Pace of Play Rules Changes: Melting the Glacier

Earlier this month the NCAA’s rules committee gathered to review recommended changes to college basketball. The intent of these changes was to address “pace of play” and probably to complain about Tony Bennett. Fools.

The committee has now spoken and CBB will be forever changed, right? A feverish pace is now in order. We’re likely to institute player tracking like Fox once did for hockey pucks. That’s how fast these rules changes will make CBB, a sport that in 2015 slipped into a glacial speed (NOTE: Yosemite was built by a glacier and that place is f*cking beautiful) of historically inept scoring.

So we’ve changed the rules to address. Here’s a look:

30-second shot clock
aka The cure-all

If indeed the intent is to address the “pace of play,” simple math would confirm that allowing less time (pace) to take a shot (play) is a viable resolution. Of course “pace of play” is as subjective as a striped dress. To consider this the answer to basketball’s woes is shortsighted. The elimination of five seconds from the shot clock was lobbied for harder than America Works and now that it’s here, I want to ask: who does this actually favor? Because college basketball has wild talent discrepancies and what’s made milking a 35-second shot clock so successful is that it’s a lot easier to teach a defensive squat than an elbow jumper. Hacking 14% of a possession means the broad dearth of offensive talent will have more opportunities to stink while presumably already good defenses will defend for less time (easier). Imagine those sequences when Oregon State did nothing for 32-seconds, fired an off-balance GP2 grenade, only to see it rebounded by Daniel Gomis and chucked out to mid-court for a fresh 35. Now it’s just a fresh 30, which has a distinct collegiate feel. Maybe we can start calling offensive rebounds frat suitcases?

But ultimately Oregon State was pretty successful in doing this and a shorter clock won’t deter them from continuing. We just watched six games of LeBron James fading and muscling at the end of 24-second shot clocks. Through the NBA playoffs, Cleveland took 11.8 shots per game with 4-seconds or less on the shot clock. That’s two-and-a-half more tardy field goal attempts than any other playoff team. James took 4.7 of those which was 74% more than any other playoff participant. We’ve lauded the Warriors for playing a modern version of basketball but what Cleveland did was equally as modern: slow the hell out of a game to give less talented players an opportunity to defend and hope a few shots fall.

So back to my original question: Who does the shot clock favor? It ultimately favors the better offensive players. Teams will inevitably be forced into late shot clock situations – either by defensive opposition or offensive strategy – more frequently and the teams with the best creators will prosper.

Perimeter and Post-Defense Points of Emphasis
aka Let’s try that again

Remember when I went to the Pac-12 Studios at 8am to listen to Bobby Dibler speak? Didn’t think so. But I did that and I also sat next to him at the Pac-12 Tournament this March. I wonder if he recognized me? If you’re reading this, Bobby, I hope you’re well. Alas, what you might remember were his 2013-14 points of emphasis, where officials would:

  • Limit physical on-ball defense
  • Disallow any movement on screens
  • Allow freedom of movement for players off the ball
  • Allow Freedom of movement for everyone on offense
  • Limit physicality in the post
  • Tighten up the block/charge conundrum

When we did that for half of the 2013-14 season, we saw a drop in turnovers per game, an increase in fouls and FTA per game and an overall increase in scoring and total possessions (same shot clock). Then a crazy thing happened and the game was no longer officiated that way. It reverted back and so too did the offensive trends. Bummer. Last season was a continuation of that trend, the odd, semi-uncommunicated point of emphasis to not emphasize the previously emphasized points of emphasis. So now we’ll once again emphasize these things. I think it’s the best of the changes to address “pace of play.”

Eliminate the 5-seconds closely guarded rule
aka Less mid-court ball ripping

Let’s pour one out for the overzealous, undersized guards who will no longer get to draw this whistle and unnecessarily rip the ball from the opposing guard. Of course sometimes they’ll do some really aggressive clapping, too. But the ball rip is definitely gone.

Three 2nd Half Timeouts
aka Lots more end-of-the-first-half strategery

This rule will not behoove Stanford. I can’t quantify this but I’ve never enjoyed a Cardinal play out of a timeout so forcing a use-it-or-lose-it first half timeout on Johnny Dawkins will yield some timeouts into play calls that will indubitably have you face/palming. I read once that John Beilein regularly leads the nation in points out of a timeout yet I’ve never been able to find this stat in aggregate. If you know where, please share because I imagine the numbers would prove a vast discrepancy between how we feel about out-of-timeout play calls and reality.

What this rule change ultimately addresses is the “pace of viewership” (along with some of the other timeout related switcheroos). It limits a team’s ability to stutter the game into the final buzzer. I’m down with it.

No live ball timeouts by the coach
aka David Blatt

This rule could have a much larger affect than it would seem. College basketball is a coach-dominant game. They’re the face of the program and generally control everything about it. So taking this game control from their hands could lend us to scenarios when 18-year-olds are forced to play out situations they’re completely overwhelmed in and so what’s the worst that could happen? 

Timeouts called within 30-seconds of the media timeout will become the media timeout
aka The Howland

Our good friend and current Mississippi State Head Coach, Ben Howland, was famous for this at UCLA. We’d be approaching the 12-minute mark and – from the bench – the lead Bruin would request a stoppage of play, coupling his request with the previously scheduled stoppage. It’s just a longer break. And now he – and other coaches – can do neither.

I think this one is pretty obvious in how it address “pace of play.” But let’s flash forward to March (March!). That’s when everyone’s paying attention to college basketball and so that’s when the ad dollars are really pouring in. It’s when ad creativity is flowing. It’s brought is NanananaNapa, Shaq and this slipper, and Chuck’s wish. We’re going to get less of this now. Are you cool with that? (I am).


There’s a handful of other rules changes that I won’t dive in to but include:

  • 10 total seconds to cross mid-court – Duh
  • 15 seconds to replace a disqualified player – No free timeouts
  • Technical fouls assessed for flopping – lol
  • Full game monitor review for made FG at end of shot clock – Lots of shots taken late…
  • Class B technicals result in just 1 shot – Technicalities for techs
  • Pregame dunking is allowed – WHAT A RELIEF!
  • Experiment: 6 fouls in post-season play – And somewhere Jarmal Reid smiles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *