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NCAA Adds Charge Circle, Slides Toward Death of Good Basketball

You've probably heard by now if you follow college basketball at all during the summer, but the NCAA has voted to follow the NBA's lead and put the little charge half-circle underneath the basket. Most of us who love the college game have a knee-jerk rejection of anything to make it more like the NBA, but that's not the only reason to take a closer look at this. In fact, the NCAA didn't really cite "becoming more like the NBA" as a motivating factor in this rule change.

Instead, at least according to CBS, the NCAA cited player safety - particularly that of the offensive player - as the primary reason for the rule change. Quickly think back to last year, or any year you've seen more than about two games of college basketball; how many offensive players did you see suffer grevious bodily harm because a defender attempted to take a charge within three feet of the rim? I'm sure someone will probably come up with an incident and post it below, but it hasn't been a widespread epidemic.

For years, the NCAA rules have put a premium on working to attain an uncontested lay-up. When George Mikan was making it look too easy back in the 40s and 50s, both college and the pros widened the lane to make post position a little more difficult to come by. When Lew Alcindor started taking defense out of the game with the dunk shot, the NCAA outlawed that, too. (SPOILER ALERT: They changed the rules to let it back into the game in 1974.)

What I fear with this rule change is that the focus of the game is going to swing even further from strategy and collective effort and closer to a greater emphasis on athleticism and individual play. We're already seeing this in the fading from prominence of team offenses like Bobby Knight's Five-man Motion and the Princeton offense and the rise of the Dribble-drive Motion favored by John Calipari or even the high ball screens that make up much of Coach Mack's system. With the charge circle painted underneath the bucket, a driving player doesn't have to worry about a big man coming across to take up position for the charge. The risk is all still there for the defender, but any potential reward he had from setting up in front of the attacking player is gone. He's better served to leave his feet and slap at the ball.

While not as big a contributor to the individual style of play in the NBA as, say, the shorter shot clock, the charge circle still represents a step in the wrong direction. I love Bo Ryan (and not just because of his Solja Boy skills) for his ability to take five guys who are not the most talented or athletic players and mold them into a unit that hides their weaknesses, leverages their strengths, and can take down a more skilled but less disciplined team. Ideally, the NCAA is the perfect blend of the team play of the lower levels with the ridiculous talent of professional players. It's not hard to see the drift from that ideal to amateurism in name only in recent years, and the charge circle probably indicates that we're going to keep moving that way. I don't like it.