YOUNGSTOWN -- There's been a significant change in the way NCAA basketball officials call games and Youngstown State has benefited from the change of pace.
The Penguins lead the Horizon League with an average of more than 80 points per game and it's largely due to the fact that now defenders are given fouls more than a cop handing out tickets from a well-placed speed trap.
The NCAA told its officials to be more vigilant in calling a defender if they placed and kept a hand or forearm on a offensive player; put two hands on its opponent; continued jabbing by placing a hand or forearm on a foe; or used an arm bar to impede the progress of the dribbler. In addition, a defender must be in a set position prior to the shooter's upward motion to pass or shoot.
It was all set forth to make the offensive part of the game be more free flowing.
Through November and December, it seems the NCAA has got its wish.
"There's no doubt the officiating change has had a dramatic effect on college basketball," YSU coach Jerry Slocum said. "One, 3-point shot attempts are lower than they've been in four years because of the fact everybody is trying to drive it. The second part of it is shot attempts are up from the foul line, which has led to point production up."
Now, will it continue?
"The other night I watched a bunch of games on TV and it was a football game again," Slocum said. "I'm hoping the officiating stays true to form because I think it's been good for college basketball."
Who knew a team would be rooting for the officiating, but that's the case for YSU. Teams like the Penguins have thrived on a free-flowing game.
The taxing, thuggish play that has dominated not only the Horizon League, but play around the country for the past couple of years, seems like it took a quick back seat this year, so far.
Now, as Slocum stated, will it continue into the new year? Or will it revert back to the rough-and-tumble nature of a game we used to call barnball.
Players like Kendrick Perry have been quite prolific this season, but it's not just him, despite leading the Horizon League with a 21.1 points per game average. Oakland's Travis Bader, Green Bay's Keifer Sykes and UIC's Kelsey Barlow are all in the top five in Horizon League scoring.
The Horizon League, almost 10 years ago, was more of a league dominated by the 6-foot-5 to 6-8 player, more of a small to a power forward position. Now, the shift has went to the backcourt. Although Bader and Barlow are both 6-5, they are more of a two-guard than a three.
True guards that hover around 6-foot like Perry and Sykes can't thrive in a league that is more physical, where going in the lane is more of a running of the gauntlet than driving to the hoop.
With the new officiating enforcement, teams are forced to rethink their mode of operations. Considering the increased scoring around the league, it seems most teams have made the adjustment.
If YSU wants to stay competitive in the Horizon League this year, let's hope the officiating doesn't take a laissez faire attitude and sticks to the hard and fast rules applied this season.