By Charles Hallman
ESPN will show a record-high 130 women’s basketball games this season on its family of channels: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3. Along with their Full Court’s pay-per-view package, nearly 250 games are scheduled for telecast during the 2011-12 season.
“We are adding more and more each year,” said Carol Stiff, the network’s vice president of programming and acquisition during a November 11 media conference call. “There is a lot to watch.”
The network also will air all 63 games of the NCAA tournament in March.
However, women’s college hoops coverage is still just a blip — only two games were part of Tuesday’s ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops marathon coverage. When asked about this imbalance, Stiff told the MSR, “It was one more than last year. Hopefully we will add more [in coming seasons].”
Despite Stiff’s contention, the bulk of ESPN’s regular women’s basketball coverage doesn’t really kick in until after the first of the year, while men’s college hoops is already underway and by then will have completed at least two months of telecasts.
When asked if this season’s ESPN women’s hoops coverage might benefit because of the NBA lockout situation, Staff replied, “My hope is that we draw [more viewers] not only for women’s basketball, but also for men’s basketball. We look forward to the opportunity to show more games.”
Defensive arc now in college hoops
A “defensive half-circle” that has been in the NBA for several seasons has now been added in the paint for college basketball this season.
If a player is set outside of it when contact is made with an offensive player, an offensive foul will be called, but if the contact is made and the defensive player is standing inside the circle, the player will be called for a blocking foul.
Many believe the three-foot radius will help clarify the longstanding charge-versus-block call in college ball as well. “I like it,” ESPN Analyst Carolyn Peck told the MSR last week during the November 11 conference call.
Peck, who is the first and only Black woman to win an NCAA women’s championship as a head coach, added, “I think it is a great teaching tool for coaches. This rule helps the coaches emphasize early rotation [on the defense], and the help have to be there before the [offensive] player gets to the arc.”
Current WNBAer and fellow studio analyst Kara Lawson points out, “I think it will help the offensive player.” She believes that the defensive player also will get “the benefit of the doubt,” especially if they are stationary upon contact with the offensive player.
“The other area where I think it is going to really impact, particularly for women’s basketball, is for one player — [6-foot-8 Baylor junior center] Brittany Griner,” Lawson adds.
Minnesota will play Baylor at Williams Arena December 4.
Since she’s 6-8, Griner could get to the foul line more this season, Lawson predicts, simply because the arc may help eliminate players flopping as they try to draw a foul whenever she turns toward the basket with the ball. “[This] is going to be a huge benefit” for Griner as a result, says Lawson.
The two Gopher coaches like the arc as well.
“It’s been much needed,” admits Women’s Coach Pam Borton, whose team plays its first home games of the season Saturday and Sunday. “We [coaches] have been waiting for it for a long time. It is going to make the officials’ job a little bit easier to make the right calls and be more consistent.
“It [also] helps the players understand what kind of positioning they need to be in help defense. I think it’s rewarding proper defense and proper positioning,” says Borton.
Men’s Coach Tubby Smith concurs, saying: “I think it is going to help in a couple of ways,” but he did not elaborate further.
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