If you were among the handful of spectators who attended Washington State’s 93-56 exhibition pasting of Central Washington on Friday, you saw firsthand what many in the college basketball world will know soon enough.
This season, it’s all about the officials.
New anti-hand-checking rules have players and coaches scrambling to reteach defensive fundamentals — move your feet, kids — with whistles sounding nearly every time a defender places a hand on an offensive player. Can’t do that anymore.
The NCAA decided after its teams averaged just 67.5 points per game last season — the lowest such mark since 1982 — that something needed to be done to increase the scoring.
That something: free throws. Lots of them. And, eventually, looser, less-physical defense that will likely result in more buckets.
Washington faces CWU in a 7 p.m. exhibition game today at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. And the visiting Wildcats are already well-aware of just how often tonight’s game is likely to be halted by a foul call.
That’s because CWU was whistled for seven fouls in the first 2:30 of its loss to WSU the other night, a period that set the tone for
a game that wound up featuring 44 fouls in all.
Exactly why you tune in, right?
And there’s no reason not to believe that given their reputation, officials from the Pac-12 Conference will be as eager as anyone to prove that, yes, they know how the new rules work.
In an attempt to mitigate the damage, UW coach Lorenzo Romar said many of his team’s practices have been officiated, with the refs stopping and explaining why they called what they called.
The Huskies have scrimmaged each other, and traveled south last weekend for a private scrimmage against the University of Portland.
Each of those ventures — and the accompanying officials — helped reinforce that things will be different this season.
“Thank goodness we have them,” Romar said, “because as I mentioned before, we had officials coming to our practices, but now in a real-game situation, we just further reinforce what the officials are going to call and how they’re trying to call these games. We’re the ones that have to make the adjustment. They don’t.”
Romar is right, though, when he reminds that the rules apply on both ends of the floor, meaning the Huskies are free to be more aggressive offensively. Senior forward Perris Blackwell said Tuesday that he plans to shoot a lot of free throws this season.
And the rule change could mean more open looks for senior C.J. Wilcox, UW’s leading scorer last season, who thrives on his 3-point proficiency.
“C.J.’s going to benefit a lot off of it, because a lot of guys hold him coming off screens,” said UW point guard Andrew Andrews. “Even when he gets the ball, their job is to be really up into him so he can’t get his shot off. I think with this new rule, any time you touch a player there’s going to be a foul, so they can’t get as close up to C.J., and now he can use his pump fakes and stuff like that to create space.”
There should be plenty for everyone.
The Cougars begin the regular season Friday when they host Cal State-Bakersfield at 7 p.m. — a downright early tipoff compared with the 9:30 p.m. game they’ll play next week against Lamar. … Eastern Washington isn’t in action until 2:05 p.m. Sunday, when the Eagles host Pacific University of Oregon.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
A look at the most important player from each of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams in the state:
G C.J. Wilcox, Sr., 6-foot-5, 195
Hometown: Pleasant Grove, Utah
The skinny: The 6-foot-5 guard contemplated entering the NBA draft after last season, but he’s back for his senior (fifth) season. And the Huskies, who lack proven, go-to scorers, need him. Wilcox led the team in scoring last season with 16.8 points a game but was bothered throughout by nagging injuries. He remedied a foot injury with offseason surgery, and says he’s 100 percent for the first time since last November.
G Royce Woolridge, Jr., 6-3, 180
Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz.
The skinny: Playing out of position at point guard last season, Woolridge took a while to come into his own. But he eventually became one of the Cougars’ more reliable scorers (11.0 ppg in 32.0 mpg), and his 36 points against Oregon last season wound up being the highest single-game scoring output by a Pac-12 Conference player in 2012-13. With the departure of junior-college transfer Danny Lawhorn, Woolridge figures to start the season as WSU’s starting point guard. This year, he should be better suited for that role.
F Venky Jois, So., 6-7, 230
Hometown: Boronia, Australia
The skinny: Jois was a welcome addition for the Eagles in 2012-13, when he was named Big Sky Freshman of the Year after averaging 12.3 points and 9 rebounds a game. His point total was second best on the team, and he’s EWU’s leading returning scorer this season. His team-leading rebounding mark was good for second in the Big Sky. And after one season at EWU, Jois is already just 33 blocked shots short of the school’s career record of 99.
G Kevin Pangos, Jr., 6-2, 182
Hometown: Newmarket, Ontario
The skinny: Frontcourt forces Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris are gone, but the Bulldogs do return Pangos, their best backcourt player and third-leading scorer from the 2012-13 team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Pangos, the team’s point guard, shot 41.7 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore last season, led the team in minutes per game with 32.2, and had 116 assists against 50 turnovers. He’ll need to play an even bigger role this season.
F Clarence Trent, Sr., 6-6, 225
The skinny: Trent is a familiar name in Tacoma (played at Gig Harbor) – and at UW, where he played in 23 games in 2009-10 before transferring – and he’s back as a fifth-year senior after leading Seattle U in scoring last season with 9.8 points a game. Trent shot just 40.9 percent from the field in 2012-13, but his athleticism makes him a threat to get to the rim on any given possession. His 5.8 rebounds a game last season also ranked second on the email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple firstname.lastname@example.org