I am back from a week in the Phoenix area where I got to experience warm weather and some Spring Training baseball with an old friend from grad school days and his lovely wife. The view outside Curmudgeon Central reveals the remnants of an early March snowstorm here in the DC area reminding me that it is not yet baseball season and that March Madness is the next big thing. As I caught up on the Sports Sections of the Washington Post that I missed while I was gone, I ran across a large first page article suggesting that the 35-second shot clock might be too long for men’s college basketball and that perhaps a 30-second shot clock was the way to go.
Before I respond to that suggestion directly, I must reveal that I was not one of the folks who was outraged by Dean Smith’s “invention” of the four-corners offense. Yes, it kept scores low and yes, it took the pace of the game down to a glacial level. Nevertheless, all that an opponent needed to do was to play effective defense and steal the ball a couple of times to counteract the four-corners offense. If the opponent was incapable of doing that, I saw no compelling reason for the rules committee to come to its rescue. I do not expect you to agree with me there…
The rescue attempt put a 45-second shot clock into the rule book and then it was shortened to 35 seconds. Once again, I see no reason to make it any shorter. I know that some folks are unhappy with the diminished scoring in college basketball over the past couple of years but I think there is a far more fundamental reason for the low scores than the 35-second shot clock. That reason is:
Precious few college basketball players can hit a mid-range jump shot with any regularity these days.
I believe there are two causes for that inability:
First, players practice and attempt 3-point shots instead of 15-foot jump shots from the time they are about 12 years old and can launch a basketball all the way from the 3-point line to the basket.
Second, when players are inside the arc, many of them either drive to the basket seeking a dunk or are the recipients of alley-oop passes for dunks.
If one seeks to “increase scoring” by going to the rule book and making changes – other than the trivial way of making field goals worth 5 points each and foul shots worth 3 points – I believe the most effective thing to do would be to devalue dunking the basketball. No, it should not be outlawed as it was for more than a decade. However, if a dunk were only worth 1 point instead of 2 points, there would be a real incentive for players to learn to get open and hit a jump shot. Should that need reinforcing, add to the rule book that any player who hangs on the rim for any reason receives a technical foul and you will have discouraged the alley-oop play sufficiently.
Changing the shot clock may or may not increase scoring but it will change the game. The women use a 30-second shot clock in their college games and in the WNBA. Please do not try to convince me that the shorter shot clock makes those games more exciting than a men’s college basketball game. That is simply not the case.
The NBA uses a 24-second shot clock and it does provide for more shooting and more scoring than the college game. The NBA also has far greater “talent density” than any men’s collegiate team and that increased “talent density” allows for a couple of other things to tend towards higher scores:
There are more “good shooters” on NBA teams than on college teams. Many of the guys at the end of the bench on an NBA team were the best players on their collegiate squads.
Pro players learn by example that – as entertainers – they get the “big bucks” by putting up scoring stats and not defensive stats. That motivates NBA players to work on their shooting skills and leaves defensive developments lagging.
I would prefer that they leave the 35-second shot clock alone and leave men’s college basketball as a game that is distinct from the NBA or women’s basketball or high school basketball. If a game winds up 53-51 and neither team ever led by more than 6-points throughout the game, I think that game is plenty exciting and interesting to watch. Just because the final score is 83-81 does not make a game exponentially more interesting to watch.
MLS and the MLS players’ union signed a 5-year CBA just before the scheduled start of the MLS season meaning the league can enter its 20th season on time and without a Sword of Damocles hanging over its head. An expansion team in Orlando has strong community support and a crowd of almost 60,000 folks showed up for the first home game. Games this year will be shown on FOX Sports and on ESPN; the MLS TV rights fees have more than tripled in the last year over previous TV revenues.
There is another interesting “business development” related to MLS. The Columbus Crew play in a soccer-only stadium and that stadium now has a corporate naming sponsor. While that may not be “news”, the interesting thing is that the sponsor is Mapfre – a Spanish insurance company. Some folks in Spain assess that naming rights in the US for a soccer team is a good investment of resources.
I have a friend who works on the “business side” for an MLS team. All during the winter when labor negotiations were stalled, he kept saying that a strike was in no one’s interest and that there would be an agreement. He also said that neither side had any motivation to reveal its final negotiating position until the eleventh-hour of the negotiations. He said back in January that the final deal would likely happen 48 hours before the season started. Well, it happened about 72 hours before the season was scheduled to start. I think that is close enough.
Finally, here is an item from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding another change needed in college basketball to make the game more interesting to watch. I can agree with Professor Molinaro completely on this one:
“Just shoot me: During overtime of the VT-Duke game, officials interrupted play for about a minute to check a video monitor before bumping up time on the game clock from 15.4 to 15.8 seconds. Another abuse of technology, if you ask me.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………