But the basket didn’t count. The officials, correctly, ruled Winston wasn’t in his shooting motion when the foul occurred. That’s the college rule. In the NBA, it would have counted because Winston was making a move to the basket when he was fouled.
“Of course it should be changed,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It should have been changed years ago. The NBA is light-years ahead of us in terms of the rules. They play 100 games a year and they figure out what’s wrong and they fix it. We get bogged down in committees and reports and tweaks, and it takes forever to get anything done.”
Remedying the situations that often turn spectacular baskets such as Winston’s into nothing more than an inbounds play for the fouled team would not require a rule change. It would require the rules committee ordering officiating supervisor J.D. Collins to tell his officials to interpret the rule differently.
“True,” said Colorado Coach Tad Boyle, the chairman of the 11-man rules committee. “It could be done without a formal rules change.”
That means the interpretation could be changed without going through the committees and reports and gathering of information that frustrate Krzyzewski.
Unlike Krzyzewski, Boyle believes in all the different stages any rule change has to go through, including the fact that the committee can make changes only every two years.
But on the subject of changing the interpretation of the continuation rule, Boyle said: “I wouldn’t be against that. My thing is to make sure any change we make is fair to the offense and the defense.”
Most coaches seem to agree that the current interpretation benefits the defense because the risk of giving up a three-point play is mitigated.
“It should be changed,” Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. “The way it is now, it’s a good play to foul in that situation. Cassius makes a spectacular play, and the defender gets rewarded for fouling.”
The committee made 20 rule changes last offseason. The biggest was moving back the three-point arc to the international distance of 22 feet 1¾ inches. That hasn’t had a major impact on three-point shooting, which is down to 33 percent from 34 percent a year ago.
The committee voted down an accompanying proposal that would have widened the lane, which some coaches feel is necessary to open up play inside.
But in the minds of many, there has always been a reluctance to make any changes that would make the college game more similar to the NBA.
“It’s better now than when I was on the committee,” said Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey, who was the chairman 10 years ago. “Back then, just about any time we discussed a rule that would move us closer to the NBA or make us like the NBA, there was pushback. I remember Art Hyland [currently the committee’s secretary] saying, ‘We’re not the NBA.’ I don’t want to throw him under the bus — he wasn’t the only one — but that sentiment was clearly there.
“That’s why the [shot] clock is still at 30 seconds. I think the sooner we go to 24 and get it over with, the better off we’ll be.”
Brey and others also believe the game’s toughest call, the block-charge, could be made easier if the entire lane was off-limits for taking a charge.
“The arc [under the basket] was put in to try to stop secondary defenders from coming in and sliding under guys as they went to the basket,” he said. “Now, guys have just moved farther out to do it, and the officials have to look at them and the floor to see if they’re outside the arc. You’ve got bodies piling up in there.
“Just say if you get to the lane and someone comes to help, he has to guard you, not try to draw a foul by sliding under you. It’s dangerous in there right now.”
In all, there are four Division II and Division III reps on the committee and four others who are administrators.
“One problem we have is there aren’t enough D-I coaches on the committee,” said Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, who, along with Boyle and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins are the three Division I coaches on the 11-man committee. “We start talking about things involving replay, and the D-II and D-III guys are sitting there saying, ‘This has nothing to do with us because we don’t have replay capability.’ That’s fine; I get it. But their votes still count the same as mine does.”
Barnes believes changing the makeup of the committee would help, but he also would like to see more active referees in the room.
“Right now, we have one,” he said. “I’d like to see more than that. We need to hear what they’re dealing with today on the court, not from the sidelines.”
The NCAA is famous for being turtle-like when it comes to change, on and off the court. Krzyzewski, a past president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, is right when he says there’s no reason not to correct more quickly what is obviously wrong.
Boyle gets that frustration and hears about it often from other coaches now that he’s the committee chairman.
“I think we have a great game,” he said. “Can it be better? Yes. But I’m a big believer in not fixing what isn’t broken. That’s why I think going slower is, most of the time, a good thing.”
Maybe so. But it is long past time to reinterpret the continuation rule because that is broken. And forcing players to play better defense by raising the standard for a charge call isn’t a bad idea, either.
Perhaps officials should be instructed to take the approach of Hall of Fame referee Hank Nichols.
“Unless it was so blatant that I had to call it,” he said. “I’d look down at the player and say: ‘Get up, son. Let’s keep playing.’ ”
For more by John Feinstein, visit washingtonpost.com/feinstein.