NCAA Men's Basketball Rule Changes for the 2017-2018 Season

We are just days away from the NCAA Men's Basketball regular season starting up! In that spirit, let's review the rule changes the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee and the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved that will be incorporated into the 2017-2018 rules book.

All in all, there are 26 changes being integrated that can, in essence, be sorted into one of four types of rule changes: (1) Uniformity, (2) Clarification, (3) Game Flow-Related, or (4) Fairness. Some you may have heard news of back in June when they were agreed upon, but some may be completely new to your eyes and ears. Regardless, these changes and their respective "legislative purpose" (i.e., intent) can be fresh in your mind when you bust out your fan gear & cheer on your team!

Before digging into the meat of each rule, I encourage y'all to glance at the NCAA Men's Basketball rules cycle, which involves four stages that largely encompass the flow over the course of two years: (1) proposal development and annual meeting, (2) approval process, (3) feedback and communication, and (4) education and training. The NCAA also posts the survey results mentioned in the rules cycle PDF, an overview of the NCAA playing rules process, and the rules of the game themselves.


Uniformity Changes

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Court Diagram

  • Rules Change: The diagram is revised to prohibit commercial advertising within the 6-foot restraining area at each end of the line.
  • Intention/Rationale: The NCAA claims that it wants a clean, uniform look to court floors. On the other hand, it is allowing member institutions to honor current advertising contracts that they are bound to as of June 13, 2017. So, schools currently profiting off ads inside that strip of court can do so until those contracts expire or otherwise terminate. It totally has nothing to do with trying to limit arguments that it is taking advantage of student-athletes beyond what is a "reasonable restriction of trade"... In other words, by cleaning its floors, it appears that the NCAA might be trying to clean its conscience.

Rule 1-9.1

  • Rules Change: The Coach's Box is extending from 28 feet (see court diagram image) to 38 feet toward the center division line.
  • Intention/Rationale: The coaches will have more room to move around and coach their team. This will become extremely helpful when the team is on the opposite side of the court. In theory, coaches should have less to complain about even though there is less empathy for stepping out of the newly extended range, which is a big emphasis of the rationale. Greater mobility comes with increased penalties.

Rule 1.22.7.d

  • Rules Change: NCAA member institutions can display their own national flag as opposed to strictly the United States national flag.
  • Intention/Rationale: The NCAA is finally recognizing that it has member institutions outside the United States that have its own flag and that maybe - just maybe - they want to show their own national pride, too.

Rule 5-10.2

  • Rules Change: When the ball is legally touched inbounds and an official immediately blows his whistle to stop the clock, no less than 0.3 seconds must be taken off the game clock.
  • Intention/Rationale: This change is supposed to set a minimum standard for those times where the ball is legally touched for a split second when it's near impossible for the human eye to detect precisely how long the ball was inbounds. Every hundredth of a second can matter in a basketball game, considering how quickly the ball can move around the court. This rule promotes consistency and takes away some of the burden officials carry to blow the whistle super fast and then determine how much time expired.

Rules 7-6.9 (add new .e)

  • Rules Change: This rule permits an official to move a defender away from the boundary line when there is insufficient room for a throw-in.
  • Intention/Rationale: If you watch college basketball, you may have noticed that officials actually do this already in circumstances that warrant it. So, this rule simply codifies a reasonably acceptable existing practice to make it officially "a thing" in the rule book for the sticklers out there!

Rule 10-2.3.c

  • Rules Change: The violating team's conference - not the officials - has the responsibility to enforce penalties against a team that wears an illegal uniform. Instead, officials will only remain responsible for enforcing the contrasting uniform color and number rules and for prohibiting equipment and apparel deemed dangerous to other players
  • Intention/Rationale: The burden was unduly placed on the officials before and seems more appropriately placed with the conference offices. Placing the responsibility with the conferences themselves may also disincentivize teams from leaning toward uniforms with illegal elements.

Clarification Changes

Rule 1-22.5

  • Rules Change: Teams are allowed to have certain words within the 15% tonal shift of the "neutral zone" areas on a jersey, specifically, the institutional name, mascot, nicknames, logos, marks, and names intended to celebrate or memorialize persons, events, or other worthy causes. Commercial names, logos, marks, and slogans are prohibited.
  • Intention/Rationale: Obviously, commercial logos are not allowed because it goes against the NCAA's amateurism rules and, I mean, the NBA just began to allow jerseys to become walking billboards very recently. This change is meant to clarify the existing rule so that, for example, Villanova can confidently pay tribute to the Rollie Massimino with a "RVM" patch on the team's jersey above the Nike logo.

