Why Reducing The College Basketball Shot Clock Is A Bad Idea

A recent poll of coaches regarding the college basketball shot clock showed that most of them want to reduce it from the current 35 seconds down to 30. In listening to the debate, all of it surrounds not whether to reduce the time allotted on the shot clock, but how far to reduce it—with 30 and the NBA’s 24 seconds being the options. I think this is completely on the wrong track. The clock should actually be increased to 45.

The reason most people want the clock reduced is to get more scoring. I understand the concerns—there are a lot of ugly college basketball games that have nothing to do with great defense. But the problem isn’t the shot clock, it’s that too many teams can’t run a legitimate half-court offense. And reducing the clock will only make that worse.
College Basketball Shot ClockCollege basketball has seen a drastic decline in the quality of talent, thanks to early entries into the NBA draft. What’s happened is that the talent that remains—on average throughout the country—is simply not good enough to run a good halfcourt set in a tight timeframe. When talent levels in basketball decline, you need to increase the amount of time they have to find a good shot.
Let me explain my view by illustrating the extremes. Let’s consider a possession in which team feeds its post player on the block. A double-team comes and the ball is kicked out to the wing, reversed to the backside, for open 10-footer on the opposite baseline.
If an NBA team runs this sequence, the ball gets from one side to the other very quickly. When the San Antonio Spurs are clicking, the ball barely sticks in anyone’s hand as it’s rapidly reversed. If you give NBA talent more than 24 seconds to find a shot, the defense will have no chance.
But what if a junior high team tries the same thing. It’s going to move very slowly, probably not make it there at all and they’ll have to reset the entire offense, if there’s not a turnover first. They need more time.
Obviously, even with the early entries to the NBA draft, college basketball isn’t that far behind the pros. But colleges are a lot further behind than they are used to. That’s why I advocate returning to the 45-second clock that was standard in college basketball from 1986-94.
No one complained about low scoring games in the era of 1986-94. You had a wide variety of styles, from Bob Knight’s halfcourt motion offense at Indiana, to the late Jerry Tarkanian’s ‘Running Rebels at UNLV, from Coach K’s own version of the motion at Duke to Nolan Richardson’s’ “40 Minutes Of Hell” at Arkansas. The 45-second clock kept games moving, while allowing each program to develop its own identity.

The problem in college basketball today is that very few teams run a good halfcourt set anymore. Patience on offense boils down to a point guard holding the ball on the top until the clock is down to 8-10 seconds and then somebody jacking up a three. I daresay even the most ardent advocate of a lower shot clock would prefer a 58-54 game that had quality halfcourt possessions rather than a 69-66 game that just had a higher volume of lousy possessions like these.
Now if coaches aren’t going to teach halfcourt basketball anymore, then reducing the clock is no big deal—I suppose if teams are just going to aimlessly toss the ball around the perimeter before shooting the trey, they can do that in 24 seconds as easily as 35. But even with higher point totals, it isn’t going to increase the quality of play. Perhaps giving coaches an extra ten seconds, and the encouragement to teach legitimate half-court offense will.