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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Proposed Changes to Shot Clock and Backcourt Rules for Women’s College Hoops—a Big Step Backwards

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By Clay Kallam

The first question is always this one, even though it really misses the point: Why doesn’t the women’s game have a 10-second count in the backcourt?

That has become a more interesting question now that the rules’ committee is considering adding the rule to women’s game. Most people think the rule has somehow been left behind by the women, when actually it’s just a relic of past attempts to speed up the game.

Originally, there was no backcourt line, but it soon became apparent that a team that was ahead could simply stall out the clock, especially with all that space on the court. To pick up the pace of the game, the backcourt line and 10-second count were added with the goal of avoiding stalling and keeping the game moving.

As teams became more efficient at running clock in the halfcourt (think the old four-corners’ offense), the rules’ committee decided to institute a 30-second clock in the women’s game—and at the high school level, when that rule was added, there was no longer a penalty for going into the backcourt. After all, the only reason the halfcourt line was there was to speed up the game, and the 30-second clock took care of that.

The men finally, reluctantly, decided to go to a shot clock, but since they certainly couldn’t do anything that the women—or the NBA, or FIBA—were doing, they had to go to 35 seconds (the arrogance of the NCAA men’s basketball side is pretty much off the charts). They also kept the 10-second count, for no apparent reason, as the pace of the game was now insured, and also the halfcourt line.

The women’s committee eventually decided that the halfcourt line was a good idea, but saw no logical reason to add the 10-second count, which is how we got to where we are today—with different rules for the same game played by the same level of players.

But now the idea of the 10-second count has re-emerged, and it’s not necessarily a bad one. At the same time, though, there’s talk of shifting the women’s college clock to 35 seconds, which is a horrible idea.

First things first, though. The 10-second count would give an advantage to more athletic teams, as now breaking a press is under no time constraints. The ball can be passed backwards or reversed as many times as necessary to get an open look downcourt, and that rewards a patient, disciplined team’s attempts to counter superior size, quickness and/or athleticism while breaking a press.

Add the 10-second count, though, and now pressing becomes a more effective tactic for an athletic team that maybe isn’t as skilled as its opponents, so really, your position on implementing the 10-second count depends on which kind of team you would like to reward. Do you want to see more pressing and more wins for teams with athleticism but not necessarily as much skill? Or would you rather see a continuation of the status quo, where a disciplined team can overcome its lack of explosiveness with patience and intelligence?

I tend to favor keeping things as they are. I don’t think adding a 10-second count will radically change the game—but adding five seconds to the shot clock not only will alter the fundamental flow of the sport, it will make it much worse, not better.

Five seconds doesn’t seem like much, but if each team were to use all of the shot clock, it would mean five fewer possessions per game per team. More important, the action within those possessions changes, as watching men’s and women’s games clearly reveals. The men’s game is generally more methodical, with more off-the-ball action, more screens and more running of plays. This is even more true at the high school level, where coaches tend to control the game more, and run more patterned offenses.

If we say that there are 100 possessions per women’s game (about 24 seconds of the 30-second clock are used)  right now, there will probably be about 86 if five seconds were added to the shot clock. In each of those 86 possessions, there would be an additional five seconds of screening, passing and running plays, or seven minutes of game action.

Think about that. If Villanova played Rutgers, you’d get to watch seven more minutes of methodically working the ball around. Even if UConn played Rutgers, and the Huskies played at their usual pace, Rutgers could still run 3:30 more off the clock in what passes for its offenses. Coaches focused on winning could slow the game down significantly with the 35-second shot clock, which would make the slower women’s game (in terms of raw speed and quickness) even slower.

On top of that, the 35-second clock would exacerbate the biggest weakness in the women’s game, which is ballhandling. Forget the dunk—what really separates the men’s game from the women’s game (and the only difference apparent statistically) is turnovers. Women and girls turn the ball over much more often than men and boys, and adding five seconds of ballhandling would just increase the chances of a mistake.

At the same time, I’m hard-pressed to come up with any advantage to lengthening the clock. Both the WNBA and FIBA have gone from 30 seconds to 24, and not only have there been no complaints, the faster pace of the game has simply made it more fun to watch.

Maybe it makes sense to add the 10-second count to the women’s game, though I’m not really convinced, but going to a 35-second clock just because that’s what the men do would be one of the dumbest things ever done by the NCAA—which, given the history of that august organization, would really be saying something.

Originally published Mon, May 09, 2011

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.