GREENSBORO — Wes Miller is an exception to the rule.
Or rather, the new rules.
On the first night of basketball in Greensboro and everywhere else, a big crowd showed up in the Coliseum to see the city’s two Division I programs go at each other in an annual test of UNCG, A&T and Greensboro’s basketball fans.
They didn’t necessarily come to see the new NCAA rules designed to make teams like UNCG conform. That’s just not going to happen.
With ACC games on television and national matchups of the top-rated teams in the country, more than 8,000 people came to watch the Spartans beat the Aggies 83-50 in the tipoff of a season that will see the city itself back in the national spotlight.
They came to see if A&T had anything for UNCG. It didn’t. And they came to see how much UNCG has fallen off since last season's big run.
Forget that. The Spartans might actually be better this season.
Miller, now the dean of coaches in the Southern Conference, unleashed his team on A&T in a blur of defense and fast breaks, bolting to an 18-2 lead and making it hard for the Aggies to even run a play.
The new rules made to open up offenses for a cleaner game will not sell at UNCG. A deeper three-point line, a shot clock reset after an offensive rebound and points of emphasis regarding flopping and flagrant fouls were all instituted to make the game more like the NBA, quite frankly.
The Spartans want the game to resemble a game in the driveway with their own style of full-court pressure defense; aggressive, chaotic scrambling in the open court; and the courage to take charges in the lane.
And firing at will from beyond the line, no matter how far out it is.
“We’re going to have to speed the game up with our defense and create offense,” Miller said. “We’re going to try to do that every night. Our strength is going to be our athleticism and our depth. We’re going to have to force turnovers and speed the game up that way.”
The graduation of UNCG’s backcourt mates Francis Alonso and Demetrius Troy left a hole in the offense that has been filled by a host of athletic guards, all of whom can handle the ball, shoot the ball, and most importantly defend the ball.
A typical possession might end in a dunk or a 24-footer or a pile of bodies under the basket with players grimacing and limping away from the scrum.
NCAA vice president Dan Gavitt said the intentions this season are for a “cleaner” game. There will be nights when UNCG will play seamlessly in the modern style. But most nights will be like Tuesday, with bodies flying, collisions under the basket, daring steals in the open floor and clock-shot violations.
“We want the game to be ugly, because we want to be great on defense and be great on the backboards,” Miller said.
Offense makes for good television. Defense gets you off the bench at UNCG.
So a game that could’ve been played in the Langleys' driveway back in High Point, looked like a neighborhood asphalt pickup game at times with Miller exhorting his team to get back on defense, fill passing lanes and fly to the ball.
“For this team to be a good team, we have to play defense and rebound,” he said. “We haven’t made a lot of adjustments about the rules, but we have spent a lot of time talking about them in terms of how we need to play and to be aware of them.”
They’re aware of them, but quite frankly the rules don’t apply here. Not in the sense the NBA has in mind.
UNCG will play its own style of basketball this season, letting the pretty teams lead the country in TV time while the Spartans lead the country in bandages.