Rules 1-25 and 1-26

  • Rules Change: Professional sports entities logos are prohibited from being on players' equipment and apparel.
  • Intention/Rationale: Simply put, this rule conforms with and clarifies the NCAA's current definition and interpretation of "amateurism" in Bylaw 12. Under Bylaw 12.5.4, specifically, student-athlete equipment can only bear the manufacturer's logo (i.e., its normal label or trademark) that it uses on its goods that it sells to the general public. Student-athlete uniforms and institutional apparel has a size restriction in addition to the single manufacturer or distributor logo limitation, too. The logo on apparel a student-athlete wears during competition, which includes pregame and postgame activities, cannot be greater than 2.25 square inches in area.

Rules 3-6.3.f and 8-3.3

  • Rules Change: If an player cannot shoot his free throw shots because of a resulting injury from a flagrant foul or resulting bleeding, the injured player's substitute will take the shots.
  • Intention/Rationale: Some of y'all may have noticed there have been inconsistencies in what officials allow to happen and what is enforced when this situation arises. Rather than having one of the team's coaches choose among the players on the court, which had often resulted in either the best or worst player on the court stepping up to the free throw line in place of an injured player, this creates a consistent outcome that is genuinely as close to fair as it can get.

Rule 4-34.1

  • Rules Change: A player who is setting a screen must be in bounds.
  • Intention/Rationale: This rule merely corrects the rule book's omission of the requirement. It is how the game is played, and now the rules match.

Rule 4-34.2.a

  • Rules Change: To be a legal screen, the screener's feet must be no wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Intention/Rationale: While we are on the topic of screens, the rule book now goes more in depth with what is legal relative to what is illegal. This should not have any real affect on the game and how it is officiated, though, because the new rule clarifies further what is allowable, consistent with current practice and enforcement.

Rules 5-3, 5-3.7 and 5-4

  • Rules Change: Since a forfeit is only connected to one team, when the institutions/conferences cannot agree the outcome of an uninterrupted game, the rules committee will decide the solution.
  • Intention/Rationale: It is rare that an uninterrupted game ends in a forfeit, but it does happen, and there have been sticky situations where the schools or conferences could not agree on the outcome of such games (i.e., who won and who lost). One such situation is when a school switches divisions. Jumping divisions takes place over the course of a few years since schedules need to be determined in advance, and since there are limits on the number of games a team can play overall and, furthermore, the number of non-conference games a team can play. There, if a game must be forfeited, both teams technically screwed up somewhere along the way, and naturally, the two sides would disagree as to the win-or-lose outcome.

Rules 5-14.10.c and .e

  • Rules Change: The media time out must occur at or under the media mark.
  • Intention/Rationale: Rules regarding the same topic should have consistent phrasing, and that is what this rule change does. Instead of the timeout occurring "under the media mark times" as the rule previously stated, the rule states "at or under the media mark" so the rules match language!

Rule 7-4

  • Rules Change: All throw-ins resulting from a defensive violation or foul in the front court will be from either the 28' mark or the end line 3' outside the lane line depending on where the violation or foul took place. When the ball is deflected out of bounds, the ball will be put in play at the place the ball went out.
  • Intention/Rationale: The NCAA is getting pickier about where the throw-in takes place likely to help clarify something that happens a lot and also to help streamline the process. So, there could be a bit of game flow-related logic for the change, but it is largely to create consistency in the rule, taking away a lot of the room for officiating error (aside from when deflections occur, of course).

Game Flow-Related Changes


Rule 2-11.6

  • Rules Change: The shot clock will be reset either to 20 seconds or to the time the defensive foul occurred, whichever is greater, when the defense commits a foul resulting in the other team throwing the ball in from the front court.
  • Intention/Rationale: This change should cater to the fact that everyone likes more offense & high scoring games because not only will the game flow be better but each team should have more possessions as well, meaning more opportunities to get points on the scoreboard.

Rules 4-9.2.d and 4-15.2.a.2

  • Rules Change: The "team control foul" definition will not include interrupted dribble, tapping of a rebound (unless it is a try for goal), a try for goal while the ball is in flight, any period of time that follows these situations where the ball is being batted to try to secure control, and a dead ball.
  • Intention/Rationale: "Team control" is when a player is dribbling or holding the ball while inbounds, a player has disposal of the ball for a throw-in, or when being passed among players in the front court. The definition change means that officials will be able to determine the proper resulting penalties from these "loose ball" situations because the nature of the foul is more definitive.

