Nelson, however, doesn't sound like a guy whose confidence is easily shattered. "Coach gave me the ball, and I'm running with it," he says. "Maybe some other people are surprised by how well we're doing, but I'm not."
Missing the Point?
More Fouls = Little Change
Not since the three-point line was installed in 1986—87 has an effort to change the game provoked more debate than the rules committee's decision last spring to make rough play a point of emphasis for officials this season. Judging by the NCAA's midseason statistical report on games through Jan. 14, however, it appears that all the hubbub has been much ado about nothing.
The number of fouls called per game this season has increased from 18.9 per team last season to 20.2 this year—hardly the procession to the free throw line that many doomsayers predicted. Moreover, teams were scoring just 1.7 more points a game than they did last year and were averaging 72.2 points, 4.5 fewer than they did 10 years ago. What's more, shooting percentages barely changed: Teams have made 44.2% of their field goal attempts so far, up .7% from last season, and 34.6% of their three-point attempts, an increase of .2%. That hardly represents a seismic shift.
In fact, if one conclusion can be gleaned by scanning these stats over the years, it's how little the average number of fouls has varied. In the last 40 years, fouls per team per game have never climbed higher than 20.6 (in 1978-79) or dipped lower than 18.1 (in '61-62). In other words the officials have called about 19 fouls—give or take one—on each team ever since Jerry Lucas starred at Ohio State.
In addressing the effort to call the game differently, John Guthrie, coordinator of men's basketball officials for the SEC, says, "We seem to take two or three steps forward and then one step back. I think we've been successful cleaning up more of that illegal rough play in the post. It's been a little more difficult out on the perimeter. People have to remember that it's the coaches, not the officials, who sit on the rules committee. They're the ones who wanted the game cleaned up. And we're trying to move in that direction."
For complete scores and recruiting news, plus more from Seth Davis and Grant Wahl, go to cnnsi.com/basketball/college.