When Richmond’s basketball season officially starts Friday at 3 p.m. as the women’s team takes the floor against Old Dominion, some fans might be confused if they look at the scoreboard at tipoff and see 10 minutes on the clock.

This won’t be the result of an error by the scorers’ table, but rather of NCAA rule changes made this offseason for both men’s and women’s basketball. For the women, four 10-minute quarters replace two 20-minute halves, one-and-one free throws have been eliminated and teams can now advance the ball past half-court in the last minute of the fourth quarter or overtime by calling timeout, according to the NCAA’s website.

The most important changes listed by the NCAA on the men’s side are a 30-second shot clock as opposed to a 35-second one, the expansion of the restricted area from a radius of three feet to four feet and the ability for officials to penalize players who “flop” or pretend to be fouled.

Michael Shafer, head coach of the women’s team, served as chair of the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee for 2014-2015 and said that these rules enhance both the men’s and women’s games.

“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is create a more free-flowing basketball game where there’s more movement and less physical contact, which we believe will create more scoring opportunities and make the game more enjoyable to play and more enjoyable to watch,” Shafer said.

For the men, a shorter shot clock means more possessions during games, a welcome change after Division I teams averaged 67.6 points per game last season, one of the lowest marks ever. Coaches can also no longer call live-ball timeouts, a change meant to speed up games that puts extra responsibility in the hands of players.

According to the NCAA’s website, the number of blocking and charging fouls decreased from 2.77 to 1.96 from the 2013 NIT to the 2015 NIT, when some of the new rules, including the new restricted area, were tested for the first time. 

Shafer said that the switch to quarters would especially help in keeping the women’s games moving quickly, something he noticed already in scrimmages. 

“You’ve got to be in better shape and you have to sub more if you’re not,” he said. “We’ve played a couple of scrimmages already and the games have been quicker.”

The NCAA also eliminated timeouts on both sides. Certain team timeouts will count as media timeouts if they are called early enough in the quarter for the women, and the men’s teams will no longer be able carry over more than three timeouts into the second half.

Other rule changes for the women include allowing a hand or forearm while playing post defense and less lenient criteria for resetting the 10-second timer to advance the ball past mid-court. Among the less significant rule changes for the men are allowing the review of shot clock violations at any point in the game, eliminating the five-second closely guarded rule while dribbling and--much to the delight of fans--legalizing dunks in pregame warmups.

Some might have apprehension about these new rules over-inflating the importance of offense, but Shafer isn’t worried.

“We live with a shorter attention span than ever, so in a way it’s a very positive thing,” he said.

After the women’s team takes on Old Dominion at 3 p.m. Friday, the men face James Madison at 7 p.m. to officially start their season as well.

Contact sports assistant Walter Abrams at walter.abrams@richmond.edu