North Carolina coach Roy Williams was watching the Gonzaga-Michigan State game last month when he saw the perfect example of why the new "no-charge" zone under the basket should be painted on the floor.
"The Gonzaga kid was standing there (and) his feet were on the lane line, so it was nowhere close to being underneath the basket," Williams said recently. "He'd already gotten out his iced tea, added the sugar to it, added the extra lemon, got back in his perfect stance and the guy ran over him and the referee comes out and calls it 'block.'
"... In my mind, there's no way (the official) wasn't thinking about that stupid imaginary line."
The new NCAA rule is meant to "prohibit a secondary defender from establishing a guarding position" in the 18-by-24-inch area from the front of the rim to the front of the backboard -- meaning if they try to take a charge in that area, it's supposed to automatically be called a block. But the area is not designated by any sort of line, and thus is up to interpretation by coaches, players and referees.
Both Duke's Lance Thomas and UNC's Tyler Zeller have seen some close calls around the basket, but say they haven't changed much about how they go about trying to take a charge.
"There's a lot of cases where guys flop, and guys will take it directly under the rim," said Thomas, a senior forward. "They told us that, so we step out to meet the defender. We don't know where the line exactly is, but we put ourselves in the right position to make that play. ... If you're taking a really good charge, it's going to be hard for a ref not to call it."
But is it always the correct call?
John Clougherty, head of the ACC's men's basketball officials, said that "so far, the lack of a painted area hasn't been an issue" in the conference. He has instructed his officials to call blocks and charges around that area as they always have, unless they're absolutely certain that a secondary defender has established position there. "Basically, let's not try to kill this thing with a hammer," Clougherty said of the rule. "But when it's certain a player's under there, let's enforce it."
As of the middle of last week, Clougherty -- who thinks the NCAA should have a line designating the area to help his officials enforce the rule -- said he hasn't received any complaints about the rule from ACC coaches.
But judging by the reaction of some coaches, those complaints could roll in when ACC play begins.
"I actually watched the Duke-Wisconsin game, and they had a play there where the Duke player was standing there waiting for the guy, and he took the charge and they called a block," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. "And (the referee) pointed down to the floor, like, 'You were inside something.'
"Well, it's an invisible line. I just don't understand. I don't understand that rule and why they won't just put a line down there. I think it puts too much pressure on officials, and they have enough pressure as it is. They have a tough job to do. The last thing you want to do is give them an invisible line. That's just me. That rule just confuses me. I can't say it bothers me. It confuses me. I just don't understand it."
The NCAA could have the option of adding markings if the Playing Rules Committee next summer suggests that the no-charge zone be painted. The earliest the lines could be added is 2011-12, when the next rulebook is printed.
BIG TEN BREAKS THROUGH
Collectively, the ACC lost the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, for the first time, by a 6-5 margin earlier this week. You won't see the league moping too much. Winning the previous 10 years straight gives it a bit of lasting street cred. But there were a couple of teams who came up bigger winners than losers, and vice versa.
In the win column:
Miami -- The Hurricanes' 63-58 victory over Minnesota is nice considering UM was picked to finish 10th.
Boston College -- A 62-58 road victory over Michigan without Rakim Sanders? That bodes well for when the star player returns from his high ankle sprain.
North Carolina -- With John Henson and his freshman teammates starting to show off their potential, the Tar Heels got another victory over Michigan State, this time 89-82.
And the 'L' goes to:
Clemson -- A 23-point, second-half lead at home? Yet a 76-74 loss to Illinois? Guess who gets the blame for losing the "Challenge."
Duke -- Kyle Singer scored a career-high 28 points during the Blue Devils' 73-69 loss to Wisconsin, but coach Mike Krzyzewski only used an eight-man rotation. In December.