The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- The Shot Clock in Wisconsin
In a surprising move, the WIAA Board of Control voted 6-4 to approve a 35-second shot clock for varsity games for the 2019-2020 season. Across the state there has been a general mixed reaction in how this will affect coaches, players, and school districts from Milwaukee to Stanley-Boyd. To put this in perspective, a yearly survey that was sent out to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches’ Association 81 percent of coaches that responded to the survey said that they would support a shot clock in Wisconsin (WBCA). A poll conducted on Wissports.net has a mixed bag, with 52 percent of people approving of it, and 48 percent disapproving. Local radio stations, the coaches from my coaching tree, and myself have differing opinions about the shot clock coming to Wisconsin. This article will have my perspective with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the future of the shot clock in Wisconsin.
Bye, Bye, Bye (Stalling)
In my short coaching career, I can recall at least three or four times that a situation has come up in a game where a lesser team, or the team with the lead holds the ball for an extended period of time. In my first year as a JV coach, I did it myself and won a ball game holding the ball and playing keep away for the last minute to secure a victory. Most coaches in the state are aware of a playoff game played in a lower division that had a combined score of about 40 points and I witnessed some “stalling” in the state basketball tournament in the Cedarburg/ Central game. When you look to higher levels of basketball and you see guys being more skilled more so than ever, so it is frustrating as a coach to see a team “less skilled” dribble across half court and put the ball on their hip. The shot clock could potentially force players to become more skilled or find ways to create their own shot to beat the 35 second timer. We will all hear a lot less of “shoot the ball” or the famous boring chants that used to be chanted at my teammates and I in my playing days at Janesville Craig.
The 35-second shot clock is another bump in the road for coaches to prepare for every night. One of the positives I see and support, as a coach who is defensive-minded, is that the fact that defenses will be rewarded for tough defending. This past season as a varsity assistant at Cudahy, I found that it was hard to get my guys to buy into playing defense for extended periods of time (over a minute) which did happen in various points of the season when we played more methodical and “system” teams in our conference. With this shot clock, coaches might find it easier to sell playing defense harder with more intensity for a shorter amount of time. You will also now see more full-court pressure in the backcourts and you will see coaches using more creative defenses and trapping that will benefit teams offensively and could potentially bring more excitement to fans attending games.
We Already Half it (Pace of Play)
After my first year of coaching, the WIAA approved the implantation of halves adding more minutes to the game, and taking away the quarter break stalls that every coach and their brother saw. Being a coach on the lower level, I would lose at least four minutes of the game to teams pulling up and putting it on their hip and wasting away the clock, or holding for one. More times than not in those stalling situations a turnover would ensue, a bad shot, or nothing would happen. The half rule change in my opinion, eliminated teams holding it for extended periods of time more than two times a game. Did teams still hold the ball against us? Absolutely, but it was not to the extent previously with the old rule with quarters. Very few teams hold the ball in today’s game. In the state tournament the last two years, teams have averaged 2.3 points more per game since the half rule was adopted in the 2015-2016 season compared to the last season that quarters were utilized. The pace of play passes the eye test for most fans since the half rule has been in effect with the exception a few bad games with stalling.
The End of Systems/ Bad Shots/ Boring?
Coaches that support the shot clock, say that good coaches adapt to rule changes and “good coaches” will teach their kids what a good shot is. Why does a good shot have to become before 35 seconds? We played teams like New Berlin Eisenhower and Pius that were patient on offense and got the best shot available after several ball reversals, good hard fundamental screens, and post touch looks. How will teams with systems like Swing, Flex, and some motions adjust to the 35 second shot clock? I am afraid that more sets with only screening will become more the norm (a la Golden State Warrior sets), and a lot of the basketball teams will run similar stuff making the game more vanilla and boring. By putting this in, we now will have every team playing up-tempo instead of having teams with different tempos making the game more interesting, and rewarding good coaches who prepare for different styles of different teams. Remember when every team in the state wanted to run Bo Ryan’s swing? High School Basketball should focus on developing fundamentals, playing team basketball, and learning how to move without the ball. The harsh reality is that 3.4 percent of our players play at the next level (D1, D2, or D3) according to the NCAA. To argue that we should get our players ready for the next level or playing in college is inaccurate, because on good or great teams two maybe three players are skilled enough to play at the next level.
Games will be less competitive. Some teams that used to play slow down, and methodical offense will have to adjust or simply lose more games. In my experience last year especially, I was thankful for rules with running clock, and when times worked the ball lessening the effect of getting blown out. If you think 91-50 game is bad, just wait till a game ends up 100-21. I don’t think this is what teams and fans want when they say, “we want more scoring.” No coach is going to take a turnover for a shot clock violation so teams will stop holding the ball with big leads. Coaches rebuilding programs will have more challenges to getting players to participate and trust the process if they are getting blown out on a nightly basis.
The Cost/ Official Shortage/ Malfunctions
Refer to Travis Wilson’s article regarding the costs of the shot clock, as it is a good one. As a teacher, I know it is going to be hard to sell spending this much money on a shot clock and the cost to operate when economy isn’t perfect and schools have less resources at their disposal. Sponsorship in low-income or rural areas isn’t always an option and finding someone consistently becomes a challenge for smaller schools and schools where the program isn’t the most successful. Can you imagine if a game was decided on a shot clock error at the state tournament on TV?
Conclusion: I am fairly opposed to the new shot clock rule, but I am going to take a wait and see approach with the new rule. I believe that programs that are rebuilding are going to struggle with this, up-tempo teams will flourish, and school districts will have a tough time with getting this off the ground. Let’s see what the 2019-2020 season brings.
LOTS of Rules the Person at the Table will have to LEARN