NIT rules have potential after display in Illinois men’s basketball win


Austin Yattoni

Illinois interim head caoch Jamall Walker watches his team from the sideline during the game against Valparaiso at State Farm Center on Tuesday, March 13.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Illini hoops columnist

Tuesday’s 82-57 dismantling of Valparaiso was much needed for the Illinois men’s basketball team. After losses to Rutgers to close the regular season and to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament, Illinois seemed due for a win.

Leron Black finished with a double-double for the Illini dropping 13 points and securing 12 rebounds. Things were clicking especially for Malcolm Hill who finished with 25 points and is now eight points behind Dee Brown for the No. 3 spot of Illinois’ all-time scoring list. Overall, Illinois looked like a completely different team as of late.

With everything that has happened to the Illini in the last four days, it’s hard to tell if this was performance from the Illini was prompted by motivation after John Groce was fired, if Jamall Walker is just a good head coach, or if Valpo is a much weaker opponent without leading scorer Alec Peters.

Whatever the reason was, Tuesday was a fun game to watch Illinois dominate Valpo, but also because it could be the start of the new way college basketball games are played.

One other thing that completely went over my head was the new rule implementations the NIT was testing out. The approval was announced on Feb. 13.

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    The two new rule changes involved the shot clock and team fouls in the halves. The new shot clock rule basically resets the shot clock to 20 if there is ever a situation that requires a team to inbound the ball in the front court. The idea is to get more shots up during games.

    Personally, the new shot clock rule was hard to truly notice because it happened very infrequently and didn’t have an impact on any particular plays.

    The new foul rule, on the other hand, was much different and had a major impact on the game, especially for Illinois. The new foul rule for the NIT resets team fouls to zero every 10 minute increments. If a team commits more than four fouls during either of the 10 minute segments, the team that drew the foul shoots two free-throws.

    This new rule was absolutely noticeable as the Crusaders dribbled the ball up the court with about 10:07 left in the first half and seven seconds later the scoreboard read zero fouls for both teams. At the time Valpo had two team fouls, while the Illini had five. Illinois was about 27 seconds shy of avoiding sending the Crusaders to the line after Jalen Coleman-Lands was called for a hand check.

    It was a pretty wild scene to see Tevonn Walker knock down two free-throws after Illinois had only been called for its fifth team foul. The rule went on to work in Illinois’ benefit as it was called for its team’s overall seventh and eighth team foul in the second 10-minute segment.

    Both fouls were non-shooting fouls so Valpo ran an inbounds play after the officials recorded the fouls. Both inbounds plays resulted in missed jump shots for the Crusaders. With the old rules, Valpo should have been at the free-throw line for one-and-one opportunities.

    While the score wasn’t exactly close at the time the Illini’s seventh and eighth overall team fouls were called, in a different situation they could have a substantial impact on the game, resulting in a swing of a couple points. If this new rule is adopted by the NCAA, it’s going to allow coaches to be extremely strategic with how they go about playing defense. Walker demonstrated that with Illinois in the remaining seconds of the first half.

    In the second half, Valpo could really use the foul reset. By the 10:20 mark, the Crusaders had recorded eight team fouls. The second 10-minute segment reset helped Valpo keep Illinois off the foul line. The Crusaders committed seven more fouls and avoided sending Illinois to shoot three one-and-one opportunities, based off the old rules. It was also much different looking up at the end of the game and see Valpo with only five fouls on the video board compared to 10+.

    It took a while to get used to, but I have grown to like these rule changes, especially the foul rule. I could see the foul rule resulting in some guys getting careless tracking their personal fouls, but that’s just something the players and coaches are going to have to learn from and be aware of.

    With such a small sample size, it’s still hard to decipher if it will work across the NCAA in the future. The concept is fascinating and I’m curious to see how the rules might influence a game that is much closer than tonight’s game. A lot will depend on how other NIT games play out.

    Matt is a Junior in Business.

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