Rules changes to affect Duke defense on opening night?

Nov. 07, 2013 @ 10:26 PM

One of the hottest topics heading into the new basketball season is the new manner in which officials will arbitrate the hand-checking and block/charge rules.

Basically, things are now much simpler for the offense and tougher on the defense as an effort is underway to legislate more open play into college basketball.

No. 4 Duke, which opens the season against Davidson Friday, Nov. 8 (7 p.m., ESPNU) at Cameron Indoor Stadium, has regularly been a team that relies on tight, aggressive defense.

The team’s two exhibition games have offered a glimpse of the new rules. But players and coaches around the country know a period of adjustment is inevitable.

“The hand-checking has been tough,” said Duke point guard Quinn Cook, who was called for four fouls in Duke’s 81-65 exhibition win over Drury on Saturday. “Especially the last game. I’ve got to be smart. Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) got on me in our meeting. He got on me about that. I have to be on the floor. I can’t be subbing in and out because of fouls. I have to be smart.”

Under the new hand-checking rules, officials are calling fouls on defenders who put two hands on the player they are guarding.

“Referees are on the lookout for that and for giving the offense more space,” Cook said.

The Blue Devils have long counted on their ability to draw charging fouls as a way to play effective defense. The rules change means the defender must now be firmly in place when the offensive player begins his upward movement.

The idea is to get rid of flopping, where a defensive player exaggerates the amount of contact in an attempt to draw a charging foul.

Duke senior guard Tyler Thornton has drawn 22 offensive fouls during his first three seasons with the Blue Devils. The new rules mean he could be called for more fouls now if he attempts to defend the same way.

“In the last week or so I’ve been playing off the ball on defense,” Thornton said. “That helps me a little bit. But it’s going to be hard for everybody.”

There is another side to this coin, however.

On the offensive end, the Blue Devils know they’ll be able to drive to the basket a little easier because of the rules changes.

“The kind of team we have,” Thornton said, “everybody is able to take a defender off the dribble. So that’s to our advantage.”

That is where Duke plans to find points on offense this season.

The Blue Devils won’t play a traditional half-court offense like it did last year when 6-11 seniors Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly roamed the post. They’ve both moved on to the NBA.

This season, 6-8 forwards Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are the players Duke will count on. Neither is a true post player, but both are long and athletic with the ability to dribble-drive past defenders.

On the perimeter, Cook, Thornton, sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon, freshman Matt Jones and redshirt senior Andre Dawkins are expected to provide points with jumpers and by driving to the basket.

Of course, as Cook said, they have to be on the court and not sitting on the bench in foul trouble in order to contribute.

With the new rules as a backdrop, Davidson presents a solid challenge to Duke. The Wildcats went 26-8 last season, winning the Southern Conference Tournament before losing 59-58 to Marquette in their NCAA Tournament opener.