A New Shot Clock for College Basketball: 24 seconds

The 2012-2013 college basketball season has thus far been a season of major upsets and equality across the nation. For the neutral and hardcore fan alike, it has not been a season of great offensive efficiency.

A quick Google search reveals numerous stories from headline sources detailing the historically low offensive season to date. Furthermore, television ratings (and the almighty dollar bill) have been in decline for a few years.

What does it all mean? A dying sport, or one in transition? Only time can really tell, but there is one solution the NCAA can implement as soon as next season: a new, shorter shot clock. The shot clock, first introduced at an agonizing 45 seconds in the 1985-1986 season was later trimmed to the current 35 second variation in the early 1990s. Now is the time to take the next evolution in the game and move to 24 seconds.

1. The NBA

Many college basketball fans share an aversion for the NBA. Regardless of the feelings of the hardcore fan, the league represents the highest level of basketball in the world. College basketball, often viewed as a feeder league to the NBA (especially in the one-and-done era), needs to move closer to the NBA style.

The current 11 second gap between the two shot clocks is superfluous. Although the nostalgic view holds college basketball in an unrealistic light in regards to the student athlete, collegiate sports have become a means to an end for the high level athlete. Even the mid-level high school recruit who statistically has only a slim shot at the NBA views college basketball as just a step in the long process of reaching their dream.

Accepting the reality of college basketball’s place, a 24 second shot clock helps the players develop at quicker paces. Allowing the players to develop quicker, allows them to become more efficient, and thus delivering a higher level of quality on the hardwood. Higher quality play is an aspect desperately absent from the current college game.

2. The Neutral Fan

There’s always a danger in a league catering exclusively to the neutral fan, but the perspective is important here. Neutral fans are not watching the college basketball regular season as often as years past according to the link above. Increased television ratings, the focal point of conference realignment on the football side, can benefit the sport in the long term.

Although college football will remain the dominant force in realignment, college basketball does not have to sit idly to the side and go a long for the ride. Increased television ratings by catching neutral fans from improving the quality of play will allow for the potential of greater revenue from television deals to go alongside the revenue from college football.

3. The Modern Athlete

Given the advances in medicine and science, the athlete today is in better shape than the athlete of years past. Why not cater to the new breed of athlete by quickening the pace of games?

Many freshmen enter college campuses with toned bodies due to strict training regimens. Others undergo huge transformations during the first few months on campus due to better diets and training emphasis from their coaches.

Today’s players are better equipped to handle a quicker paced game.

4. Increased Scoring

A 24 second shot clock gives each team, at a minimum, one full possession per minute of the game while one of the teams receives another half possession. Under the current 35 second clock, only one team is guaranteed a full possession per minute of game time.

Increased possessions in a game will allow teams to possess the ball more and subsequently score more. Even if shooting percentages drop or, more likely, stay the same, they’ll be able to score more points per game by virtue of having more opportunities to score.

Under the 24 second clock, each team is guaranteed 60 possessions at a minimum each game. Assuming, hypothetically, a team shot 40% for a game, did not attempt a three point field goal, did not achieve a single offensive rebound, and all made shots were two points, that team would score 48 points.

48 points does not sound too appetizing, but when one considers the extremeness of my hypothetical, it provides a good baseline. Teams will receive other points from put-back attempts on rebounds, three point field goals, and foul shots.

Let’s dream up another hypothetical: a team takes 60 shots (20 three pointers and 40 two points), shoots 40% for all shots from the game, and again received no foul shots or offensive rebounds. That team would score, at a baseline minimum, 32 points from two pointers and 24 from beyond the arc for a combined 56 per game. Again, not very appealing numbers until taken into the context of the rarity of the hypothetical (a game with no offensive rebound put-backs, foul shots, and each team receiving only the minimum amount of possessions per game).

Add 15 foul shots to the last hypothetical at a 60% clip and an additional 9 points are added to the game. Increase the amount of possessions due to up-tempo teams, turnovers created by pressure, etc. and one can see the baseline minimum points provides a good starting point for increasing the scoring of college basketball teams.

