Since you've been gone

Whitworth doesn't want to wait a minute longer than it has to for its first home game of the season.
Whitworth athletics file photo

When the clock strikes 12:01 am on Thursday night, the 2015-2016 Division III basketball season will officially begin. The first game of the season will tip off moments later when the Clark hosts Worcester State in Massachussets. An hour later the Eureka women will host Illinois College just after midnight in the Central Time Zone and then the Whitworth and La Verne men will do the same two hours later on the West Coast. They will be the first real games since the UW-Stevens Point men and Thomas More women won national championships last March.

Plenty has happened during the offseason, but we forgive you if you turned your attention elsewhere for the last seven months. The upcoming season will have new rules, new teams and different faces in familiar places.

Here’s a quick recap of everything you may have missed with links to our coverage.

Changing the rules of game

Before you sit down to watch a game this season – men’s or women’s -- you should know that it will look a little different.

In June the NCAA approved a package of changes intended to boost scoring in men’s basketball. The shot clock will drop from 45 to 30 seconds, there’s no more five second count if a defender closely guards a ball handler who is dribbling and coaches can no longer call time outs. Officials have also been encouraged to speed up the pace of the game, so don’t be surprised if you see them push teams to get back on the court after a time out and calling one-shot technical fouls if they don’t.

The same NCAA committee on the women's side also approved changes that take effect this season. Instead of playing two 20-minute halves, there will now be four 10-minute quarters. Teams will reach the bonus and shoot two personal fouls after the fourth foul in any quarter, so “one-and-one” is a thing of the past. Team fouls reset at the end of each quarter but not in overtime if one team is already in the bonus.

There are also other changes related to post defense, 10-second backcourt violations and how the ball is advanced on a timeout in the final minute of the game.

Dave McHugh wrote a thoughtful piece on the rule changes before they were adopted that you can read here.

New season, new conference

A few teams will change conferences effective this season. The “UW” in UW-Superior still stands for University of Wisconsin, but the Yellowjackets left their fellow UW schools in the WIAC to join the UMAC. St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn found a conference home in the Skyline, where St. Joseph’s of Long Island also plays.

Pittsburgh-based Chatham will play its first season of men’s basketball in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

The process for becoming a full member of NCAA Division III generally takes four years of provisional membership. Belhaven University starts that process this year and also joins the American Southwest Conference. The Blazers become the third Division III program in the state of Mississippi and the second in Jackson.

Two schools have completed the journey to full membership. Welcome to the fold, SUNY-Canton and Sarah Lawrence!

Bookmark this page on our message board where the poster known as “Knight Slappy” maintains a handy reference tracking and explaining these changes.

Coaching carousel

Coaching changes happen so frequently during the offseason, we have a whole section of our website devoted to them. Some noteworthy changes include…

  • The University of Scranton ended its long search for its next women’s basketball coach with a surprising, local hire. Trever Woodruff moved to Scranton from nearby Misericordia after leading the Cougars’ men’s program to the NCAA tournament last year.
  • Bates picked a former player at rival Bowdoin to be its next women’s basketball coach. Alison Montgomery (née Smith) takes over the Bobcats program following the retirement of long-time coach Jim Murphy.
  • Southern Maine also picked a successor for its long-time coach Gary Fifield who retired after 27 seasons leading the Huskies’ women’s program. Samantha Allen, who played at Colby, heads to Southern Maine where her mother was a stand-out softball player.
  • Bucknell liked its last two former Division III coaches so much that it picked another to lead its men's basketball program. Randolph-Macon coach Nathan Davis made the jump from Division III to Division I, replacing former Williams coach Dave Paulsen who moved to George Mason. Davis’ move set off a chain reaction with Josh Merkel moving to Randolph-Macon from Salisbury, Andrew Sachs moving to Salisbury from Bethany and Juniata assistant Nick Hager getting the top job at Bethany. Fitting that the carousel started spinning with one set of Bison (Bucknell) and ended with another (Bethany).
Check back later as we get you ready for the start of the season with the return of Around the Nation.