Rules 4-10.2, 10-2.5 and 10-4.1.l

  • Rules Change: With respect to warnings before delay penalties before assessing a technical foul, when a second game delay is different from the first delay, a technical foul will be implemented for any further delays thereafter, but when a second game delay is the same as the first, a technical foul will be implemented according to the present rule.
  • Intention/Rationale: Pure game flow rationale. A delay is any action that impedes the progress or continuity of the game. Hopefully, these slight amendments deter teams from failing to resume play and minimize consecutive delay penalties. It also seems fair to allow such a warning before being assessed a Class B technical foul, which is a rules infraction that (a) does not involve contact with an opponent or causes such contact, and (b) does not rise to the level of unsportsmanlike conduct.

Rule 11-2.1.c.1.c/AR 285

  • Rules Change: In the final two minutes of the second half and the final two minutes of all overtime periods, the game clock will be reset to the time of the actual shot-clock violation.
  • Intention/Rationale: Currently, the game clock is reset to the time when the official signaled that the foul occurred. The amendment simplifies the process to keep the game going. Every fan has fallen victim to those cases in the final seconds of the game where this process took a while and involved a lot of contemplation and analysis. Often, one team does not fully agree with the amount of time officials restore to the game clock because the official's call may not be .0000001 seconds after the violation. So, it will be interesting to see this rule change in action.

 Fairness Changes

Rule 1-18.5

  • Rules Change: LED lights that are synced with the LED lights on the game clock and backboards are permitted at the scorer's table.
  • Intention/Rationale: Syncing all the clocks makes sense because everyone has a different POV and angle from which they act. Now, all the players, coaches, and officials will be alerted similarly when the game clock stops!

Rule 3-16.1.j

  • Rules Change: When the opposing team commits a foul or violation, a replaced player can re-enter the game before the game clock officially starts again.
  • Intention/Rationale: This amendment should correct an unintended result that was a pretty unfair consequence (i.e., a technical foul) of the previous substitution rule variation. This does not affect all other players or substitutes, who may be taken out or subbing in at the next opportunity the team has to substitute.

Rule 9-12.4

  • Rules Change: Either an offensive or defensive player may be the first to touch the ball in the backcourt when the defense deflects the ball in the backcourt, regardless of which team was the last to touch the ball before it went into the backcourt. 
  • Intention/Rationale: Backcourt status is a bit misunderstood so this makes it fair so that both teams have an opportunity to go for the ball. Plus, it makes for more exciting ball games, right?

Rule 10-2.1

  • Rules Change: A team that fails to have all mandatory court markings commits an administrative technical foul.
  • Intention/Rationale: Like anything, if you are not following the rules, you should be penalized. Here, the NCAA decided it is appropriate to charge a non-complying team an administrative technical foul for this failure. An administrative technical foul is different from a Class A or Class B technical foul in that it pertains to things like rosters, benches, team delays, scorebook violations, and court or equipment requirements. This fits right in!

Rules 10-2.6 and .7

  • Rules Change: The penalty for having more than five players on the court or for an excessive timeout is increased to two free throws.
  • Intention/Rationale: As the rule stood before, these two violations resulted in one free throw. Having more than five players on the court is a serious infraction relative to some of the smaller or more nuanced violations we see, especially for as frequent as we see these two, and no one likes excessive timeouts. Coaches need to be more on top of their game in the heat of the moment, and this makes the players keep check, in a way. Now, the penalty better matches the crime. Also, who can argue with an opportunity for more points because YAY OFFENSE?

Rules 10-4.1.e and .g

  • Rules Change: Even though the player may commit a second infraction while doing so, like goaltending, a player dunking the ball is allowed to hold onto the rim when potential for injury exists.
  • Intention/Rationale: This change was brought to you by fairness and player safety - because the NCAA cares... This also clarifies player will not be double-penalized for committing a second violation on the same play because of another violation.

Rule 11-2.1.e

  • Rules Change: In the last two minutes of the second half and the last two minutes of any overtime period, instant replay reviews are allowed for certain Restricted Area Arc plays. 
  • Intention/Rationale: The NCAA thinks its important to give the officials a better opportunity to correctly adjudicate games in the super sensitive final moments and final plays because, let's face it, college basketball games can be the most neck-in-neck athletic matches we have the great fortune of witnessing. Crazy things can happen, especially in the vulnerable Restricted Arc Area where it can get very physical. Permitting instant replays may counteract the intention behind game flow rule changes, but having proper outcomes and less controversy over who wins and why may justifiably trump it.

Rule 11-2.1.d

  • Rules Change: Instant replay reviews are allowed to determine whether a foul occurred prior to a shot clock violation.
  • Intention/Rationale: In tandem with the rule change described above, this amendment increases the chances of having a properly adjudicated game in challenging plays. Making these reviews available for this scenario is an important position the NCAA can take because having the correct call and having the correct time on the clock are procedural matters within the NCAA's control that can improve the on-court product and increase overall satisfaction of all parties involved.