Conclusion

The dwindling television ratings, the decreased scoring, the modern athlete, and college basketball’s status as a feeder league to the NBA all point in the direction of decreasing the shot clock to 24 seconds. The decreased clock will eventually increase the overall quality of play and immediately increase the points per game attracting new neutral fans which will increase television ratings. It is important for college basketball to continue evolving to better match the professional game in quality.

A “Big Hit” for the Future of Baseball?

March Madness. We love it. We live it. We breathe it. We drive our families and friends crazy with talk of brackets and upsets. For three weeks in March, it’s the ONLY thing that matters, until it’s over. At that point, the annual, “Oh no, what now?” feeling kicks in.

What’s next is baseball. Spring training is already in full swing. Opening day of the regular baseball season is just two weeks away and it’s time to start planning your fantasy league and dreaming of that breakout offensive season that no one else picked.

This year, there might be a LOT of increased offensive production if what I’m hearing about a new baseball bat is true. Baden Sports–you may be more familiar with their basketballs–has recently introduced a new baseball bat called the Axe. This is the first major change to the shape of a bat in over a century.

I spoke with the company and one of the first things they told me was that Ted Williams says in his book, “The Science of Hitting,” that swinging a baseball bat is like swinging an axe. Apparently, an axe handle guides your hand into a proper position that fits flush at the bottom and increases leverage through the swing–something that a traditional baseball bat doesn’t do.

Baden says: “The Axe bat promotes an ergonomically correct grip, a better fit, a less restricted swing and greater bat speed through the hitting zone.”

Who’s using it and what are the results?

Rollins hit a deep solo home run over the left field fence with the new Axe baseball bat from Baden. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Since this is such a new bat, big league players are just being introduced to it. It’s been approved for use in MLB games in 2012, so the company is currently working with players at spring training. They can’t “name names,” but they will say that players from every club are taking at least practice swings and becoming familiar with the bat.

Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies hit a monster home run–his first of the season—on March 12 against the Pirates with the Axe bat. He’d been practicing with it, and his first time to the plate with the Axe someone from the dugout yelled, “Let loose with that bat, Jimmy!” He did, and hit it DEEP over the left field wall.


That was the first “official” home run, but I’ve done some digging and found a reliable report that among others, Oakland As first baseman Brandon Allen enjoyed his first outing with the Axe. On opening day of spring training, Allen hit a grand slam, a two-run double and drove in the go-ahead run in the 9th … all with the Axe. 7 RBIs. Not bad.

So maybe there’s something to this new Axe baseball bat. Time will tell, but since my basketball team didn’t even make March Madness this year, my tears are close to drying and I’m getting a jump start on putting a miserable basketball season behind me.

Baseball will fill my sports cravings over the next 6 months, and I’m paying close attention to what’s happening with the Axe bat.

Elitist Jerk Classics: “Big East extending invite to Memphis… as well as the entire rest of the NCAA.”

Editor’s Note: The following is a re-post from a while back. We’ll be posting a couple of these every weekend as a way of letting a new audience see some great posts they might have missed.

Big East commish John Marinnato at a recent pres conference

Big East commish John Marinatto at a recent press conference

The Memphis hiring of former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese this week acted as a catalyst for the biggest conference realignment in the history of collegiate athletics. Tranghese was hired by Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson in an attempt to get their foot in the door of one of the major conferences.

“[Tranghese's] role is to help us and advise us,” Johnson said. “He asked me: ‘What’s my charge?’ I said, ‘There are six BCS conferences. Just get us in one.’”

After Memphis’ hiring of Tranghese, it was only a matter of minutes before Johnson got a phone call from current Big East commissioner John Marinatto.

“I thought that Mike Tranghese pulled a couple of strings to get us an invite so quickly,” said Johnson,”but it turns out the Big East is actually in the middle of a massive expansion project.”

Upon further investigation, I discovered that Commissioner Marinatto has developed an addiction to getting as many teams as possible from the Big East into the NCAA tournament.

