Saturday, May 4, 2013

2 comments I Don't See the Harm in Reducing the Shot Clock in College Basketball

It's probably no secret around here I love college basketball, but I'm also not blind to the issues college basketball has. College basketball probably could use a few rule changes and different applications of the current rules. There's no doubt about that. One of the big issues surrounding college basketball now is the lack of scoring and how to increase scoring. I'm not sure I'm one of those people who says "scoring is down, let's try to find ways to increase scoring immediately!," but I do think a few rule changes could help the game speed up the pace a bit. I would still watch the game as it is, but obviously a faster pace would most likely increase scoring as well. One of those rule changes being pondered is reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. I have come to be in favor of this. Andy Glockner is not in favor of this. He thinks the shorter shot clock being able to speed up the game is a fallacy. I disagree and think this is the easiest and least invasive way to speed up the college game. I'm not opposed to other rule changes as well, but I think taking the shot clock to 30 seconds is the easiest and most obvious way to try and speed up the tempo of the college game.

College basketball definitely needs some rule changes.

I can be agreeable. I agree. My list of changes in college basketball are as follows (not in order of importance):

1. Teach officials the difference in a charge and a block. Give the lane back to the offensive player. Allow the offensive player to be able to land once he has jumped up in the air and not have a charge called on him because some sneaky defensive player snuck into his path after he has taken off. I can't emphasize this enough. There are some defenders who don't even try to defend and merely try to take charges all the time (ahem, Josh Hairston). The charge/block foul call issue has allowed defensive players to play passive defense by simply getting in the way of the offensive player and has taken away some of the aggressiveness allowed by an offensive player. This needs to be changed. I think if officials would start to give more preference to the offensive player and actually force defensive players to play defense as opposed to simply standing in the way it will increase scoring. This is the easiest and most obvious way to increase scoring.

2. Reduce the amount of timeouts each team gets. There are way too many stoppages of play at the end of a college basketball game. There are a couple of options to correct this. Change the amount of "use it or lose it" timeouts to two in the first half, but this would result in the same amount of stoppages, just with longer spaces between each of them. The other option is to give each team four timeouts (I would even go to three timeouts) and have one "use it or lose it" timeout in the first half. I would prefer this option because it makes timeouts a more valuable and strategic quantity than they currently are. A coach would have to use strategy on when to call the timeouts at the end of the game because there is a more limited amount of those timeouts to use.

3. Shorten the shot clock. I think putting the shot clock to 30 seconds would be sufficient. The key part is this is a change that can easily be changed back if it doesn't work out. I'm not proposing changing the shot clock back to 35 seconds after one year, but if it fails to improve the game for 3 consecutive years then it can be put back to 35 seconds.

4. Reduce the physicalness on the inside. I consistently see a defender using two hands to push a guy off the block. That's a foul and should be called a foul. Also this Flagrant 1 crap for an accidental elbow is stupid, but that's probably not going away so forget I even mentioned it. There needs to be a crackdown on hand-checking on the perimeter, while also a crackdown on offensive players using their arm to gain space and push the defender away. Part of the reason defenders are hand-checking is to prevent the offensive player from pushing off or using his hands to gain an advantage. Reduce hand-checking, but also reduce the offensive player pushing off or using his hands to gain an advantage.

5. Move the three-point line back another six to twelve inches. This will open up the lane just a little bit more, while making the three-point shot closer to the NBA line. I know the intended purpose is to increase scoring, but I think moving the three-point line back a little bit wouldn't decrease scoring and hopefully with the crackdown on hand-checking it will allow players to feel more comfortable driving into the lane.

This past season was the lowest scoring in six decades and average tempo across Division I continues to slow. In order to combat that, more and more support is developing for a shortening of the shot clock, to encourage more possessions in a game, which would assumedly raise scoring.

It could have other effects as well. The shorter shot clock could give teams a sense of urgency on the offensive end and improve the overall game. Not that there isn't a sense of urgency now, but the game could be made more exciting if teams are forced to get into their offense at a faster rate. I don't think it would affect the different pace each team plays to remove five seconds from the shot clock. It doesn't help college basketball defenses seem to be ahead of college basketball offenses at this point. More elaborate defenses allow a defense to take away an offensive's tendencies and preferences. This has allowed college basketball defenses to catch up with and surpass college basketball offenses.

In the last part of this audio clip, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is the latest to discuss the shot clock question, noting that Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a recent meeting that men’s college basketball is “the slowest game in the world.”

It's weird hearing Tom Izzio say he wants to speed the college game up, because I tend to associate him with a more grinding-type of offense that encourages offensive rebounding and working the shot clock to get a good shot. That's just my stereotype of his offense at Michigan State.

