Hands off: NCAA cracks down on hand-checking

Mike Melillo, right, is hand-checked by teammate Ryan Stephan while driving toward the basket during basketball practice at Brownson Arena. Calling hand-checking on the perimeter is a point of emphasis this season in college basketball.

Defensive players won’t like the new rule, but Colorado Mesa junior point guard Daniel Estes sure does.

Referees have been told to call hand-checking fouls this year.

“Being a ball handler, it’s good for me,” Estes said. “It makes it more difficult for people to guard me.

“I kind of like the rule change because it definitely helps me in my position.”

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new set of rules in the offseason to open up the game.

The rules were put in place after the panel noticed the average amount of points scored in Division I games last season (67.5) was the lowest since the 1981-82 season (67.6).

The points per game average has dipped in each of the past four seasons in Division I.

Fouls wills be called when a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent, a defensive player puts two hands on an opponent, a defensive player continually jabs by extending his arm(s) and placing a hand or forearm on the opponent and when a player uses an arm bar to impede the progress of an opponent.

“Freedom of movement is going to be important,” CMU men’s coach Andy Shantz said. “You’ve got to play smarter and pick your spots when and where to be physical. Two hands is automatic now, even if you don’t think they’re getting an advantage. ...

“The refs told me you can have an arm bar in the post now, so you can measure them up, but as soon as they make their move, you have to take your arm off and play. That’s the way they explained it to me.”

Shantz said his players are doing more defensive drills in practice to work on curtailing hand-checking.

“We’ve got to get used to playing defense with our feet and not our hands,” Shantz said. “Whatever that takes, we’ve got to find a way..”

Mesa’s leading returning scorer, Mike Melillo, said the rule change is just a matter of being more fundamentally sound defensively.

“We don’t play a very aggressive defensive style,” Melillo said. “We had a ton of fouls the first two scrimmages. I’m sure we’re going to have to shore that up and play defense like we were taught to in grade school.

“Especially late in the shot clock and our motion offense breaks down, you can’t be having people hold on to you, so we can get to the bonus early.”

Shantz said it will be interesting to see how the rule changes affect play in the physical Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

“With our style of defense, we’re not out trying to pressure people, so I think in a way it might be advantageous for us,” Shantz said.

“There are a couple schools in our conference that like to pick up full court and hand-check. That will be interesting to see.”

Ultimately, Shantz said, he hopes officials will be consistent in the way they call hand-checking.


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