College Basketball: Jump Balls And Alternating Possession

Jump balls in college basketball occur to establish possession of the ball, both at the beginning of the game and overtime periods.  However, jump balls no longer occur during other times in the game.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball 2013-2014 and 2014-15 Rules (Pages 69-71/140) discuss Jump Balls, Held Balls, and the Alternate Possession Arrow.

First, let us define “Jump Ball”.

Rule 6, Section 2, Article 1 (Page 69/140) states:

A jump ball is a method of putting the ball into play at the beginning of the game or any extra period(s) by tossing it up between two opponents in the center circle.

Second, consider this question:  After the initial jump ball, what happens when two (or more) opposing players simultaneously possess the ball (a.k.a. a “held ball”).

Historically, college basketball rules called for a jump ball between two opposing players under these circumstances, which resulted in numerous jump balls throughout a game.  Now, college basketball rules use an “alternating-possession procedure” to continue the game. After the initial jump ball, an arrow on the scoreboard and at courtside designates that the team that did not possess the initial jump ball will receive possession when a “held ball” occurs.  (See Rule 6, Section 3, Article 4 [Page 70/140].)

Third, this raises the question “What exactly is a held ball?”

Rule 6, Section 4, Article 2 (Pages 70-71/140) states:

A held ball occurs when an opponent places his hand(s):  a.  So firmly on the ball that control cannot be obtained without undue roughness; or b.  On the ball to prevent an airborne player from throwing the ball or attempting a try and both players return to the playing court with both hands on the ball or the airborne player returns to the playing court never losing control of the ball.

No specific time period must elapse before officials call a held ball, although a held ball call for an airborne player seems easier than deciding what might constitute “undue roughness”.  Officials’ discretion is the rule here, and officials normally will call a held ball fairly quickly to avoid scraps/fights among players.

Rule 6, Section 4, Article 1 (Page 70/140) outlines the ways in which the alternating-possession arrow can change, including the held ball, a live ball getting stuck between the backboard and the ring, and an inadvertent whistle from an official.

(Yes, I typed “ring”–the word the rules use for what most people call the “rim”.  See for yourself at Rule 1, Section 15 on Page 27/140.)

I count eight ways the possession arrow can change, and the eighth way seems reasonable in the event officials are confused about what to do.

Happy March Madness.


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