even an average outside shooter.
"I'm 40 years old and I can make a 19-footer, consistently," said Clem Haskins of Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Conference, which will use the 19-foot three-pointer. "There's an eighth-grader at Mott Junior High who can hit 50 percent on 19-footers," said Raveling.
"This might push the return of the suburban white player coming back into the game," said Meyer. "They're not quick or fast, but they can shoot from the perimeter."
"I think everyone is concerned now about getting a guard who can shoot," said Jud Heathcoate of Michigan State, the 1979 national champion. "The emphasis will be on shooting guards and not just the true point guards who can handle the ball. You might even see a designated shooter like a field goal kicker in football or a designated hitter in baseball."
"You only have to shoot 33 percent from the three-point range to get the same number of points shooting 50 percent from the two-point area," said Sutton, who successfully lobbied against his Southwest Conference adopting a three-point field goal.
"You can work your butt off the whole game to get the ball inside and lose when some guy who does nothing but bomb comes off the bench and gets hot from 20 feet the last three minutes," said Dana Kirk of Memphis State in the Metro Conference, whose athletic directors yesterday rescinded an earlier rules change that would have experimented with six personal fouls.
Oregon State's Miller is against awarding three points for long shots.
"I'd rather see a backdoor play given three points," he said, "because you don't get a layup unless somebody helps you. Let's elevate team play."
In the ACC, long-range shooters such as Pete Holbert of Maryland, Dereck Whittenburg of North Carolina State, Michael Jordan of North Carolina and Danny Young of Wake Forest already have their spots on the floor marked out.
Because the rules are experimental, and there is no standard three-point shot, it will count only as two points in determing national scoring leaders.
The ACC, PCAA, Atlantic 10, Sun Belt, Ohio Valley, Big East, Southeastern and Southwest will use a shot clock, ranging from 30 seconds to 45 seconds.
Each conference except the SEC will turn off the clock in the last four or five minutes; the SEC will keep its running the entire game. No conference will use it in overtime.
"We've used a 45-second clock for five years and found that it doesn't change the game that much," said Haskins. "Forty-five seconds is plenty of time to run your offense. The games will still average 55 to 60 points per team."
Said John Thompson of Georgetown, "Forty-five seconds could actually slow the game down because many teams which would normally shoot quicker than that will be aware of the clock and more cautious in the middle of the game."
Miller, who, it should be noted, does not care for the dunk, said, "I cannot find any way that using a clock doesn't sterotype the whole game. It's just a 'throw it up' philosophy."
The Pac-10 is one conference that did not adopt the shot clock or the three-point field goal.
"I can't wait until after the regular season to compare our shooting percentages to those teams in the conferences with the new rules," Miller said.
Said Raveling, also of the Pac-10, "I'm pleased with the fact that we (the coaches) didn't get sucked in. I'm proud of our league."
As divided as they are on what effect the new rules will have, most coaches surveyed did agree that the clock and the three-point shot will benefit the teams with the most talent.
"With the rules the way they are now," said Raymonds, "there's no way a poor team can beat the really good ones."
"Coaching is strategy," said Digger Phelps of Notre Dame. "But with all the new rules, that isn't as much the case anymore. The more strategy you use, the better chance the underdog has to win. If you take that away, the favorites will always come out ahead."
Durham: "Anytime you speed up the game you have fewer upsets. The weaker team doesn't have a choice of slowing it down or rerunning its offense until it gets its best player coming off a double pick on the right spot."
So what is a coach to do when he faces overwhelming talent?
"He better have his assistants go out and recruit," said Gimelstob. "With ACC rules, I'd hate to have to play a team with superior talent."
Surprisingly, many of the coaches interviewed said the teams that will benefit most from the new rules aren't necessarily the ones with the great outside shooters, but the ones that play the best man-to-man defense.
"The rules penalize those teams who played no defense in the past," said Penn State's Dick Harter. "If you like to pack inside on defense and not chase the ball, you could be in trouble. Nineteen feet is awful close to let someone stand out there by himself with the ball, especially since you're going to give him three points if he can put it in."
Heathcote: "There were too many stacked zones and overcautious offenses in our league (the Big Ten) so we did something about it. This will profit Indiana the most because its players are used to playing man-to-man defense and that's what you have to play now. We faced a zone 25 out of 28 games last year. That won't happen now."
"Obviously, what you're trying to do with the rules," said Ed Tapscott of American, "is make it too expensive to sag and use zones all the time."
Gene Bartow of Alabama-Birmingham of the Sun Belt Conference said he strongly believes in both the shot clock and the three-point field goal. "I like the clock because we've come to the point where too many people hold the ball and that turns off the fans. And I think we need three points to prevent people from parking in the lane."
Will the changes affect coaches' approach to the game?
It will in some cases. At Maryland, for example, Driesell's team will not resemble the one that played stall ball most of last season. Driesell, who has been pushing for these changes for a long time, said he will take full advantage of the new rules with a fast-breaking, "I can score more points than you can" team.
Others, like Phelps, are going to operate as they always have. "We're going to play a regular game, every time," he said. "I think our game is great the way it is. If you want to see pro basketball, go see pro basketball."
The changes are concentrated in conferences in the East and Midwest, with only the PCAA in the West adopting them. Raveling has a theory as to why.
"Maybe there was a nuclear explosion in the East and Midwest and the fallout damaged the damn coaches' brain cells."
Most of the coaches also agreed that confusion will result with so many varying sets of rules.
"The NCAA never should have left this up to the individual conferences," said Thompson. "If we're working toward one common goal, the NCAA championship, then we should get there by the same means."
Durham of Georgia said he felt most sorry for the fans.
"A spectator will turn the TV on Monday night and watch a SEC game with a 45 second clock and no-three-pointer, then on Wednesday night watch the ACC play 19 feet and 30 seconds, then on Thursday night watch the Big Ten play 21 feet and no clock. Confusing?"