From 35 To 30: Why NCAA Basketball Needs To Shorten Shot Clock

Richie ZawistowskiCorrespondent IMay 12, 2010

Alright, let’s get one thing out of the way first of all. I fully believe that defense wins championships, and you won’t convince me otherwise. I have no problem with defensive-oriented game plans.

A slow-it-down defensive-oriented approach got Butler into the National Championship Game and nearly won it for them, as Gordon Hayward almost hit a game-winner from half court, but ultimately Duke endured and won 61-59.

Plodding Along

61-59 was the fifth lowest National Championship Game score over the past 45 years of college basketball. Besides the final minute or so, the game was hardly entertaining to watch. Take out the fact that it was Butler going for the Cinderella season, and you have a decent game of basketball. Kyle Singler tried to perfect the Cinderella season for Butler and give the game away for Duke, committing an out-of-control traveling violation, and later jacking up an air-ball on a wide open look from 16-feet with under a minute remaining.

Getting back to the point, it was a low scoring game. Not since 2002 when Maryland defeated Indiana 64-52 (another boring game) has a National Championship Game had such a low score.

Like I said from the start, I’m fine with defensive-oriented basketball, and I understand the concept of taking the ball out of your opponents hand to limit their possessions. But man, you’ve got to score the ball as well. Why was the shot clock developed in the first place? To speed up the pace of the game, induce higher scores, and make the end of games more exciting.

Time For a Change

Basketball has obviously changed drastically from its early days. The NCAA has recently recognized this, and has made changes over the last few years. They moved the three-point line back to 20.9 feet beginning in the 2008 season; they also shortened the shot clock from 45 to 35 seconds in 1993.

The NCAA needs to make another change to the shot clock, and seriously consider adapting the rules and shortening the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30.

The formula used to determine the shot clock was to take the average amount of shots in a game and divide it by the total number of seconds in a game. Using the formula of a 35-second shot clock, the average number of shots in a game is 68.57.

You’ve got to be kidding me. 68 shots? In the fifth-lowest scoring National Championship Game in the past 45 years, there was a combined 120 attempted shots.

58 for Butler and 52 for Duke. Most games are not going to feature 120 shots, as that number is a bit off-par, but during a typical college game, I’d say a range between 80-120 shots could be attempted.

30 Seconds

So let’s use the most conservative number that is reasonable, and plug in 80 shots into the formula. We take the 2,400 total seconds of a game divided by 80 total shots, and we have a 30-second shot clock, and a much more exciting style of basketball.

But the best thing about shortening the shot clock, is it is an advantage to both the offense and defense.

Back when the NCAA shortened the clock from 45 to 35 seconds, defensive-minded coach Kevin O’Neill, now head coach at USC but then with Marquette, disliked the move at first. He later admitted he preferred it over the 45-second clock.

“It took me about 10 games to figure that out,” O’Neill said.  “If you play man-to-man defense the way we do, it becomes an advantage, because people have to shoot early instead of keep holding the ball.”

“I think the shortening of the shot clock has created extra pressure to make shots as the clock goes down. I think NBA guys handle that very well. I think college guys handle it very badly.”

While O’Neill admits it helps defensive-oriented teams, it will also help offenses by the simple fact of adding more possessions to the average game. The more possessions means more points, and at the very least, more excitement.

The NCAA has changed the rules on this once before, and they should consider doing so again. By changing the length of the shot clock to 30 seconds, they're making the game more relevant to the way it is played today.


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