Onions!, Nov. 15: College basketball's new foul rules, St. Francis (NY), and Chaz Williams

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball's new rule changes come from the right place, but the constant stream of whistles is actually uglier than the knock-down drag-out play the rules are trying to prevent.

Just because a rule has decent reasoning doesn't make it a good rule. For example: alcohol makes people do dumb, stupid things, whether its little things like calling your ex or big things like fighting somebody or driving a car you're too impaired to operate. Our dumbest, stupidest population of people is, by and large, teenagers. Therefore, somebody decided that alcohol should be illegal for people under 21, to prevent them from being exponentially dumber and stupider than they already are.

As a relatively recent under-21 year old, I can confirm that making alcohol illegal for people under 21 has almost never prevented an underage drinker from drinking. A college student's hustle for booze is like a salmon's urge to return to the river where it spawned, and no matter how many of its friends get swatted out of the air for bear brunch, its gonna keep on swimming until the water turns to Busch Light.

Instead of drinking like regular-ass grownups, they drink with fake ID's in bars with complacent bouncers, in dorm rooms, in basements. In situations where the friends of somebody who has alcohol poisoning might be more worried about not getting caught then they are about getting their friend safe.

This bad rule with good intentions creates a larger problem. More college students probably die every year trying to hide the fact that they're drinking underage than if college students the drinking age were, say, 17. It's a rule with a good intention, but probably a bad result.

Let's clumsily segue to a less dangerous behavior of some college-aged men that society frowns upon: playing defense. Basketball had started to tinge towards physicality, and the slower, grittier, grind-ier games that resulted were a tad aesthetically displeasing.

The response has been an increased emphasis on calling fouls to allow "freedom of movement" and make the games less offensive by making them more offensive.

And sure enough, it's worked! Look! Scoring on the first weekend was up 6.4 percent! Zing! Zang! Boom! Did you see that 112-103 Stanford-BYU game? Wowza! The tip-off marathon was filled with high-80's, low-90's games! Offense!

Of course, the reason for the increase in points is because literally everything a defender tries to do results in a foul. Let's say you did watch that tip-off marathon from Stanford-BYU all the way through til Duke-Kansas -- 12 games, with different styles of play, different conferences, a beautiful snapshot of all that is college hoops. (Our friend Mike did. He is sleeping now.)

You would have seen:

  • 480 minutes of basketball
  • 706 free throws (58.8 per game, 1.47 per minute)
  • 551 fouls (45.9 per game, 1.14 per minute)
  • Five of 12 games with 50 or more fouls

Fouls and free throws are up 14.7 percent per 40 minutes, per Kenpom. They're up 18.7 percent per possession.

The rules have definitively not led to more enjoyable basketball. They have led to parades of free throws. They have led to games robbed of their best players due to foul trouble or disqualification. They have led to games decided less by, um, basketball stuff, and more by which team hits more free throws. Don't get me wrong: I think a 64-man game of knockout would be an incredible way to decide the NCAA's champion, and maybe we should do that too, because it would be spectacular, but I also kinda like March Madness.

I'm not a subscriber to the muscle-strapped newsletter that says that macho, no-holds-barred basketball is fun to watch.

My hope is that this is a warning shot; the NCAA asking its refs to flex their collective whistles in November and December so coaches amp down their defenses before games are called more regularly from January through April.

Because if not, we're going to see some

wait for it



foul basketball.


Rodger Bothers A Coach


Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I've lived in New York City my whole life. But within about 11 seconds, I realize that Glenn Braica is more New York than me.

He chuckles when he hears I live in a neighborhood where he grew up. "You wouldn't have lived there 20 years ago."

It's Wednesday in Brooklyn. On Friday night in South Florida, Braica's St. Francis Terriers won arguably the biggest game in program history, knocking off last year's ACC champion Miami Hurricanes in overtime. They followed it up with another win over Florida Atlantic.

Miami's not as good a team as it was last year with Shane Larkin gone to the NBA, and FAU is nothing to write home about, but it's the program's first 2-0 start since 2001.

"It's probably not something we expected. We obviously hoped for it." Braica said. "We certainly put ourselves in a better position than we thought we'd be in at this point."

New York is a basketball town, there's no denying that. But the idea of hoops in the city conjures up a few images -- the playgrounds that dot the five boroughs, the glitz and glamor of celebrity row at Madison Square Garden or the flashy new Barclays Center. It doesn't really include the six Division I teams that call the Apple home -- notably St. John's, but also Fordham, Columbia, LIU-Brooklyn, and Wagner.

And your typical image of a college basketball school probably doesn't look much like St. Francis either. There's no quad on the commuter college's downtown Brooklyn campus, which is a string of buildings connected to each other on a single city block. One of them has a gym.

But Braica's squad has a distinct New York vibe. Half of the 14 players on the team hail from the city, including freshman Wayne Martin, a Brooklyn native who led all scorers with 17 points in the win over Miami.


Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to tell why they'd sign up for Braica. A born-and-raised Brooklynite, the farthest basketball brought Braica were his playing days far, far away at D-II Queens College. He was an assistant at St. Francis for 15 years before a stint at St. John's, returning in 2010 as the program's head coach. That experience helps find players in a crowded -- and nationally scouted -- hoops scene.

