Quarters or Halves? Two PAC Coaches Weigh In

By Justin Zackal

Give women’s college basketball teams a dollar and they’ll give you four quarters. Give men’s college basketball teams a buck and you’ll get two fifty-cent pieces.

Which change would you rather keep?

Prior to the 2015-16 season, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved on a recommendation from a women’s basketball rules committee to move the women’s game from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters, along with modifications to timeouts to account for the extra stoppages. This change left American men’s college basketball as the only level of the sport that plays two halves, as the international, professional and high school levels play quarters.

Earlier this week, the NCAA announced some experimental rule changes for next month’s postseason National Invitation Tournament (NIT) that could indicate the first step in men’s basketball calling for quarters, although any rules changes by the committee in the upcoming offseason wouldn’t be implemented until the 2018-19 season. While the NIT games will still be two 20-minute halves, team fouls will be reset after the 10-minute mark of each half, and the bonus threshold for free-throw shooting will be two shots after five fouls instead of 1-and-1 after seven and two shots after 10. This is an effort to speed up the pace of the game, especially in games with a lot of fouls early in each half.

So, what does this mean for Division III, which follows the same NCAA rules as Divisions I and II? We asked two PAC coaches their thoughts.

First, we asked Thomas More women’s basketball coach Jeff Hans how he likes the rule change. His team played quarters during a 10-day tour of Costa Rica in 2013 and he returned later for international coaching clinics where quarters were used.

“I love the change because it’s more like those rules,” Hans said. “It’s like someone taking a timeout at 10 minutes of the half. That’s all it boils down to. I like the fouls resetting because you can be aggressive early in the game and not stand at the free-throw line for 13 or 14 minutes.”

Hans said some coaches miss the pressure of putting players at the free-throw line for 1-and-1 situations, but even that is only three times a half at the most. Additionally, he anticipates the men’s committee switching to quarters soon.

“That’s how it usually happens,” Hans added. “The women will try something for a couple years and the men will modify it, or the men will try something and the women’s committee will modify it to fit our game better.”

Grove City men’s basketball coach Steve Lamie agrees.

“I have a feeling, knowing how the rules committee works, that they will,” said Lamie, the 19th-year head coach who recently surpassed the 250-win milestone. “The preseason and postseason NIT has been the experimental venues for any rules changes that we’ve had. Everything is driven from Division I on down.”

Although he doesn’t have a strong preference on either quarters or halves, Lamie’s one lament is the continual attempts to make basketball the same at all levels.

“If this is just a way of making every level of basketball uniform, I’d be against it,” Lamie said. “College basketball is a unique game and I don’t want it to be like the pro game with quarters (and other rules like the shot clock). I’m all for speeding up the game, especially at the end when there are so many timeouts and fouls. In terms of strategy or tactics, I don’t think it affects the game.”

It hasn’t affected the women’s game. According to Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis, in the years before and after the switch to quarters, women’s games still averaged nearly the same amount of fouls (17.52-17.55) and free throws (18.13-17.15) per game and the lengths of the games were roughly the same.

For what it’s worth, the change in quarters amounts to the same. And, thanks to Hans and Lamie, we didn’t even need a penny for their thoughts.