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Breaking down the new timeout rules

Three major changes to the timeout rules could go a long way toward speeding the pace of the game.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

How many games did you watch this year that featured a sequence something like this: made bucket, timeout, attempted inbound leads to opposing team timeout, inbound, foul, free throws, timeout, coach sees opportunity to set press, calls timeout? That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn't much of one. College basketball has been slowed to a crawl near the end of games by a never ending torrent of timeouts as coaches try to turn the game into Xbox with sentient beings.

Coaches will no longer be able to call a timeout from the bench during live play

Any timeout called within 30 seconds of a media timeout will serve as the media timeout

Teams will receive one fewer timeout in the second half of games

Those are the proposed rule changes for timeouts in men's college basketball. The astute reader may recognize that those closely mirror those currently in use in the women's game. Here's how they will effect play should they be implemented by the NCAA next season.

1. No timeouts from the bench in live play.

While this one has its heart in the right place, it's not going to make as much a difference as the others. This rule is an attempt to eliminate the "bailout" timeout in which a player has reached an untenable position on the court and the coach is able to recognize and stop play. What this does not prohibit is the player himself calling the timeout to get out of a difficult situation or the coach yelling to a player to call timeout. A positive step perhaps, but not a huge one.

2. Timeouts become media timeouts.

Infuriatingly, it has been possible to this point to cram a full second of basketball action in between a called timeout and a media timeout. (Xavier had a game this year in which Coach Mack called timeout two seconds before a media timeout). With the proposed rule change, that called timeout would become the media timeout if it was within 30 seconds. That eliminates the possibility of stacking timeouts to cause commercial breaks within seconds of each other. This one will also force coaches to gameplan for resting players a bit better now. The days of grabbing three or four cheap minutes of rest while only 10-15 seconds of game time elapsed are now over.

3. One fewer timeout in the second half.

c. Each team shall be entitled to four timeouts, 30 seconds each in length.
d. Each team may carry up to three 30-second timeouts into the second half.
e. Each team shall be entitled to one 60-second timeout that may be used any time during the game

That is currently Section 11, Article 4 of the NCAA rulebook. The new rule proposes that one fewer timeout per game be awarded, with a maximum of three of those carrying over into the second half. Essentially that means that the possible number of timeouts in the game drops from five to four, and the maximum possible number of timeouts in the second half from four to three. This one really tightens the noose on coaches who are watching teams surrender a big run early on the second half. Do you take a precious timeout and possibly only have one or two left late when you may need to set a play or make a critical substitution? Do you let your team play their way out and hope it matters that you have three timeouts left later? Adding an element of strategy to the game while also speeding it up is about as much as a rule change can be asked to do.

The vote on these rules, as well as the shot clock, restricted area, and freedom of movement, will come in June. The shot clock will get a lot of the attention, but it's the timeout rules that will have an immediate impact on the pace of the game.