With every new college basketball season comes tweaks to the rules of the game, and this year’s version may cause problems for the defending national champions. A major point of emphasis this year will be the enforcement of rules designed to improve offensive flow in the game many complained had grown too sluggish. Among them are increased scrutiny of hand checking, particularly on the ball, and bumping cutters through the lane. Discussion of the rule this week quickly focused on Louisville, which relied on intense pressure defense to win a national title in April. The Cardinals ranked first in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, and second (to VCU) in forcing turnovers.
“Louisville isn’t going to have a team if we stick to this because they’re going to all foul out in the first half, and I love the way they play,” said Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy to ESPN, whose team turned the ball over 19 times in an NCAA Tournament game against the Cardinals. “If you’re going to call touch fouls, it’ll be over in the first 10 minutes. (Rick) Pitino will have to play. It really is crazy.” Eustachy wasn’t alone. CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb, when asked about the impact of the rule on Twitter, replied, “Louisville will be called for a ton of fouls.” ESPN analyst Jeff Goodman said Louisville, along with VCU and Butler, would be hurt by the rules on the defensive end. “However, VCU and Cards will benefit offensively.” Surprisingly, Pitino is a big fan of the changes. “Last season was terrible,” Pitino told ESPN. “It was an ugly season. We need to change the game. The one thing the coaches can’t do: they can’t gripe about it. The first six weeks will be a transition for the players as well as the coaches.” He also said the rule changes would render Russ Smith “unguardable.”