But shortening the shot clock would be a faulty fix for what currently ails the game, as too many people are conflating “slow” with “overly physical” and “overcoached.” 

I'm not disagreeing with this comment on its face. Yes, I agree the college game is vastly overcoached and too physical, but I also think the shot clock should be shortened. Part of the reason the game is overcoached and overly physical is because teams have 35 seconds on the shot clock. Defenses have more time to set up on defense (increasing the amount of time post players are jockeying for position in the post), the offense has more time to run players off multiple screens (thereby causing the hand-checking and physical play that goes along with defending these screens). I don't think reducing the shot clock to 30 seconds is the only "fix" by any measure, but it is a smart move to make in order to increase the speed of the college game and give the offense less time to run four high-screens on one offensive possession. It forces the offense to be more decisive with the ball as well.

On a base level, no one is forced to use all 35 seconds to take a shot on any possession, and no defense is required to allow an opponent to use the full clock on any given possession.

Again, agreed. But the fact those 35 seconds are there means a team has 35 seconds they know they can use on offense and a defense knows they will have to defend for a full 35 seconds. Teams knowing that 35 seconds are there on the shot clock can't be ignored. It affects the defensive and offensive strategies on each possession. The fact a team doesn't have to use the full shot clock doesn't mean teams won't use the full shot clock or rely on having 35 seconds to shoot the ball. 

That ongoing battle is part of what makes games with style contrasts interesting. “Slow” basketball teams can run wonderful, entertaining offense. “Fast” teams can look like complete garbage.

I agree with this as well. Reducing the shot clock to 30 seconds is a reduction small enough to make a difference, but not such a large change it will force all the teams to run "fast" and make "slow" teams struggle to keep up. 30 seconds is still plenty of time to run an offense. I don't think reducing the shot clock is going to homogenize the pace of the game.

College basketball can effect more change simply by cracking down on handchecking and chucking cutters in the lane,

Very true, but part of the reason there is hand-checking cutters being chucked in the lane is the offense has time to dribble the ball out on the perimeter for 15-20 seconds and a team can run a cutter in the lane 2-3 times or try to run a screen for a shooter 2-3 times if they want. I can't see how the longer time spent on offense doesn't increase the amount of hand-checking and chucking cutters in the lane. I would rather college basketball crack down on this hand-checking AND reduce the shot clock to 30 seconds. Hand-checking should be more strictly enforced because those are the rules that need to be enforced and the shot clock should be reduced in order to make it even slightly easier to enforce these rules.

Forcing more possessions into the current overly physical box could actually have a worsening effect, especially as more and more coaches continue to eschew offensive rebounding in order to limit transition opportunities for opponents.

Why look at this as an "either/or" situation? It's not. The NCAA can reduce the physicality and reduce the shot clock at the same time. That way the reduced shot clock doesn't make the box even more physical than it currently is. Both can be done.

Teams will continue to end up in more halfcourt sets, but now with fewer seconds to operate, which will definitely lead to more shots (and more turnovers), but almost certainly not better shots or more artful possessions.

Maybe it won't lead to more artful possessions or better shots, but it very well could as well. The shorter shot clock could offenses to get into their sets faster and possibly not wait around for the "best" shot. I think it is hard to say a shorter shot clock "certainly" would not lead to better shots and more artful possessions. This would remain to be seen. Perhaps an offense would gain a greater sense of urgency and offensive focus with the shorter shot clock.

There’s no way basketball requires upwards of 20 time stoppages in a 40-minute game. That further enables in-game overcoaching, which is curious in an era where complaints about the overall talent levels in the college game (and, especially, the dearth of quality point guards) are rampant. So we want to shorten possessions, overcoach them, and assume hundreds of teams without good lead guards will be able to execute consistently against increasingly sophisticated defenses?

Not at all. We want to limit the time of the offense's possession (shorten makes it sound like an offense can't run a play with a 30 second shot clock, which is inaccurate), limit timeouts, and then let the teams try to score against the increasingly sophisticated defenses. Giving a point guard who isn't very good five more seconds to run the offense doesn't mean he is going to be able to figure out how to beat a team's defense. So the move from 35 to 30 seconds on the shot clock wouldn't really impact teams with bad point guards. If they can't figure the defense out, five extra seconds won't help with that.

It's funny that Andy Glockner complains of the overcoaching of these players, but then also says we shouldn't shorten the shot clock because "hundreds of teams without good lead guards" won't be able to execute against the defense. This is almost an argument for overcoaching the players and keeping the current number of timeouts by saying hundreds of players can't execute against a sophisticated defense without those five extra seconds on the shot clock to do so.

