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Larry Eustachy bemoans new officiating emphasis on touch fouls

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Larry Eustachy believes more fouls called to free up offense will hurt the game and fans' interest. (USATSI)
Larry Eustachy believes more fouls called to free up offense will hurt the game and fans' interest. (USATSI)

Even going back to his days at Iowa State, Larry Eustachy has won a lot of games because his teams have been physical. Basketball can be a fluid game, but it's also undoubtedly one that's rough on the muscles because of its laboring nature. Even though it's not the contact sport football or hockey are, hoops features plenty of battles of will and an innate corporal element, especially as play gets closer to the rim.

It's because the game has gotten so physical that many believe college basketball's aesthetic quality is at or near an all-time low. With fewer fouls being called, much more handchecking and play in the paint that's more aggressive/whistle-lenient than anything in the NBA, scoring averages have gone down and time of possession has gone up.

College basketball's higher-ups voted in the spring to make amendments to how blocks and charges were called, and to use monitor reviews to make the right decision. This will inevitably free up space and make the game less chaotic near the charge circle, but it's also not going to dim controversial calls, especially in the upcoming trial season.

At Mountain West's media day, Eustachy -- who won a school-record 26 games in his first season at Colorado State last year -- took to criticizing the looming foul fests that could compromise the composite talent on the court. From the Coloradoan:

“What are we thinking trying to put players in situations where they can be eliminated even more? We all witnessed it with Colton Iverson last year. It was a tragedy what the officiating did to him,” Eustachy said. “If you pay to go see Celine Dion, she's not going to be fouled out at intermission. You pay to see Colton Iverson; you may only see four minutes of him. He may get two quick fouls and he has to sit the whole half.”
...
“Louisville isn't going to have a team if we stick to this because they're going to all foul out in the first half, and I love the way they play,” Eustachy said. “If you're going to call touch fouls, it'll be over in the first 10 minutes. (Rick) Pitino will have to play. It really is crazy.”

Eustachy's philosophy runs in opposition to many other coaches', including John Beilein's. The Michigan coach who helped his team put on one of the best national title games of the past two decades wants more touch fouls to be called in order to nudge defenses away from the hacking, thus creating a smoother game. A smoother game equals a more appealing game, the way basketball was intended to be played, according to many.

This story is a harbinger of what's to come. College basketball will have to get uglier before it gets better. If scoring is to go up, there's going to be a learning curve with the block/charge rule. And if the critics are right, that the scoring and pace of college basketball is what's keeping it from being more nationally successful, then a change is in order, and this seems as sensible a place to start as any.

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