North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams said last week the college game is better off today thanks to sweeping rule changes that were put in place this season.
He likes that the game moves along more swiftly with a shorter shot clock, that more points are being scored and fewer fouls are being called.
Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith agreed and said the game now resembles the way it was played in the 1990s. He likes that and said players now have “more freedom to express themselves.”
Seven weeks into the season the game is more fluid and being played at a faster pace.
All this is good news for Belmont coach Rick Byrd.
He was kind of sweating the changes. Not just because he was concerned with what effect they would have on his team, but also because he was the one who spearheaded the changes.
Byrd was chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee that shortened the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, did away with one timeout for each team in the second half, expanded the restricted area under the basket and told game officials to do a better job calling fouls on defenders who hand-checked ball-handlers and shooters.
“The biggest part of it was not the 30-second clock, but the officiating directive that we need to call the game like the rules are written,” said Byrd, who is no longer on the rules committee. “It had gotten too physical. There has been improvement in that area.”
As a result, according to the NCAA, teams are getting more possessions per game, shooting the ball more efficiently and scoring more points.
“The good thing is the shot clock has increased the number of possessions,” Byrd said. “The points per possession is about the same. Some people thought it would go down because with the shorter shot clock it’s easier to defend for 30 seconds than 35 seconds. That hasn’t been a negative because there is so little difference between 35 and 30. Slow teams are always going to wait until the last 10 seconds to shoot anyway. Now they’re still waiting until the last 10. It’s just a different 10.”
Byrd likes that officials are forcing defenders to allow shooters away from the basket to get their shots off more cleanly.
Now he would like to see them help out the players in the paint.
“The improvement has mostly been around the basketball,” Byrd said. “The hands on the dribbler and illegal screens are being called better because they’re right out there in front of everybody. I’d like to see the post play cleaned up more than it is.”
Games are not being dragged out as a result of some of the other changes.
“The other rules that are not as noticeable, but have been effective are the one reduced timeout and getting teams in and out of the timeout huddles in the quick manner,” Byrd said. “We tweaked the timeouts so that a called timeout becomes a media timeout if it is within a certain range. All those things combined have made our games move a little quicker. The complaints about how long the last two minutes can last; without all the timeouts stored up, that’s not happening as much.”
Former Belmont star shining at Golden State
Former Belmont standout Ian Clark continues to emerge as a significant contributor for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
The Memphis native, who is in his first season with Golden State, scored in double-figures in three consecutive games this past week.
He had 12 points against Sacramento on Monday, a career-high 21 on Wednesday at Dallas and 12 at Houston on Thursday.
Clark has gotten more playing time since the Warriors have been without point guard Stephen Curry, who has been sidelined with a bruised leg.
In those three games, Clark made 17 of 30 field goals, seven of 12 3-pointers and averaged almost 24 minutes per game.
Perry County coach helping tornado victims
Perry County basketball coach Kirk Haston’s mother, Patti, was killed in a tornado in 1999.
As a tribute to her, the former Perry County and Indiana star, who went on to play in the NBA, started a fundraising effort after another tornado hit his hometown Dec. 23, killing two people and destroying several homes.
“In 1999 my hometown community came to the aid of my family and hopefully now a much larger social media community will come to the aid of these families that are in need,” Haston wrote on the fundraiser page crowdrise.com.
The Perry County boys and girls basketball teams got the effort started by donating $150.
The current total is $19,146. Haston’s goal is to raise $25,000.
To donate, visit crowdrise.com/perrycountytornadovi.
Former Vandy assistant hired at Western Illinois
Former Vanderbilt football assistant Charlie Fisher was named the head coach at Western Illinois on Saturday.
Fisher just finished his second season at Richmond, where he was the offensive coordinator and associate head coach.
He spent nine seasons at Vanderbilt (2002-10) as running backs and wide receivers coach as well as passing game coordinator on Bobby Johnson’s staff. After leaving Vanderbilt, Fisher spent one year as quarterbacks coach at Miami (Ohio) and two years as quarterbacks coach at Penn State.
He replaced Bob Nielson, who resigned at Western Illinois on Dec. 14 to become the coach at South Dakota.
Former MBA D-lineman makes Giants active roster
Former Montgomery Bell Academy and Penn State defensive end Brad Bars made his NFL debut Sunday after being signed to the New York Giants’ 53-man active roster.