Increased homogeneity is not good for the college game. Whether it’s the undercutting of alternate styles of play or the increase in NBA-style isolations that would result from a shorter clock, it would, over time, create a more standard product that’s being run by hugely varying levels of talent.

Changing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds is going to create a much more standard product? It's five seconds. Teams that want to run are still going to be able to run and teams that want to use all of the shot clock will still have 30 seconds to take a shot. It's five seconds, which is enough time to get into the offense and execute, but not too much time that the point guard stands at the top of the key for 10 seconds waiting to see if a guy coming off a screen can get open.

I also question whether a 30 second shot clock will lead to more NBA-style isolations. I guess we would see, but I don't think it would have such a dramatic effect on college basketball offenses as Andy Glockner believes it does. I think 30 seconds to shoot the ball is the perfect combination of enough time to move the ball around on offense, but not too much time to allow the offense to become stagnant.

Maybe Kentucky could play the new way effectively, but what about Western Kentucky?

There isn't a new way to play. The way to play stays the exact same, it's just teams have less time to run their offense. It speeds up the game, along with the other rule changes that Andy Glockner and I agree on. We saw in the NCAA Tournament this year that teams from mid-major or lower Division-I conferences can play a fast-paced game. Every mid-major or MEAC team doesn't necessarily play at a slower pace or would struggle at a faster pace.

Additionally, forcing more possessions into a game is likely to reduce upsets, as teams with lesser talent will have to outperform for more trips down the floor.

The point of playing a basketball game isn't necessarily to have upsets. It's always fun to see upsets, but a reduction in upsets isn't a reason to not make a reasonable change to the game of college basketball. The reason to make or not make rule changes should not be to ensure these rule changes tilt the balance in favor of upsets. Reducing the amount of timeouts in a game would also favor teams who are more talented and better coached (which generally describes teams who are considered to be the "favorite"), but Andy Glockner has no issue with reducing the amount of timeouts a team can take.

Is a more generic approach with fewer shockers what you want from your regular season, let alone from the first weekend of the NCAA tournament? 

Again, the more generic approach is an assumption being made that I am not sure is an accurate assumption.

Lowering the shot clock to 30 seconds wouldn’t destroy college hoops, but it should be considered only after other changes are made.

No, it should be considered in conjunction with other changes being made. If the purpose is to speed up the tempo of games on each team's possession, reducing the amount of timeouts each team has and reducing the physicality isn't going to necessarily speed the game up. Reducing the amount of time a team has to shoot the ball and increasing the number of possessions seems to be an easy (and easily changeable if it doesn't work) way of increasing the tempo.

Once the game is cleaned up and flowing better, then you can get a fair sense of whether the “slowness” of the game needs to be changed.

If officials crack down on the physicality of the game then that means more fouls will be called. More fouls messes up the flow of the game. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is a way to crack down on hand-checking and the physicality in the box without calling fouls and I'm just not aware of it.

While it may benefit the overall development of basketball to have all players playing under more consistent rules, it wouldn’t be good for the college game itself.

What is all this "consistent rules" shit? The rules will not change. Each team has 30 seconds to shoot the basketball on offense. Teams can still run different offenses and play at whatever pace they choose to play at. Are there not consistent rules right now in college basketball or something with the 35 second shot clock? I was under the impression the 35 second shot clock was a consistent rule in itself, so I'm not sure how taking five seconds away from the offensive team will all of a sudden make the rules more consistent.

Let the D-League prep players for the pros. Our game doesn’t have to be more of a de facto minor league setup than it already is.

What? This entire column has been about changing the rules to increase the pace of the college basketball game and in the very last sentence Andy Glockner throws in a mention of college basketball changing the rules to be more like the NBA. It's out of nowhere.

It sounds like Glockner is overly sensitive to college basketball turning into the NBA, but even with a 30 second shot clock in college basketball this is still 6 seconds more than NBA offenses have to shoot the ball. Obviously Glockner thinks moving from 35 to 30 seconds would make a huge difference in the college game, so wouldn't that mean there is still a huge difference in a 30 second shot clock and the 24 second shot clock in the NBA? After all, if five seconds makes such a great difference in the college game then there must be an even greater difference in the six seconds from the 30 second shot clock in college to the 24 second shot clock in the NBA .


JBsptfn said...

Another change I would make is the Possession Arrow. It has to go.

Bengoodfella said...

JB, I agree with that too. There is a short tie-up and the next thing you know another team has possessions. It drives me crazy too. A guy may go up for a layup and the defender gets his hands on the ball and the next thing you know "dual possession" is called and the ball changes hands.