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The 1982-83 regular season will be remembered as the one during which college basketball turned its gyms into labs and its players into experimental mice.
The mice in five conferences will be set loose in a maze of three-point lines (diagram, page 44) and asked to shoot before shot clocks of all varieties sound their alarms (chart, page 46). The mice in four leagues will have only the three-point maze to deal with; in three other conferences they will need only to peek at a clock. In the nation's remaining 16 major conferences, there will be no changes so the players will be men, not mice. For this year, anyway.
There are, moreover, Pavlovian rewards for good mice. If they keep their wits about them, they'll probably score more points this season, which could add up to more cheese in their pro contracts. The laboratory scientists, meanwhile, will be charting the progress and/ or regress of the mice. What will be the result? A permanent shot clock? A permanent three-point line? Both? Neither? More personality defects among jump-shooting mice?
"I don't think you'll see any great changes," says Indiana Coach Bobby Knight. "But ask again at the end of the season." For now, we can worry over this question: Why so many changes in the first place? After all, the major college game has enjoyed steadily increasing attendance over the years, and the Louisiana Superdome was sold out (61,612) for the 1982 NCAA final. This season there's a Ralph Sampson here, a Pat Ewing there, Keith Lees, John Pinones and Sam Perkinses everywhere. There are a number of strong contenders for the No. 1 spot, and a few mysteries. Can Dean repeat (see page 102)? Can Bowie play (page 56)? Can Bradley get a bid (page 73)?
With all this going for it, why would the college game go out and redesign itself in the mold of the troubled NBA? Would Mercedes-Benz ask its customers to road-test a remake of the Corvair? Isn't this the same thing?
It is. "I really think the rulemakers are fooling around with what's already a pretty good game," says Boise State Coach Dave Leach, whose league, the Big Sky, will use the three-point shot. "Certainly, in my estimation, the pros haven't done anything with their 24-second clocks or three-point plays to improve the game. I don't know that we need to do that same kind of experimentation to find out the same answers."
It isn't. "Some people are saying the new rules will make our game too much like the pros," says North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano, whose conference, the ACC, will be playing with a 30-second shot clock and a three-point stripe that will be a paltry 17'9" from the center of the basket at its nearest point. "Nothing could be further from the truth. The pros can only play man-to-man defense, but we can play any kind we want."
The debate goes on with no pattern, which is why there are four different three-point lines and six shot-clock variations. Some conferences adopted their new rules unanimously, while in other leagues there were polar differences of opinion. Coaches known for stall ball, like Dean Smith of North Carolina, voted for a shot clock. Coaches known for their running game, like Jerry Tarkanian of University of Nevada-Las Vegas, voted against it.
There are zealots who can't wait to get the new rules cranked up, like Gary Williams of Boston College in the Big East (shot clock). "We have an action image that we ought to foster," says Williams. There are others who face the season with a kind of dread, like Tex Winter, whose Long Beach State team is one of many that will play under at least two sets of rules. For the most part, the new rules apply only in intraconference games, but a few teams have agreed to play by their opponents' new rules in nonconference games. Others will opt for the standard NCAA rules. "Not only is [the diversity] a problem for the players," says Winter, "but what about the officials who may work in two or three conferences?"
And there are reluctant revolutionaries, like Idaho's Don Monson of the Big Sky. "I think changes in the game are inevitable," he says. "I was against the clock, and yet maybe it should be tried. But let somebody else pioneer the thing."