Handball Bar Stool Discussion:  Ever Wondered What a Basketball Game Would be Like if Teams had to Play a Man Down?  Or Two Men Down?  Just Like in Handball? (Well, Now We Know)

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Alabama on defense with just 3 players. Nice to see the NCAA experimenting with the adoption of handball rules. What might be some other cross over possibilities?

This past weekend a pretty bizarre basketball game was played between 2 NCAA Division 1 College teams, Alabama and Minnesota.  With 13:39 remaining in the game a fight broke out on the court between the two teams and upset, the entire Alabama team left the bench to join the fray.  And, unfortunately for Alabama the penalty for leaving the bench is ejection leaving Alabama with only the 5 court players that were playing at the time of the incident.

From then on it just kept getting more bizarre as shortly thereafter Alabama’s lost 2 more players, one due to fouling out and one due to spraining an ankle.  With 10: 41 remaining in the game Alabama was down 11 points and down to 3 players.  What ensued?  Well, basketball fans got to see the Collin Sexton show as he finished with 40 points and single handedly kept Alabama in the game.  Indeed with 1:30 left Alabama actually cut the lead to 3 points!  Only to end up falling short 89-84.

The match is pretty interesting to watch and this article describes what happened in more detail and has a link to the video.  As a handball fan I watched with handball knowledge and was a little befuddled that the Minnesota coaching staff couldn’t figure out how to put a team away with a 2 man advantage.  A double team or even a triple team on Sexton (a future NBA lottery pick) probably could have done the job.  And settling for outside shots, even if uncontested, is not the best strategy either.

And, naturally it rekindled one of my favorite barstool topics regarding basketball and handball, two similar sports, but with different rules that lead to different strategies.  Remember handball’s last minute rule problem?  The silly situation that led to really unsportmanlike hard fouls to ensure that the other team couldn’t get a shot off.  It’s become a distant memory as handball adopted some basketball like penalties to make such fouls a really bad idea.

But, there are so many other possibilities for transfer between the two sports that would certainly change how handball or basketball would be played.  Highly debatable as to whether they are good ideas or not, but have another round of beers and discuss.  Here are my favorites

What if basketball adopted these handball rules?

  • On the fly substitution. Paint a couple of substitution lines on the court and see how coaches work the offense to defense player changes.  No more tall guys sitting at mid-court waiting for the buzzer to sound.  Really, what purpose does checking in at the scorer’s table serve anyway?
  • Two minute penalties. Give teams the option of taking the free throws or having the fouling team play down a man for two minutes.  All kinds of unintended consequences here, though.  Would the game become even softer as teams become more reluctant to foul.

And, what if handball adopted these basketball rules?

  • Shot Clock. Passive play has got to be one of the silliest rules ever.  Really?  Leave it up to the officials to decide whether a team is making a good faith effort to attack?  Can you imagine what basketball would be like if that was the rule instead of a shot clock?  Quit nibbling around the edges handball people and just cave in and adopt a shot clock.  But, as in basketball it’s needed for the higher levels.
  • Start and stoppage of the time clock. Of course if you adopt a shot clock, though, you’re going to have to rethink the running clock.  Otherwise, defenses will adapt their strategies to delay the offense.  Additionally, it would eliminate referee decisions as to what is deemed worthy of stopping the clock.
  • 4 quarters and more timeouts. Professional handball players bemoan the numbers of games they have to play a year, but somehow the NBA plays even more with the only big complaint being back to back games.  I realize that basketball is a softer game that’s a bit easier on the body, but the greater amount of stoppage time in an NBA game also helps.

Anyway, those are some of my favorite possibilities.  Feel free to chime in with your opinion on Facebook or at the barstool after your next match.

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