There have been a flurry of tweets so far in the college basketball season. No, I don't mean my Twitter timeline exploding over talented freshmen Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. That happened, but I'm talking about the huge number of fouls called in games thus far. I can't turn on a sports talk show without someone bemoaning the new rules and how they're disrupting the flow of the game. There has been an outcry to go back to the old rules or to just stop calling so many fouls. The NCAA can't go back.
College basketball has become almost unwatchable over the last five to 10 years, and the lack of foul calls is the reason. Players have been encouraged to grab and hold to prevent offensive players driving to the basket. Much of this contact has gone uncalled and has slowed down the game tremendously. Yes, it means more fouls early on, but players and coaches will adapt. Those that don't will be buried under free throws. The NBA went through similar growing pains when it changed the rules to decrease contact, but the end result was a much more watchable game. College basketball will have to undergo a similar process.
While fouls are up early on this season, the good news is they have trended down every week this season. The first week of the season, teams were averaging 21.2 fouls per game; last week, that number had declined to 19.2 per game. That's still well above last season's record low of 17.7 fouls per game, but it shows teams are adjusting. By the end of the season, fouls per game will probably be slightly up but with a much more free flowing, higher scoring game.
To those that keep complaining that the officials should "let them play" -- NCAA basketball attracts some of the best athletes in the world. I want to see those athletes showcase their skills as basketball players, not as wrestlers. If a player commits a foul and a referee calls it, the ref isn't deciding the game. The player who committed the foul is. The referee didn't make the player commit the foul, he just called what happened on the floor. That's his job, just like it's the player's job to defend without committing a foul.
I know some of the games have been tough to watch. Just be patient. As teams adjust, play will become smoother, scoring will go up and the number of fouls per game will continue to decline. It may take a year or two for the new rules to completely take hold, but the end result will be a much better product on the court. Until then, we'll just have to live with the tweets.