Curiously, Wisconsin may be among the teams best suited to this uncertain environment. " Wisconsin is great at position defense already," says Sampson. "The Badgers never have great size, but they have great help-side defense." Indeed, through its first four games Wisconsin had yet to lose a player to fouls. The lesson: Move your feet and help your teammates and you'll have nothing to fear.
No individual should benefit more, than Troy Murphy, the Notre Dame forward who averaged 22.7 points a year ago despite systematic bludgeoning. This season he was scoring 26.8 a game through Sunday, largely because referees are protecting him and he was making his foul shots at an 87.2% clip. When Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins stuck 6'2" Antwan Peek, a linebacker on the Bearcats' football team, on the 6'10" Murphy during Cincy's game with the Irish on Nov. 25, the officials knew what was to come. Seven minutes and two fouls later Peek was back on the bench, and Murphy was on his way to scoring 30 points in Notre Dame's 69-51 victory. On the other hand, for all its reputed devotion to pure basketball, the ACC is home to some of the players least equipped to respond to the new emphasis—Darius Songaila of Wake Forest, Kenny Inge of North Carolina State and especially North Carolina's Brendan Haywood and Julius Peppers, who are the Damon and Affleck of that NCAA video.
In the end, one of the most promising signs that the crackdown could succeed are the pedigrees of two of its strongest advocates: Tranghese, commissioner of the truculent Big East, and Mike Montgomery, a rules-committee member whose Stanford team is one of the nation's most rugged. That they're willing to place the welfare of the game over self-interest is helping to persuade others that no one is being asked to disarm unilaterally and that the movement to clean up the game is a noble cause. "We've taught grabbing and holding in the paint—the same things opponents were doing to us," says TCU coach Billy Tubbs. "We've taught illegal tactics to survive. Now we can go back to teaching basketball the right way."
In the meantime, Battier says, "Players aren't idiots. We'll adjust to the rule because we all want to play."
Perhaps, too, they'll adjust because Naismith's second invention is much more fun if you don't have to play it while wearing his first.