By: Jimmy Gang – Staff Writer
Clock conundrum: Will decreasing the shot clock help men’s college hoops?
This is it: Georgia Southern is down by 2 to Georgia State; an NCAA Tournament berth, a Sun Belt Conference title and rivalry bragging rights are on the line. Kyle Doyle inbounds the ball to Eric Furgeson with five seconds left, he dribbles once, sets his feet and lets it fly. The crowd holds its collective breath, time seems to stand still for everyone in the building as the air thins due to the collective inhale. The shot caroms off the rim, and Georgia State has earned an NCAA Tournament bid and a date with the third-seeded Baylor Bears in Jacksonville, Florida. The final score of this thrilling game: 38-36. No, that wasn’t a typo and I’m not confused as to which sport was played. This is supposed to be championship level college basketball.
One thing that comes to mind when thinking of ways to keep teams from competing in games that finish below 80 total points is shortening the shot clock. The shot clock was first introduced into the college game in the 1985-1986 season, with a 45-second clock. Currently, men’s NCAA basketball uses a 35-second shot clock, a change which was introduced in the 1993-1994 season. For reference: in the women’s game, a 30-second clock is used, and the NBA uses a 24-second clock. Many basketball pundits and coaches have recently come forward advocating it is time for the clock to be cut once again. Even President Obama in his annual bracketology special with ESPN’s Andy Katz has voiced his support for a shortened shot clock. Suggestions have ranged anywhere from a 30-27 second shot clock, but the real question is this: What would a world in which there is a shorter shot clock look like? As of right now, we might be getting a sneak peak of the future in the National Invitational Tournament.
In this year’s NIT, there are a few rule changes being experimented with, none more pivotal than setting the shot clock at 30-seconds. Already in the University of Rhode Island versus Iona College match up in round one, the two teams took a combined 34 more shots than average, but will this really make any kind of change to the exciting nature of college basketball? Did the fact that the Sun Belt title game was 38-36 make it any less thrilling game? Do some low scoring games keep us from fully enjoying the game that we all love so much?
I’ve been a basketball fan since I was a young. This passion was mostly sparked by the arrival of Bruce Pearl as the head basketball coach of the University of Tennessee in 2005. As a Knoxville, Tennesse, native and the child of two former UT students, I was raised to live and breathe Tennessee football, but when Pearl came to town something changed. Suddenly, there was this new thing called “basketball” that was new and exciting, and my favorite team was really good. Coach Pearl’s game plans revolved around a philosophy of “controlled chaos” with full court presses and constant pressure on the other team’s offense (somewhat similar to the “havoc” style used by the A-10’s own Virginia Commonwealth University).
I enjoyed the fast-paced, run and gun type of setup with great shooters like Chris Lofton and C.J. Watson roaming the court for the Vols, and I still do enjoy that style of play, but the bottom line here shortening the shot clock. Would it actually improve the game when we have coaches that appreciate the philosophy of scoring fast and pressuring for turnovers on defense? Many people would point to the style of play that the University of Virginia runs (slow paced with a focus on defense) as an example as to why the shot clock needs to be shortened, but would we just be trying to weed out a particular style of play that some people have deemed to be undesirable?
If a Bruce Pearl team played a UVA style team, and Pearl’s team was more talented, do you really believe that the more talented team would have any less of a chance of winning than it would with a shorter shot clock?
Buzzer beaters, huge upsets and the madness that is the NCAA Tournament are the reason we like to watch college basketball. And lower-scoring games don’t necessarily mean less excitement–just ask Georgia State.
There is an old saying, “It’s not about the X’s and the O’s; it’s about the Jimmys and the Joes,” and this Jimmy believes that the shortening of the shot clock would simply be a cosmetic touch up for the stat sheet, and the outcomes of games would be virtually unaffected. Maybe shortening the shot clock can reel in new fans to a faster-paced game, but it won’t change the reason anyone who is already a fan, player or coach loves the game.