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Pitt

Reducing time college basketball teams have to shoot considered likely change

| Sunday, March 8, 2015, 10:57 p.m.
The shot clock resets as Pitt's James Robinson pulls down a rebound against Miami on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The shot clock resets as Pitt's James Robinson pulls down a rebound against Miami on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, at Petersen Events Center.

During the 1978-79 season, the Sun Belt Conference became the first in Division I men's basketball to adopt a shot clock. It was set at 45 seconds, not 30 like the women were using or 24 as in the NBA, and it was turned off during the last four minutes of a game. The change was significant nonetheless.

“We ask for people to contribute toward our scholarship programs, to buy season tickets,” Sun Belt commissioner Vic Bubas explained at the time. “I believe we owe them some action.”

That logic is being used again today as the game has come under criticism for its lagging pace and lower scoring that has contributed to fewer eyes — in person and at home — watching the product.

Many inside the industry say they believe a change is necessary to increase fan interest, suggesting myriad options, from a wider lane to a larger “charge arc” under the basket to fewer team and TV timeouts.

Most often suggested, however, is a need to decrease the shot clock.

“You have to go to a 30-second clock,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “The 30-second clock is something that has to go into effect.”

The NCAA adopted a 45-second shot clock for the 1985-86 season. After a nominal increase that season — up .2 points per team per game — scoring skyrocketed 7.5 points per team by the 1990-91 season. In 1993-94, the NCAA decreased the shot clock to 35 seconds, spurring a 1.4-points-per-team boost.

In the past two decades, however, scoring has slumped about 7.5 points per team to 67.6, tied for its second-lowest total since 1951-52.

The NCAA has taken note.

It will experiment with a 30-second shot clock during the NIT, which it owns. The College Basketball Invitational also will use a 30-second clock.

“I think there is a lot of opinion out there that the game is slower and scoring is down, and people want to see something done about it,” said Belmont coach Rick Byrd, chairman of the NCAA rules committee.

Some of those people are coaches.

“I think there will be great momentum for the 30-second clock in the rules committee next spring,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

Another planned experiment in the two postseason tournaments is extending the “charge arc,” the semicircle under the basket, from 3 feet to 4 feet. The arc was implemented during the 2011-12 season and prevents a defensive player from drawing a charge if they have a foot inside that area.

“I think it would make people set up a little further out and perhaps reduce those collisions near the basket,” Byrd said.

Limiting coaches' timeouts and even eliminating replay are topics being bounced around. In addition to four TV/radio timeouts per half, coaches get another 60-second timeout and four 30-second timeouts. Up to three unused 30-second timeouts can be carried over into the second half, making the final two minutes sometimes last 20.

“I could go without a timeout,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “Let's call a play and run a play.”

Dan Dakich, an ESPN analyst and former college assistant and head coach, said, “The game could be stopped 18 times. What in the hell do we need that for?”

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo suggested those fixes might only be cosmetic. An underlying issue, he said, are players' skills.

In 2012, the NCAA began allowing college coaches to work with players two hours a week for eight weeks during the summer.

“They're not working on their fundamentals,” Colangelo said. “That's why international players are so strong fundamentally. There aren't any restrictions on practice times with coaches. They learn how to set picks, learn how to shoot the ball, and they have a pretty good knowledge of the game. Our players are basically athletes. They have a lot of bad habits.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib.

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