I’ll be honest… before I came to Michigan I wasn’t a big sports fan. I spent too much time painting my nails and reading Glamour to care much about the Super Bowl or Wimbledon, and my fandom of Olympic events only extended as far as figure skating and gymnastics. But that’s changed in college (how could you not fall in love with Big House football?) and I have a new favorite sport: basketball. March Madness has just begun, and even though Michigan’s already out of the running (darn!), the tournament’s first rounds have already been full of upsets, making this a great time to get into the sport and brush up on your knowledge before Michigan’s next season!
For those of you who are as helplessly girly as I am, here are some of the basics—stuff you need to know to enjoy watching a basketball game. So read up, then head to Charley’s or Skeep’s and root for your team!
In the NCAA, basketball is played on a 94X50’ court in two 20-minute halves. Five players are allowed on the court at any given time:
1 Point Guard: The point guard anchors the offense by making sure that plays run smoothly and the ball gets passed to the right players. He or she is typically one of the fastest players on the team. Starting point guard for the Wolverines: senior Stu Douglass
2 Shooting Guard: The shooting guard attempts many shots, usually three-pointers. Starting shooting guard for the Wolverines: senior Zack Novak
3 Forward: Forwards attempt to score points closer to the basket, and play under or close to the basket on defense to get rebounds and steals. Starting forwards for the Wolverines: sophomore Evan Smotrycz and redshirt junior Jordan Morgan
These positions and their roles are flexible and can change depending on the nature of the play. Other key guards for the Wolverines include freshman Trey Burke, sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., and junior Matt Vogrich. Our head coach is John Belein, and this past season was his fifth at Michigan.
Once a team has possession of the ball, they have 35 seconds on the “shot clock” to make a shot. If they fail to attempt a shot after 35 seconds, the referee calls a shot clock violation and the opposing team gains possession of the ball. Players are not allowed to travel (moving without dribbling the ball) or “double-dribble” (dribbling, then holding the ball before he or she continues to dribble). If an offensive player does either of these things, the opposing team gets possession of the ball. If a defensive player does, the shot clock is reset, giving the opposing team more time to attempt a shot.
Now, for the part that gets a little tricky… fouls. A foul is any illegal move made by a player (and it seems like there’s a lot of them!) There are two main categories:
1 Personal versus team
2 Shooting versus Non-shooting: Shooting fouls happen while a player attempts a shot, and the fouled player is allowed two free-throws. A player can make five personal fouls before “fouling out” of the game. For a non-shooting foul, the fouled player gets to pass the ball back in-bounds to a teammate.
If seven team fouls occur during a half, the fouled player gets what we call a “one-and-one.” This means that he or she gets one free throw, and a second if the first is successful. On the tenth team foul of the half, all fouls (even non-shooting) are worth two free throws.
This explains why a lot of the time, the team that’s behind will foul as much as they can if they haven’t reached the tenth team foul. It stops the clock, and assuming the fouled player only makes the first shot of the one-and-one, gives them more time to catch up. If the game is tied at the final buzzer, there is a five-minute overtime period.
That was probably a lot to take in, but if you want to become a real expert, you can find more detailed rules and regulations on nba.com, ncaa.com and Wikipedia.