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6 Fouls Wrong for the NCAA

February 19, 2013

During last Wednesday’s Duke vs. North Carolina game, Dick Vitale made an argument for the number of fouls a player commits to foul out be changed from 5 to 6. Dickie V based the argument primarily on several Duke stars (primarily Plumlee, Curry, Cook) being in foul trouble early while referencing the NBA’s allowance for 6 fouls. He did not provide much more analysis beyond that, and I don’t think it was referenced again in the commentary for the rest of the game. But, it was a thought that stuck with me; is there merit for the NCAA to change their rule to allow for more fouls?

While it was frustrating as a Duke fan to watch some of our better players on the bench at critical moments, especially in a rivalry game, this happens in many games, from high school to the NCAA and the NBA. In my own minimal high school playing days, I can remember more than one occasion where I had to play with 3 fouls in the first half, or 4 fouls in the 3rd quarter (which may be more of a commentary on my slow feet than anything). I believe there is an argument to be made that certain players in the NBA consistently get the better end of calls (to be evaluated in a later blog), but generally speaking, good NBA players do get in foul trouble and foul out too.

Dealing with foul trouble is a skill, like dribbling or rebounding, and is something players who play a lot of minutes learn how to do. The best ones adapt and improve and the others get used to sitting in their warmups at the end of the game. Having a coach who can adapt his team and bench to adjust his game plan when faced with foul trouble is another skill that differentiates good coaches from the Vinny Del Negros of the world. Building a team with the depth to be ready when foul trouble occurs shows the value of a good recruiter (NCAA) or General Manager (NBA). While dealing with foul trouble is a skill for players, it also proves (or disproves, as the case may be) the strength of your organization from top to bottom.

I would love to take time to dive into the statistics of foul-out percentages for the NBA for the last few years and compare them to the numbers from the NCAA for the same time range. BUT, that would delay me getting this blog off the ground and probably lead to me losing my job, fiancee and all contact with the outside world (not to mention the pain of not knowing what happens in the upcoming season of Mad Men).

The most important numbers to consider in this argument are 40 and 48, representing the length of a regulation NCAA basketball game and NBA game respectively. Providing NCAA players the same number of fouls for professionals whose game is 20% longer than theirs seems like giving too much leeway to the college players.

I believe changing the NCAA limit from 5 to 6 fouls would lead to further sloppy play in the college game (which doesn’t help players prepare for the NBA), swing the pendulum further towards shallow teams comprised of “one and done players” and decrease the challenge for NCAA coaches to get the most out of their teams and players (while their salaries continue to skyrocket). File this as another instance where Dickie V showed his Dukie V colors, arguing for a rule change that might have made sense in the game he was calling, but not across the entire NCAA.


From → Sports

  1. PJ Waas permalink

    Big East went a season or two where they allowed 6 fouls in conference games in the early 1990s. College games are slow enough without the extra foul.

    • I didn’t know that, thanks for sharing PJ. I wanted to avoid getting too lengthy, but I agree, the speed of the game is another reason I’m against the change.

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