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Jack McCallum
November 29, 1982
Twelve major conferences are experimenting with new rules intended to increase scoring
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November 29, 1982

It Will Be One Testy Season

Twelve major conferences are experimenting with new rules intended to increase scoring

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So this is what we have:


If 47-45 bores you, does 88-42 sound better? That's what a shot clock could do. It tends to increase the number of possessions a team has during the game, and the whole premise of a lesser team's stalling tactics is to reduce the good team's number of possessions.

"Only good teams can hold the ball," says SMU Coach Dave Bliss. "Bad teams aren't good enough to hold it. I don't think our clock here in the Southwest Conference will make the lesser teams play faster, because they aren't good enough to hold it anyway."

The consensus, though, is that only a 30-second clock has the potential to drastically alter the college game. Most observers agree with Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton when he says of his league's 45-second clock, "I think 999 out of 1,000 times it will have no bearing on the game." Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski even advances the theory that a 45-second clock could slow down games because teams "would have a tendency to run 30 or 35 seconds off before they'd look for a shot."

The example of the Sun Belt Conference, which has had a 45-second clock for four years, seems to support Sutton. The clock has gone off only 19 times in 164 league games, an average of about five a year. And both Fresno State's Boyd Grant and Princeton's Pete Carril—coaches at Possession U West and Possession U East, respectively—say their teams usually shoot within 45 seconds.

The clock may have the biggest impact on defense. At least that's the opinion of Grant, who sees Armageddon when he stares at the hands of a shot clock. "What we've done is very helpful to those who don't play defense at all," says Grant. Or those who play only zone defense, which many consider the real bane of the college game. The theory is that a shot clock doesn't afford the offense enough time to set up and extend the defense. "The defense will just stand back under the basket, and you're going to have to take the outside shot," Grant adds.

That logic may fall apart in conferences—Grant's Pacific Coast Athletic Association being one of them—where there's also an easily make-able three-point shot that discourages the use of the zone. Smith and others in the ACC wanted a clock only if a three-point shot was also voted in. The pressure of both a clock and a three-point line could result in more teams' applying full-court pressure. If a defense can constantly force an opponent to use precious seconds just getting into its half-court offense, that 30 seconds or even 45 seconds is going to seem brief indeed.


Obviously, teams with good long-range shooters will see more man-to-man defense when playing under rules providing for a three-point goal. A defense simply can't afford to let one bomber three-point it out of a game. Today's math lesson: A bombardier with two field goals can achieve the same effect as a center with three dunks—six points. And a three-point shot is likely to be as psychologically devastating to the defense as a slam can be.

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