"The New York guys have been good to us," Braica said. "It's a lot of long-standing relationships -- guys I know and trust and like -- and they trust us with their kids."

But as noted while discussing his roots, the city is different today.

"We never used to tell people 'We're from Brooklyn," Braica said. "But now we kind of advertise it. It's really the place to be."

Now this borough is a buzzword, a place for 20-somethings and expensive apartments. It also has a fancy new arena, home to the Nets -- and for one night in February, home to the Terriers, when they play a neutral-site edition of the Northeast Conference rivalry with Brooklyn's other college hoops team, LIU.

"Yeah, we take the subway to the Barclays Center," Braica said. "The traffic is so crazy... it's the most efficient way to get to some of these places. It's kinda cool. "

The teams are on opposite ends of the conference spectrum right now. While LIU has taken three straight conference titles and three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Terriers join my Northwestern Wildcats as one of five teams to compete in basketball since the inception of the NCAA Tournament without earning a bid.

But it's not something that bothers Braica on a day-to-day basis.

"You can't worry about that. You don't want to put pressure on the kids." Braica said. " You just want to get better every day. If it happens, it happens."

And why should they be thinking about it? The NEC is a one-bid league, so if they do make the NCAA Tournament, it would have nothing to do with their play in November, but rather putting together a three-game winning streak during the conference tournament in March.

The selection committee won't look at the fact that they took down Miami on the road in their season opener. And taking down Miami on the road in their season opener felt pretty good.

"It was a lot of fun," Braica said. "Nice, warm weather."

The Terriers probably won't be undefeated for long with seven road games before the team takes on its first D-I opponent at home. Dayton and Syracuse are next on the slate.

"(Beating Miami) was nice yesterday, now we've got to worry about the next game," Braica said. "It's very hard to get home games. Some years you have them, some years you don't. There's no excuses."

P.S. Do not confuse the St. Francis Terriers -- commonly referred to as "St. Francis (NY)" -- with the St. Francis Red Flash, who also play in the Northeast Conference.

"At Florida Atlantic the other day, I heard one of the security guards saying 'they're from Pennsylvania.' He asked me, I said 'No, we're from Brooklyn," Braica said. "The places couldn't be more different, Loretto (where St. Francis University is located) and Brooklyn."

Shoddily filmed buzzer-beater of the week

UC-Irvine went to overtime. And you know what's better than one late-game go-ahead three?

A late-game go-ahead three at the other end two seconds later, making everybody in the crowd feel completely stupid for cheering in the first place.

Note: the actual camera filming the game did not even catch the game-winner.


2013 is weird. If you want something, all you have to do is plug in a series of attributes you're looking for on some website, and things that fit your description pop up. This works the same for apartments, potential girlfriends, and dinner.

So, too, it is for dogs:


For the first 14-ish years of my life, I lived in a big apartment complex that didn't allow dogs. They now allow all the dogs, and from what I discern more dogs live there than people. We didn't get a dog before I went to college, and when I moved back, my roommate was allergic. Thus, no dogs.

I now live in an apartment building that allows dogs with two non-allergic roommates and have enough some money set aside. YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT IT'S PUPPY-PURCHASING TIME.

(Much as I've never had a dog, I've never had a weekly college basketball column. So that's why each week I'll be chronicling my first experience with each in this segment called BARKETOLOGY.)

So let's plop in some things and see what puppies we get:


Obviously, I'm not looking to buy, but rather, adopt. However, you don't know what you're looking for until you see i-- WAIT



We'll keep you updated on the process.

This also works with college basketball.


Sometimes, you find teams you didn't even know you liked, just by flipping through the various categories.


Normally, fast teams aren't particularly good ones. They're teams that play herky-jerky crazy speedball to avoid some obvious deficiency. None of the top 10 teams in tempo last year were Kenpom top 50.

In the early going this year -- and, huge glaring warning for small sample size -- we have two.

We've already discussed the 112-105 BYU Stanford game, and how foul-filled it was. But quite frankly, it was a fun watch. BYU basketball looks kind of like a herky-jerky film of dudes playing in 1928, in that everything seems unnecessarily rushed and, you know, [JOKE ABOUT RACE], but it works. Stanford tried to keep up with them tempo-wise, and it led to some dumb-looking PUJITs, while BYU was always in control. Tyler Haws is definitely Jimmer Lite -- the 6'5 guard is averaging 29.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game so far this year.

UMass was also included in the Tip-Off Marathon, and quite frankly, was my favorite watch of the entire thing. Chaz Williams is a delight at the point, a 5'9 Napoleon complex of a speedster point guard, replete with stepback threes (he's a whopping 7-for-10 from downtown so far this year) and floor-slapping defense. Williams turned down a $150,000 contract to play in Turkey this year to play his last year at UMass, so make his decision worth it by giving him a viewing session or two. The Minutemen will contend in the A-10 this year as they look for their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1998, so they're worth a watch.

Congrats to BYU and Chaz Williams, your inaugural Barketology Team and Player of the Week. Although I'll be really mad I used Williams this early when I run into an awesomely overzealous dachshund -- if and when my dog exists.

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