Pac-10 is playing slow
As a whole, possessions are down by an average of 13 per game in Pac-10
Washington State set the trend under Dick Bennett; others have followed
USC is winning with solid defense and UCLA is more of an offensive team
I started writing about college basketball during the 2004-05 season, and let me tell you that back in my day things were different. The three-point line was a foot closer, Billy Packer still worked the Final Four, and, most notably, the Pac-10 played a really fast-paced brand of basketball. My, how times have changed ....
As you can see above, Oregon effectively plays at the same pace that it did in 2005 (probably a little faster, actually); the Ducks just do so now in a much slower conference. Every other team in the Pac-10, however, has slowed down over the past five seasons, from a little (Stanford) to a lot (Oregon State). When nine out of 10 teams hit the brakes, the conference as a whole slows down dramatically. As a result the Pac-10 is more than 13 percent slower than it was in 2005.
That's right, fans on the left coast are now seeing 13 percent less hoops per 40 minutes. Time for a refund, if not a class-action suit. This declaration has ushered forth a state of affairs I thought I would never see: The Big Ten is no longer the slowest-paced major conference in the nation.
The sudden slowness of the Pac-10 was readily apparent last week, as two games failed to crack the 60-possession barrier despite the fact that both contests went to overtime. On Thursday night Washington State beat Oregon State 61-57 (OT) in Corvallis, a game that consisted of just 59 possessions despite the extra five minutes. Not to be outdone, Arizona State then beat UCLA 61-58 in overtime on Saturday. With just 56 possessions in 45 minutes, this was the slowest-paced game of the year so far in major-conference basketball and one of the slowest games you will see anywhere.
Of course, slow basketball can be excellent basketball -- just look at Georgetown in 2007. Led by Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, the Hoyas were the slowest-paced member of the 16-team Big East that season, yet they reached the Final Four thanks to a superbly efficient offense. Nevertheless, the Pac-10's dramatic fall-off in pace at least raises a question: How slow is too slow? Is there a point, somewhere down there under 60 possessions, at which high-school recruits will think twice before signing up for 18 games of time-lapse hoops?
It appears the Pac-10 is about to find out. Looking at the slowest half of the league, it's likely that the new more deliberate pace is here to stay. Consider the following examples:.
Actually the Bruins' slow pace is arguably masking an interesting turnabout. Known for years as an outstanding defensive team, UCLA this year is getting it done this year primarily on offense, as the Bruins have scored 1.18 points per possession in Pac-10 play, tops in the league.
There was a time not too long ago when, with DePaul and Northwestern, Chicago was the epicenter of slow-paced basketball. UCLA and USC have now wrestled that title away for Los Angeles.
Arizona State: For years Herb Sendek's North Carolina State teams were slower-paced than the ACC average. Now he has brought that tempo with him to Tempe, although with a talent like James Harden, ASU fans will happily put up with a few less possessions. This offense may be slow but it works, scoring 1.17 points per possession in-conference.
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