“It’s the first thing I think about before falling asleep at night, and it’s the the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning” said Marinatto. “Being the best basketball conference is pretty cut and dry — you have to get the most teams into the tournament. It’s that simple.”

When asked what other teams he had considered for invites, Marinatto retorted with an unexpected three word phrase. “All of them.”

Before my jaw could hit the floor, Marinatto elaborated. “We’re looking to add every team currently in Division I — including teams that are currently in other major conferences. If everything goes according to plan, the Big East will be a 344 team conference in 2010.

When I probed him about the possibility of diluting the conference with below average teams, Marinatto butted in before I could even finish the question. “In the Big East, we accept nothing less than excellence. It’s simple math — more teams in the conference equals more teams in the dance. That’s what we’re about here… being the best.”

In 2009, the Big East got 7 out of its 16 teams — roughly 44% of the conference. If the Big East actually admitted the entire NCAA, the best it could hope to do is roughly 19% of the conference in the tournament. “You’re looking at this all wrong,” Marinatto said. “If we got 65 teams into the 2010 tournament, that’s nearly 10 times the amount we had in 2009. We’d be 10 times better than the 2009 version of the conference. If we were the best conference in 2009, and we improve ourselves 10 fold, how could any of the other conferences hope to compete?”

“There wouldn’t be any other conferences,” I responded. “You’d be the best by default.”

“That’s capitalism, bitch.”

An Unexpected Consequence of the One-and-Done Rule

On Wednesday, Rivals.com college basketball writer Steve Megargee published an article at the recruiting website titled, “Is Butler’s run proof that mid-majors are closing gap?” The article looks at the improbable Final Four runs by George Mason and Butler in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Megargee asks a simple question: Are mid-major college basketball programs catching the Big-6 ones who have seemingly limitless resources and talent?

Better yet, are two occurrences within five years of one another enough to consider the feat more than coincidence? Megargee sets some guidelines in determining who is and who is not a “mid-major” in the sport. He dismisses Gonzaga, Xavier, and Memphis for their continued success in the tournament as well as on the recruiting trail.

I accept that, as those teams clearly operate on a level above the rest of the non-Big 6 teams. Megargee even dismisses the Final Four runs of Marquette (2003) and Louisville (2005) who both played in a strong Conference USA and operated like Big-6 teams.
Continue reading

Recent Sports Developments from a Curmudgeon’s Point of View

Al puts on her curmudgeon's cap for this round of commentary

For those of us who love college football and basketball above all other sports, this is a tough time of year. Yes, the NBA playoffs are on but since they go from now until Wimbledon starts (or it so it seems), I can’t get excited about them yet. I’ll be more interested in them around Memorial Day. And, yes, baseball season has started, but I’m a Braves fan who has been denied round-the-clock Braves coverage since I moved away from Atlanta, so I’m not seeing a lot of their games. I do know about that Colorado no-hitter against the Braves (unfortunately), but that’s about it and it’s enough to make me flashback to being a Braves fan in the 1970s.

I don’t know why, but I seem to be suffering from the post-CBB doldrums more than usual. Maybe it’s because, for me, a season in which UNC sucked and Duke won the National Championship is best spent in denial. So, in my mind, there hasn’t been any college basketball since April 2009. However, thanks to a significant other’s love of SportsCenter in both Spanish and English and the continuous ESPN broadcasts at my gym, I’ve been forced to take notice of some recent developments. And that has prompted me to share my curmudgeonly views on them.

68-team NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament expansion

Whew, we really dodged a bullet on that one? Right? Um, wrong. If I had the power to give awards, the NCAA would get one for “Sneakiest Way to Handle Tournament Expansion.” This was brilliant from a spin and public opinion perspective. Have a couple of NCAA officials and former officials hint that “expansion is possible” and let ESPN and other sports outlets run with a 96-team tournament scenario, getting college basketball fans all riled up and arguing the pros and cons. Then, after letting us rant and wail for awhile, they say, “We’re only adding three more games.” This completely deflated most complainers while fans like me were relieved and happy that we don’t have to worry about a bracket with 96 teams–yet. Continue reading

A Revolution in College Athletics

The current set-up in college sports that you and I grew up with is soon to be a thing of the past. We will look back upon them with fond memories and a little drool on our chins, saying, “Back in my day…” College athletics are set to undergo a radical transformation.

