The League: How physical is too physical?

Referees try to separate Mississippi's Reginald Buckner, left, and Missouri's Laurence Bowers, as Buckner throws a punch at Bowers during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. Buckner was ejected and Bowers received a technical foul. (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 9:40 p.m.

College basketball is becoming more and more of a battle royal on hardwood. Players are bigger, faster and stronger. Coaches are emphasizing defense over offense.

But how physical is too physical, and how do you police it when it crosses the line? Two players from the Southeastern Conference were ejected over the weekend due to rough play inside. Auburn backup forward Jordon Granger was tossed when he threw a punch at Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin after the two became tangled up on a block-out play on a free-throw attempt. Ole Miss forward Reginald Buckner was kicked out of his game after landing a blow over the shoulders in a skirmish with Missouri forward Laurence Bowers.

The increased physical play has resulted in lower scores throughout college basketball.

“There’s a concern throughout the country,” said SEC coordinator of officials Gerald Boudreaux. “There have been some games that have not been officiated according to the guidelines and standards, and we’re no exception to that in our conference.”

Boudreaux said cleaning up physical play continues to be addressed, through updated training tapes to its officials and bulletins to league coaches.

“The guidelines call for freedom of movement,” Boudreaux said. “It calls for allowing players to play, but not to lean on each other and push and grab and shove, and I think there have been some games that have been an exception to that.”

But Boudreaux said there’s a fine line to officiating between calling too few fouls and calling too many.

“Sometimes it’s easier to get to the middle and sometimes it’s not, and I just think there have been more opportunities this year where we have not been in the middle,” Boudreaux said. “It’s a spectator sport and you want it to be interesting and you want it to be something that everybody can relate to. What you don’t want is it to become a free-throw shooting contest.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan has empathy for officials dealing with a game that’s become more physical.

“You’ve got bigger bodies, faster bodies,” Donovan said. “It’s bang, bang plays.There’s no instant replay. There’s a balance between letting a team play and letting a team maybe get an advantage when you’re trying to keep an even playing field.”

But Donovan said he would like to see officials stick with preseason points of emphasis.

“Somebody does it 25 times, I think all 25 times you have to call it,” Donovan said. “It’s hard because you want to have players determine the outcome of the game.”

Boudreaux said the goal for SEC officials heading for the stretch run of the season is to keep trying to clean up rough play, especially in the post.

“You want them to block shots and you want to see very good athletic plays,” Boudreaux said. “But you don’t want it to get to a point where it’s a tug-of-war.”

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