30-second clock won't fix offensive flaws
Posted May 18, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — College basketball is moving at a fast-break pace to change its shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, but don’t expect a big increase in scoring totals when it happens.
If the NCAA’s playing rules oversight committee goes along with a recommendation made last week by its subcommittee, the new clock probably will arrive for the 2015-16 season.
Obviously is would be a popular move with many coaches.
“You have to play a game the fans are going to get excited to watch,” new Arizona State head coach and former Duke all-American playmaker Bobby Hurley told The New York Times last week.
ACC coaches generally favored the move so much that the league was slightly ahead of the curve and played a few 30-second clock preseason games last season. The post-season NIT went 30 all the way with Miami losing to Stanford in the title game.
The score of that game, by the way, was 66-64. In overtime. The semifinal scores were Miami 60, Temple 57 and Stanford, 67, Old Dominion 60.
The drift isn’t very hard to detect, of course.
Moving from 35 to 30 seconds is going to make very little immediate impact and even loss down the road. In 1993, the NCAA moved the clock from 45 to 35 seconds, but scoring has increased little and shooting percentages have dipped.
While there’s no compelling reason not to make the move, the theory that forcing teams to take quicker shots and a few more shots over the course of a game in no way guarantees higher scores – just as more scoring doesn’t necessarily assure fans of seeing more exciting games.
The NBA has had a 24-second shot clock and a 48-minute regulation game clock since the mid 1950s and yet only half of the league’s 30 teams average 100 or more points per game.
The Charlotte Hornets, which finished 33-49, failed to score more than 90 points in 17 games, including a 71-69 loss to Memphis very early in the season and a 93-74 loss to Indiana in April.
AAU has radically changed game
Rather than concentrating on a quicker shot clock, college basketball coaches might be wise to push for more time to be used on refining offensive systems and developing more uniform officiating.
There’s a strong argument to be made that the one thing that has most deteriorated college and high school offensive expertise is the influence of AAU competition, which basically is a 5-on-5 pick-up game style.
Many – maybe most in a lot of states – high school players spend more in AAU leagues and on spring-summer travel teams than with the high school coaches.
It’s just the nature of the competition and has been for years, but AAU basketball has a notoriously loose offensive structure, minimal defensive emphasis and the most casual officiating imaginable.
There was a time when at least 50 percent of all off-season basketball workouts and summer camps were devoted to refinement of game fundamentals.
At the nation’s first major summer camp, which was originated by the late Fred McCall at Campbell University in Buies Creek and with a big assist from UCLA’s John Wooden, hundreds of high school players each June would spend at least 30 minutes daily on shooting free throws alone.
McCall’s staff of camp advisors included dozens of high school and college coaches, including several from ACC schools.
A typical camp day would include 30-minute segments devoted to passing, dribbling, screening, off-ball movement and the gamut of defensive drills. The drills lasted seven hours daily and almost never included more than 90 minutes of actual game-simulated competition.
Wooden told me a few years later that those Campbell camps -- and others patterned after them over the years – did more to improve the sport’s quality of play than anything else during his era.
But at some point during the 1990s, summer camps became the victims of AAU leagues, which were built almost entirely on nonstop game competition. Emphasis on fundamentals by way of hands-on coaching input disappeared.
That style of game play became second nature to those players were good enough to compete at the college level and college coaches basically had to go with the AAU flow, whether they liked it not.
What we’re left with 25 or so years later is a college basketball product in which many players don’t know the difference between a good shot or a bad one, much less how to go about finding one as a team unit. On defense, players are apt to go kamikaze on one possession and matador on the next.
When you blend in three officials who could have three different agendas, it’s only natural that the end result becomes a sport that often takes on the appearance of indoor chaos.
Or as Dean Smith once said, “If you take bad shots, you’ll probably miss them whether there’s one second left on the clock or 35.”
Or 30, as the case may soon be.