Is the NCAA ready to shorten the shot clock? Is that enough?

The NCAA men’s basketball rules committee has been meeting this week, holding its annual review and inspection of the game. While many season pass without significant changes, or perhaps minor tweaks, a rather significant alteration to the shot clock is expected to be announced on Friday.

There has been a growing sentiment among coaches, officials and media members that the college shot clock should be shortened from 35 seconds to 30 before the 2015-16 season. There is a general belief that the shorter shot clock will speed up the game, lead to more possessions and result in higher scorers.

But regardless of the committee’s decision,the impact of the shot clock on the game will continue to be debated.

Rick Byrd, chairman of the rules committee and head coach at Belmont, told ESPN last month that he believes the shorter shot clock will be approved. Byrd said support for the change has changed dramatically in the past year.

“It’s pretty evident a lot more coaches are leaning that way,” Byrd told college basketball senior writer Andy Katz. “The opinion of coaches on the shot clock has moved significantly to reducing it from 35 to 30. And all indicators are pointing toward that.”

Byrd said in the interview that there is a tendency to waste 15 seconds before there is movement toward scoring.

“There’s a lot of inactivity in some coaches’ approach to offense,” Byrd  said. “I do think the shot clock would help with that. There would be more flow.”

Scoring in Division I men’s basketball has dropped to 1952 levels. Two seasons ago it was 67.5 points per game. Last season the average was 67.6. That has launched a considerable amount of criticism. Even Geno Auriemma, who has led the UConn women to 10 national championships, joined the attack on the men’s game.

“I think the game is a joke,” Auriemma said.”It really is. I don’t coach it. I don’t play it, so I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator, forget that I’m a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it’s a joke. There’s only like ten teams, you know, out of 25, that actually play the kind of game of basketball that you’d like to watch. Every coach will tell you that there’s 90 million reasons for it.

“And the bottom line is that nobody can score, and they’ll tell you it’s because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense. College men’s basketball is so far behind the times it’s unbelievable. I mean women’s basketball is behind the times. Men’s basketball is even further behind the times.”

The NIT, CBI and CIT postseason tournaments experimented with th3 30-second clock while the NCAA continued on with the 35-second clock in March. Watching UConn in the NIT didn’t provide much of an opportunity to gather data or get a feeling for the change. My observation in the Arizona State game was that it didn’t alter the game much.

Ken Pomeroy, considered the best in advance analytics for college basketball, did an article for DeadSpin titled “Regressing” and broke down the postseason data in terms of scoring, pace, efficiency, and shooting. He observed that since 2009, when the CIT debuted, “games in the NCAA tournament have averaged 3.2 fewer points than games in the other tournaments.”

ESPN polled 460 Division I coaches in February and 59 percent (270) said they would prefer a 30-second clock. Thirty percent favored the status quo of 35 seconds and 10 percent wanted to move to the 24-second clock used in NBA and international play. There are those, including Villanova coach Jay Wright, that say every level of basketball should adopt the 24-second rule.

“We should all learn to play the game the same way,” Wright told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. “The game is still the game. Everything you do to the game, everyone’s adjusted.”

If the game is the same, as Wright says, then I’m not sure trimming five second off the shot clock is going to guarantee more points. As someone who has been observing the game for almost 40 years, the problem is much bigger and more complicated.

Mike DeCourcy, my long-time friend from The Sporting News, made a compelling argument earlier this week that it all starts with an emphasis on defense. DeCourcy is worried that shortening the clock could actually make the college game tougher to watch.

In my book, it’s all about fundamentals. From the day James Naismith invented the game, fundamentals have been the heart of basketball. These days, college coaches do not spend enough time on those fundamentals. Why not? There are several reasons.

First, you can blame the structure of the game. In common venacular, that means the one-and-done society. It’s much more than that. There are a handful of players who take advantage of the opportunity to turn pro after one season. The bigger problem is the diminishing number of players who vow to stay four years anbd develop their skills. Gone are the days where players remained on campus to become the best they can after four years – and earn their degrees. The pressure to leave after two or three seasons is just as intense as the one-and-done idea.

Don’t blame Kentucky, Duke and Kansas alone in this trend.

Second, college basketball’s scheduling process is out of whack. Made-for-TV matchups that usher in the new season from October to December have taken priority over conference games in many cases. Coaches feel hurried to get ready for marquee games that could determine their RPI and NCAA tournament status. Instead of dwelling on basics that could help in March, coaches rush to insert their playbook and install offensive and defensive sets.

It’s a chain reaction triggered by a crumbling culture for basketball in our country. High school programs have become a side attraction to the year-long commitment to AAU basketball. Soon players will be making or breaking their reputations in summer camps where games rule the day. Game after game after game.

Practice? What practice? Fundamentals? We’ll do that later. Then they never do.

We need a new model. It has been talked about for years and years. It’s time to do something.

A five-second adjustment might be part of the equation. But much more needs to be done.





























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