Let me be sure to start with full disclosure here. I was not in favor of the idea of changing the college basketball shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. I was not upset with the “pace of the game” nor did I think that emulating women’s college basketball or the WNBA – both of which use a 30-second shot clock – was a positive role model for the men’s game. The rules mavens have made the change and after reflecting on that change, I still do not like the 30-second shot clock.
Using the NBA as a role model for the college game is also flawed. When I watch a game between two good NBA teams – such as in the playoffs – here is what “NBA offense” devolves to much of the time:
1. Give the ball to the best player on a team and have everyone else get out of the way and/or prepare to hit the offensive boards.
2. Give the ball to the point guard who penetrates and either gets a layup or he passes the ball out to someone standing at the three-point line for a jump shot.
Once in a while, they will add a pick-and-roll to the options above just to “keep the defense honest”. I do not find that nearly as interesting as the men’s college game is. I am not trying to be a harbinger of doom here with regard to the 30-second shot clock, but it is an inexorable fact that the shorter the shot clock the less time a team on offense has to run an offensive set to get a really good shot. I do not think that having the clock at 30 seconds “crosses the Rubicon” so to speak, but it is not a step in the right direction.
My point here is that men’s college basketball and NBA basketball are not the same game; in fact, they are merely cousins not even siblings. The talent level and the athleticism on the worst NBA team is superior to any college team. That is why NBA coaches can focus on simple offensive tactics; they need not employ a lot of trickery or motion for their players to create a good shot. That is also why men’s college basketball ought not to try to emulate the NBA and its shorter shot clock.
Here is another potential problem that a shorter shot clock may create. With less time to run set offenses, some coaches will look to “spread the floor” and have a player drive off that spread formation. To those who thought there were too many free throws in college basketball last year, they will really dislike what happens in games where one or both coaches employ that strategy. There will be loads of fouls called; the only “beneficiaries” may be the guys who are the ninth and tenth men on the squad who will get a few extra minutes on the floor instead of on the bench in some games.
I think there may be another fallout from the rule change that derives from the Law of Unintended Consequences. Let me give you two examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences here before looking at how the college basketball rule change may create some unintended consequences:
Laws that prohibit public actions or behaviors that are in demand create black markets to serve the need for such actions/behaviors. The fact that you have a “local bookie” is due to the fact that many desirable forms of gambling are illegal and cannot be done in the open. The entire Prohibition Era in the US in the 1920s was an example of the creation of such black markets.
Back in the 1970s, the US Congress enacted the Federal Election Campaign Act with the purpose of limiting the influence that wealthy contributors may have on federal elections. That law allowed for the creation of PACs – and ultimately Super PACs – which have magnified the amount of influence wealthy contributors might have on elections.
Back to college basketball now… One of the fun/interesting things about the NCAA Tournament is the chance to see a Cinderella team “make a run”. There is usually a Cinderella every year; few of them make it to the Final Four and only NC State and Villanova were Cinderellas that actually won it all. Notwithstanding this limitation, they are fun to watch and even to root for. Shortening the shot clock tends to stack the deck even more strongly against Cinderellas. Shorter shot clocks mean more possessions per game meaning that is a greater number of opportunities for the “better teams” to demonstrate their superiority.
I agree that men’s college basketball needs changes. However, changing the shot clock would not have been my preferred way to make the game better. I think the rules governing contact with players who do not have the ball need to be strengthened – and made points of emphasis for the officials. I think that change would do more to make the game of men’s college basketball better next year than will the shorter shot clock.
That is my story and I am sticking to it…
Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had a different idea for how to improve men’s college basketball and to increase scoring:
“They rejected my idea to encourage quick passes and lots of shots: Randomly exploding basketballs.”
A quick look at the standings in the American League shows some potential for an interesting September:
The Twins were riding high at the All-Star break. However, in their last 30 games they are 10-20.
The Angels are only 2.5 games out of first place in the AL West despite a record of 8-17 in their last 25 games. How did the Astros not find a way to open a 6 or 7 game lead here?
The Rangers are third in the AL in scoring – and they are the third worst team in the AL in runs allowed. Fun and games in Arlington…
The Blue Jays end the season with their last 7 games on the road. From their point of view, that is a sub-optimal schedule.
Finally, here is one more item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“National gymnastics championships end Sunday in Indiana, where Miami’s Danell Leyva hoped to perform a parallel bars maneuver so groundbreaking that, if successful, it would be named after him. I can relate. In sports writing, someone who mails in a slapdash column is said to have ‘nailed a Cote.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………