A new NCAA women’s basketball format that calls for dividing games into four quarters instead of the traditional two halves has improved the flow of games this season.
At least that’s the consensus of coaches and players, who are still adjusting to the change. Texas coach Karen Aston approves of the quarter system, calling it a “logical” move.
“Everyone else — from high schools, the WNBA and international ball — have already been playing by quarters,” Aston said Friday. “It seems like something that should have been logical a long time ago. For the average eye, it’s sped up the game.”
The sixth-ranked Longhorns (17-1, 6-1 in the Big 12) certainly have shown more offensive punch this season. Texas will try for its 999th all-time victory on Saturday, when it hosts No. 19 Oklahoma (13-4, 4-2) at the Erwin Center.
The Longhorns have averaged 74 points through 18 games, compared to 66.6 points at the same point last season. They’re averaging 22 free-throw attempts a game compared to 19 last season.
These are the two main changes that have come with the adoption of the quarters system:
- Teams now enter the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul of each quarter. Previously, teams reached the one-and-one bonus with the seventh team foul of each half, and the double bonus began with the 10th foul.
- There are only two media timeouts per half, and they are called at the first dead ball after the five-minute mark of each quarter. In previous seasons, dead-ball timeouts were called after reaching the 16-, 12-, eight- and four-minute marks of each half.
“You really have to be in great shape now because we don’t have a timeout every four minutes anymore,” said senior guard Celina Rodrigo. “This is actually a benefit for us because we have a lot of depth. We’re able to sub in and sub out when someone gets tired.”
The NCAA women’s basketball rules committee recommended the change to quarters, believing the format would enhance the flow of games and make them more entertaining.
“We like the new quarters format and have heard positive feedback from many of our coaches,” said Dru Hancock, senior associate commissioner of the Big 12. “We believe it speeds up the pace of the game and adds excitement at the natural breaks between quarters.”
Geno Auriemma, coach of top-ranked Connecticut — the three-time defending NCAA champions — calls the quarter system “a great step forward” for women’s basketball.
“As the game becomes more global each year, it’s important that we start the process of standardizing the rules,” Auriemma told SI.com. “This is just the beginning of what I hope are many other changes to improve this great game.”
While women have made the switch to quarters, NCAA men’s teams continue to play 20-minute halves.
Aston said the new rule has created other subtle changes, too. This season, she’s made it a habit to remove players from a game right before the end of a quarter, giving them a chance to have extra rest with the quarter break.
The guarantee of two foul shots after five team fouls in a quarter also has her attention.
“One thing you can’t afford is to put your opponent on the line for the bonus (two free throws) so quickly into the quarter,” she said. “I like the situational things that go on at the end of the games. I think it’s more engaging for the fans to see the end-of-the-quarter aspects of a game. … I think it’s been a win.”