KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It could change college basketball like nothing has since freshman eligibility or legalizing the dunk.
Then again, maybe it won't.
There seems an almost unanimous feeling among coaches, however, that new hand-checking and defensive rules that go into effect this season will change the way the game is played. They just aren't sure how it's going to manifest itself.
"I think the fallacy is that we're not going to have contact,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said Tuesday. "You can't put 10 people that big, that strong and that fast in such a confined area and think they're not going to run into each other. I mean, it just happens. It's always been a contact sport.''
Indeed, basketball always has been a contact sport. The rules-makers, however, are taking a huge step this season in an attempt to restrict that contact, which in recent years has gradually become almost thuggish.
It is commonly referred to as hand-checking, the act of a defensive player reaching out to put his hands on an offensive player, particularly the offensive player with the ball. More and more, that hand-checking has become grabbing, elbowing, pushing and guiding.
And almost all of it is illegal now.
"These rules were always in the rule book, but they were in the back of the rule book,'' Big 12 supervisor of officials Curtis Shaw said during the league's annual media day at the Sprint Center. "They were under guidelines and points of emphasis. The rules committee decided this was so important they moved it into the actual rule and said these are no longer judgment calls.
"These are no longer plays that we're going to give [officials] some leeway to decide if it matters or not. If these things happen, it's an automatic foul.''
Among those things is hand-checking. Shaw said hand-checking in order to measure up an opponent or begin the guarding process is OK. Once. But the constant hand-checking is illegal and will be called.
So will other forms of defensive contact. Block/charge rules have been adjusted, too, to dramatically curtail the ability of a secondary defender to step in and take a charge.
All in all, the rules are designed to, as the NCAA rules committee writes, "penalize illegal contact by the defense which prevents players from cutting freely, running their offense and otherwise creating a more free-flowing game.''
For the most part, the coaches seem all in favor of it. Huggins is fairly non-committal - "Ask me a year from now and I can eloquently answer your question. Or at least I think it will be eloquent,'' he said - but everyone sees it for what it is, which is an effort to reverse a trend toward brutish basketball.
"It's going to be a drastic change in style of basketball,'' said Texas coach Rick Barnes before offering a caveat. "If they enforce the rule and call it like they say they are.''