UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Donovan wants foul calls to be consistent
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 7:08 p.m.
Before the season started, Florida coach Billy Donovan said he felt an NCAA-mandated rules emphasis designed to open up offense would be a work in progress.
In January, Donovan's mind hasn't changed much.
“Are there changes that you can see that have taken place? Yes,” Donovan said. “Are they consistent all the time? No.”
Hand-checking, block-charge calls and overall freedom of movement could come into play again Thursday night when No. 3 Florida plays at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 11-1 at home this season. A big reason? Mississippi State is getting to the free-throw line an average of 27.2 times per game. The Bulldogs went to the line 42 times in a win at home over rival Ole Miss and 43 times in an overtime win at home against Texas A&M.
Overall, Southeastern Conference teams are going to the foul line an average of 25.4 times per game, up from 20.3 last season.
First-year SEC coordinator of basketball officials Jake Bell said he thinks officials have done a good job carrying the rules emphasis over into the conference season.
“We're still blowing the whistle and they're still shooting free throws,” Bell said. “We haven't backed off, and so we're staying the course. The message is there. The NCAA is totally supporting this. The SEC is totally supporting this.”
But Donovan said he felt at times during UF's 67-41 win Saturday at home against Tennessee, some contact was let go. Both teams combined for 36 fouls. Tennessee went to the free-throw line 14 times, compared to 13 trips for the Gators.
“You've got two very, very physical teams and physical frontcourts,” Donovan said. “You want to let guys be able to play, but you don't want to let them be in a situation where someone is gaining an advantage physically, so there's a balance there.
“I think they are going to try to work through that. It's going to be interesting to see how the supervisors feel it's going. I think the whistles, maybe there have been some calls that are missed, maybe there has been some contact that has been let go. But I think it's been consistent for both teams, which I think you as a player and a coach have to make adjustment to the way the game is being officiated.”
Florida senior forward Will Yeguete said he's noticed a difference in how games are being called this season.
“I can't really use my hands as much as I used to,” Yeguete said. “I'm definitely more aware of the fouls now.”
Bell said he thinks that officials have done a good job eliminating hand-checking. The block-charge changes, Bell said, have been a little more tricky. If an offensive player is an upward motion, a defensive player can no longer expect a charge call if he slides into the path of a player who has started his upward motion shooting the basketball.
“They've just made the time factor a little different, so we have to be in position a lot earlier,” Bell said. “But as you well know, we still have charges in games. People thought that we wouldn't have charges, basically. But we still do have charges.”
Through late January, the crackdown on contact by NCAA officials has had its desired effect. According to the website, KPI.com, scoring in college basketball is up 5.5 percent. Last season, average scoring in Division-I college basketball was 71.4 points per game. It was the lowest scoring output since teams averaged 67.5 points per game during the 1951-52 season.
Bell said he hasn't heard any pushback from coaches on opening up offense. If anything, Bell said, coaches are looking for more hand-checks and blocks to be called.
“We've had some lapses maybe in some situations, maybe in some games, a little more than we want,” Bell said. “But for the whole, I think we've stayed the course and are doing a really good job.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.