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Establishing 'physical presence' necessitates a few extra fouls

Foul trouble has been a bit of an issue for Maryland in its past two games. At Wake Forest, the Terrapins were whistled for 20 fouls, though two of those came in the overtime period. At Boston College, Maryland was called for 18 fouls. The Terrapins are averaging 16.7 fouls per contest this season.

Fouls, obviously, are a part of the game. A team fouls more some games than it does others. And when foul trouble does arise, it mandates that a team be able to get quality minutes out of its top reserves. Against Boston College, for instance, reserve guards Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie combined for 29 points after starters Sean Mosley and Eric Hayes got into foul trouble.

While meeting with reporters Monday, Coach Gary Williams was asked if the early foul trouble his team has gotten into in recent contests was any sort of concern. He acknolwedged the issue, but said he liked the aggressiveness it meant his players were demonstrating.

"If we’re going to be a good team, you have to have a physical presence," Williams said. "That’s where the game’s changed a little bit in that just having skills in basketball isn’t enough anymore. You have to be able to get after those loose balls, those rebounds, take it to the basket and get bumped a little bit without getting knocked off your shot and things like that. That’s all part of it, so if that costs us a couple early fouls to play physical that’s okay."

Earlier in the day on the ACC coaches' teleconference, Williams was asked whether he felt the game in general had become more physical -- if not too physical -- over the years.

"I think our league's physical, but if you look around the country I think basketball has gotten more physical," Williams said. "I'm not saying it's just the ACC; I think it's a country-wide thing, and I'm not particularly happy about it. In other words, I've always thought in basketball you have to be aggressive, you have to be tough, obviously, but it is a game of skill, and if the phsyical play takes away part of the skill, then I think that's hurting the game. But a lot of the really good officials will work several BCS conferences, so it's not like it's just ACC officials working ACC games. Those same guys work Big Ten, (SEC), Big East, whatever you want to talk about, so I don't think our league is any different in terms of being physical than any other major league. It's just the college basketball has gotten more physical as time has gone by."

In the 1980s, Williams coached four seasons in the Big East at Boston College and three seasons in the Big Ten at Ohio State. In those days, the Big East experimented with allowing players to commit a maximum of six personal fouls before being removed from the game. That experiment was forced out of existence by the NCAA in 1992. Today, all NCAA players are allowed a maximum of five personal fouls.

"Back then, in the '80s, six fouls wasn't enough in the Big East," Williams said. "That's how physical it was. I think the Big East sold itself on that back then -- the Georgetown's, the Syracuse's, the Villanova's. You know, you look at the coaches back then in that league and it was really veteran coaches who really knew how to win and were going against each other all the time, so it was tough. The ACC had a reputation in the '80s of being a more finesse league than the Big Ten or the Big East. That was what you heard, you know, from people. I think that's all changed. I think our league is as tough physically as any league in the country, but I don't think it's tougher than other leagues. I think we all come to play. I think people are very aware of the importance of every game you play and so teams come out ready to go and it's a very difficult thing to draw the line on what is too physical and what is not physical for you as a coach."

Then Williams was asked what he thought of the impact of officiating having become more homogenized in recent seasons.

"I think refereeing style changes a little bit," Williams said. "I think college basketball has gotten more physical. I think coaches, we all, you know, want our players to be phyical, and so I think the refereeing has gone along with that a little bit in terms of a lot of times there's contact inside and there's a delay to see whether the ball goes in the basket or doesn't go in the basket. I think with a lot of physical situations that happen, the referee really has a tough job because he has to decide whether the contact affected play or not, and that's where it's gone on a national basis, not just the ACC. I really don't believe that the ACC is more physical than other conferences. I think any good conference with major teams and big-time players that are great athletes that are 240-250 pounds, it's going to be physical the way the rules are right now. So that's what you get on a national basis."

By Steve Yanda  |  January 19, 2010; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: One week in, some thoughts on the ACC

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