Bars made a solo tackle in a 49-17 loss to the Vikings.
He had spent the season up to last week on the Giants’ practice squad. The 6-foot-3, 263-pounder signed with New York as a rookie free agent in the 2014 preseason.
The Giants (6-9) end their regular season Sunday against the Eagles (6-9).
Bars’ brothers are Blake, an offensive lineman at Michigan, which beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl on Friday, and Alex, a redshirt freshman at Notre Dame, who was starting at left guard before breaking his ankle in a game against USC on Oct. 17. Blake and Alex also went to MBA.
Davenport pulls double duty during bowl season
WKRN-2 morning show host Dawn Davenport had a busy week.
On Wednesday, she handled the sideline reporting duties for ESPN in a heavy rain at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., where Mississippi State beat North Carolina State 51-28.
Then on Saturday she worked the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, where Arkansas beat Kansas State 45-23.
Longtime coach Pigue doing well after surgery
Longtime Metro football coach Jerry Pigue is recovering after undergoing triple bypass heart surgery.
Pigue, who was the head coach at Stratford (1970-85) and Hunters Lane (1986-2001), already has undergone rehabilitation, is back home and ready to start playing golf in the spring.
UT football team’s worth on the rise
Forbes ranked Tennessee No. 3 on its 2015 College Football’s Most Valuable Teams list, estimating the Vols’ team value to be $121 million.
Texas ($152 million) was first and Notre Dame ($127 million) was second.
Tennessee’s value increased from $94 million in 2014, when it ranked seventh.
The magazine considers how much a college football team might be bought or sold for on the open market based on its value to its university, athletics department, conference and local economy.
Former Nashville Vol Jim O’Toole dies
Former Nashville Vols pitcher Jim O’Toole, who went on to star for the Cincinnati Reds, died Dec. 26 after battling cancer. He was 78.
O’Toole, a lefty, signed a four-year, $50,000 contract with Cincinnati in 1957 and was assigned to Nashville after spring training. He posted a 20-8 record with a 2.44 ERA in 280 innings pitched with the Vols that season.
O’Toole debuted with the Reds in 1958 and was 98-84 over 10 seasons, including one season with the Chicago White Sox.
He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1970.
Former Lipscomb coach Sanderson back in Tennessee
Former Lipscomb basketball coach Scott Sanderson is back in Tennessee for a couple of games.
Sanderson is now the coach at Faulkner in Montgomery, Ala. He replaced his older brother, Jim, who retired in 2013-14.
Faulkner played at Martin Methodist on Saturday and will play at Bethel on Monday.
Retro Classic is Saturday at old Cohn High
The annual Retro Classic High School Basketball Extravaganza, where teams wear throwback Metro uniforms, is Jan. 9 at the historic Cohn High Gym.
The McGavock and M.L. King girls will play at 10:30 a.m. and boys at noon, the Peal-Cohn and Hunters Lane girls will play at 1:30 p.m. and the boys at 3 p.m. and the Hillwood and East Nashville girls will play at 4:30 p.m. and the boys at 6 p.m.
All proceeds go to the Foundation for Athletics in Nashville Schools Inc.
Redd to be honored by Fairgrounds Speedway
Longtime Fairgrounds Speedway employee Donnie Redd, who retired at the end of the 2015 season, will receive the track’s lifetime achievement award at the annual banquet Jan. 16.
The 2015 champs who will be honored include Willie Allen (pro-late model), Paul Nogradi (limited late model), Thomas Pannell (sportsman), Matt Barnes (super street), Donald Porter (pure stock), Ryan Arms (pro model), Aaron Ashercraft (front runner) and Kevin Rollins (legends).
The Associated Press contributed to this report. If you have an item for Midstate Chatter, contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 and on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
SPORTS ON NASHVILLE TV
The top five local ratings for sporting events on television Dec. 21-27.
1. NFL: Titans-Texans, 16.3 rating
2. NFL: Giants-Vikings, 12.3 rating
3. NFL: Packers-Cardinals, 11.7 rating
4. NFL: Lions-Saints, 9.1 rating
5. NBA: Cavaliers-Warriors, 6.9 rating
Each rating point is equal to 9,902 Nashville homes.
Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 programming & research director