Calling for Change: Shorten the College Shot Clock

35 seconds is an eternity, one that needlessly puts control of the game into the hands of time-wasting coaches instead of the talented players we tune in to watch. 

The NCAA shot clock has long been 5 seconds longer than its high school counterpart, the 30 second shot clock.  As we’ve seen every March, college basketball is plenty exciting, with countless games coming down to the wire.  So why do I want to mess with a good thing?

It’s simple: 35 seconds is too long.  As exciting as games are, they could be even better.  Teams milk the clock at the end of the game, passing the ball around 30 feet from the basket with no intention of making any sort of move toward the basket.  That’s boring.

So why not just shorten the clock to the 30 seconds high schoolers are already used to?  This quickening of the pace would create at least another 11 possessions per game, and most likely many more than that.  At 35 seconds the absolute minimum is 69 total possessions per game, while at 30 it’s 80.  As seen in the NBA, the more possessions, the more entertaining the game, generally.  A long shot clock is like the neutral zone trap in hockey, it slows down the game and enables the winning team to simply waste time instead of continuing to attack–the most exciting part of any game. 

No one likes to see teams dribbling out the clock, just as no one enjoyed watching the ’90s and early 2000s versions of the New Jersey Devils dump the puck into the opponent’s end and stack the neutral zone, making any sort of engaging play extremely difficult.  Winning is fun for the winners, but great play is fun for fans of the sport, regardless of team affiliation. 

If we shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds teams will still have time to run an offense and involve all their players–the purpose of having a longer time limit than the NBA–but the games will be more entertaining and ultimately, because of more possessions and therefore more foul trouble, will involve additional NCAA athletes, perhaps giving the walk-on twelfth man a chance to make an impact in a game that counts. 

I can’t say there’s anything I’d rather see than that.

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