It will begin with the two biggest sports: football and basketball. For much of the now departed college basketball season, rumor swirled of the NCAA’s impending opt-out. In other words, they can void the current contract with CBS and put the men’s tournament on the open market for the highest bidder. But with the new TV deal will likely come an expansion of the tournament from its current 65 team format to a 96 one, eliminating the National Invitational Tournament in the process.
null
The big money in college athletics is on the gridiron. The basketball change may leave some ripples across the land, but a major shake-up in football will affect all other collegiate sports. The rumor mill began last year when the Big Ten, the NCAA’s richest conference, publicly stated its desire to add at least one new member. In doing so, the Big Ten would have twelve members and would be able to play that all important conference championship game.

However, the Big Ten may be looking to add more than one team. Tony Barnhart, aka Mr. College Football, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in a recent blog post, “The Big Ten is looking at three plans: Stand pat with 11 teams, add one team (hopefully Notre Dame) or make a blockbuster move and go to 16.”

It seems unlikely at this point that the Big Ten would not expand. They’ve announced intentions to do so which would lead us all to believe they will follow through with those plans. Adding one team would give them the minimum number to have the coveted championship game. And every one loves to say Notre Dame is the obvious choice because they are. But the Irish have been reluctant to join in the past. This is what leads many, including me, to believe that a “superconference” is in the making.

A superconference of 16 teams forces Notre Dame to join. Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick even admitted so at a press conference for the Big East basketball tournament (of which Notre Dame is a member): “The college landscape is as unstable as I’ve seen it… You could each invent a scenario that would force our hand.” He went on to say that Notre Dame would like to maintain its football independence.

But the question is, can they? With the possible realignment of 16 teams in the Big Ten, Notre Dame would have to join out of necessity. For one, adding five teams most likely means at least one and probably more Big East teams would be absorbed. Frank the Tank, a blogger who writes about Chicago and University of Illinois sports as well as other topics, states that “Syracuse and Rutgers (along with the Irish) are virtual locks” for a 16 team Big Ten. Both universities bring the New York City market with them which is one market the Big Ten has yet to fully penetrate (especially with the Big Ten Network television channel).

And if the Big East is torn apart (again), that leaves the question of automatic bids to the NCAA tourney and a BCS bid in football. Notre Dame is basically given a BCS bid without conference affiliation as long as they finish in the top 12 of the standings. But it could still force their hand in other sports. And we cannot discount the possibility of a change in the BCS format if the rest of college athletics transforms. I do not specifically mean a playoff, but it is logical to think that a seismic shift in conferences could result in changes to the current format.

Frank the Tank goes on to look at possible Big Ten candidates sans the three locks mentioned earlier. One such scenario involves bringing in Maryland and Boston College to “capture the entire Northeast, while, at least on paper, adding New York, Boston, and Washington markets.” Another possibility is to get Nebraska and Kansas from the Big XII which adds a basketball and a football power for balance as well as adding new markets. Finally, Frank writes Texas and Texas A&M could come together as a political package (one couldn’t go without the other).
null
While I am not willing to discuss every possibility, it seems logical one of these three moves is going to happen. But whatever the Big Ten does, it will force the other conferences to react. The SEC stands next to the Big Ten in terms of economic superiority. Do they expand as well? If the Big XII, ACC, or Big East is ransacked, what becomes of those conferences and their automatic bids? Does the Pac 10 answer?

It is clear that a revolution in college athletics is in the immediate future, possibly as early as the 2012 football season if the decisions are made soon. At this point, the Big Ten holds the key to everything. They could add only one team and the landscape would probably remain similar to how it is. Or they could make a tidal wave and transform college athletics to something we’ve never seen before. Eventually, the superconferences will come to fruition, so why not start now?

Luke Warm Linkage

How about another one, Lord.  Just for old-times sake?

Ben Folds takes a shot at this Chatroulette thing.