clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Leave the Shot Clock at 35 Seconds, Or Ruin College Basketball

Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

If you want to kill the diversity of the college game, the first thing you would do would be to reduce the shot clock down to 24 seconds, just like in the pros. Not that I think that Eammon Brennan is trying to kill college basketball as we know it (he said as much on Twitter), but that is the argument he is waging over at ESPN.

This may have been spurred by the recent poll at CBS that had 19 percent of coaches saying that the shot clock should be shortened to 24 seconds -- an interesting result considering the variety in styles of play that exist.

Brennan was countered by Myron Medcalf, who helped to provide some of the counter point for why the 35-second clock is more manageable for the college game. But he only went so far.

And while he clearly pointed out that the competitive advantage that mid-major programs have against the big boys is their ability to slow down the game, that is not the only issue.

College basketball is all about the freedom to build your team around its strengths, and not be tied into a single ideal structure. The 35-second shot clock is what allows for that diversity.

While the NBA game continues to be dominated by singular personalities and the ability to break down a defense for a one-on-one situation (Side Note here: I am not a fan of the way basketball is played in the NBA. Sure it can be exciting and high-flying, and have a lot of flair, but it all looks the same. It feels to me like every team plays a version of the same offense: isolate and have the ball in the best player's hands to drive and get fouled). The college game is much more a team-oriented game.

Look at the ball distribution for a team like Kentucky, a team that was packed with eventual NBA players. The five players that led the team all had between 378 and 457 possessions, with the most going to Marquis Teague, who was the point guard (and incidentally the worst offensive player of the five). The point here is that even for a team stacked with pros, they played a team game where no one player had a disproportionate share of the basketball.

The Wildcats were obviously ready for the NBA in the minds of the scouting departments that placed a record number of them into the first round. Where does changing the shot clock benefit them? And at what cost to the other Division 1 teams?

To run a pro-style offense, you need a pro-level talent at the center of your team. That just doesn't exist at all 300-plus schools in Division 1. It never will.

You have to have the time for the players to find the open man, or run the play that gets them to the best opportunity to score. Sure, this can lead to some dead possessions at the end of games, where teams are trying to milk the clock for as long as possible, but it also allows for more variety in the offense.

College defenses are allowed to play much more varied styles than in the pros, allowing teams to be much more stingy with paths to the basket. Imagine trying to go against a 2-3 zone that has been developed to the level that Syracuse plays it, with just 24 seconds to act.

Most teams would find it hard to get a man open, let alone make a good shot choice in that time. Instead of opening up the game, as Brennan thought the shorter clock would do, it might stifle scoring more.

The zone would become the de facto defense for almost every team in the country overnight, no matter how athletic the players are, if only because it would hold back most opponents' ability to generate any semblance of an offense.

Perhaps if Brennan wants to see his faster brand of basketball, the better thing for him to do would be to follow the Southland conference. Of the top 20 teams in offensive possessions per game, four were from the Southland, including the fastest squad in the country, Texas State.

And faster doesn't necessarily mean better. Of those same teams in the top 20 in terms of "speed", just four cracked into the NCAA Tournament last season, the same number as came from the slowest teams in Division 1.