Sean Miller prefaced Friday’s opening game against Cal Poly by saying “it takes time. … it’s not always pretty.”
He was talking about the long-range evolution of his young roster, but it applies more to the Pac-12’s new officiating structure.
Arizona attempted 36 free throws in Friday’s victory over Cal Poly. Last year the UA averaged 20.6 foul shots a game, and never attempted more than 36.
Worse, Utah shot 48 free throws Friday night, Oregon had 44, Arizona State 44 and Washington State 43. On the first night of regular-season play, involving 10 conference teams, the Pac-12 averaged 30.7 free throw attempts.
Last year the average in conference games, per team, was 18.
Ever vigilant, Miller hired officials to work eight Arizona workouts/scrimmages leading to Friday’s opener.
“If you put your hands on a live dribbler, it’s not good for the game,” said Miller. “That’s what we’re trying to coach and teach.”
If the season goes as it did on opening night, with Pac-12 teams averaging more than 30 foul shots per night, it’s going to be a cluttered and art-less product.
Somewhere along the way, referees and players must adjust to one another, or games that now routinely take 2 hours 10 minutes, will go to almost 2½ hours.
That can’t be good for anybody: fans or TV programmers.
If I could change one thing in college basketball it would be to cut the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. The game is at a 30-year scoring ebb and games are longer than ever.
The last thing a guy sitting in Section C, or in front of his TV, wants to see is a plodding parade to the free throw line.
After closely following Pac-12 basketball for more than 30 years, I don’t trust the officials, whether it be Ed Rush or Bobby Dibler at the top, to get the transition to a less physical game done without a season of turbulence.
One major officiating note: Michael Irving, who called the infamous technical foul on Miller in last year’s UCLA-Arizona conference semifinal, didn’t lose his job. He called Friday’s Stanford-Bucknell game.