I feel like I am battling this high school shot clock idea more fervently and regularly than Don Quixote in a mass of windmills. So today I will lay out as a case study a coherent argument as to why adding a shot clock to high school hoops is not only unnecessary, but also likely harmful to a brand of basketball that is already quicker and more offensively efficient than its DI counterpart. I will prove this is true of girls hoops and boys hoops. I will add that my research pertains only to the great state of Kentucky contrasted with DI hoops as a whole. If there are morons holding the basketball in Florida or Georgia or New Jersey, well, nothing I can do about that. So without further ado…
The argument in favor of a shot clock in high school (or at any level really) is to increase pace and flow, to make a more exciting game for the fans, and to change end of game situations that all too often (according to shot clock proponents) end with stalling. One side argument shot clock advocates use is the need for players to be ready when they advance from high school to college. The following argument will focus mostly on the first and second issue but will address all four scenarios.
To start, I have been tracking pace and offensive results for a while now. For this piece, I will limit my discussion primarily to my latest numbers. They deal with Tuesday, February 4 and Thursday, February 6. I was forced in the DI women’s numbers to reach back and include Monday as only 8 games were played Tuesday.
To begin, I use the first 20 results on both the KHSAA scoreboard and ESPN.com for my numbers. I could use all the games or more games, but I do have a real job and a family so time is fairly limited. I then look at the winners scores only. The reason for that is it gives us the best look at total possessions without having access to those exact numbers.
Next I see which level scores the most per game most points per minute, and which game has the largest range between winning scores. On Tuesday, February 4 we found the following:
GIRLS KHSAA: 56.0 ppg 1.75 ppm range of winning scores 81-39 (42)
Women’s DI: 69.2 ppg 1.73 ppm range of winning scores 94-54 (40)
BOYS KHSAA: 73.3 ppg 2.29 ppm range of winnning scores 107-55 (52)
Men’s DI: 71.4 ppg 1.78 ppm range of winning scores 106-55 (51)
On Thursday, February 6:
GIRLS KHSAA: 62.4 ppg 1.95 ppm range of winning scores 89-36 (53)
Women’s DI: 75.6 ppg 1.89 ppm range of winning scores 87-52 (35)
BOYS KHSAA: 70.5 ppg 2.2 ppm range of winning scores 86-52 (34)
Men’s DI: 78.4 ppg 1.96 ppm range of winning scores 98-62 (36)
As you can see, as far as offensive efficiency or at least offensive output, the HS game in both boys and girls sees more points from winning teams. But what about the losers right? Well, as your favorite advertisement might say, “But wait, there’s more!”
On each of the two days I looked at every single team that played and asked, “How many teams overall break 2 points per minute. In high school this would be 64 points (32 minute game). In college this would be 80 points (40 minute game). Here is what I found:
On Tuesday GIRLS HS teams broke the 2 ppm barrier only 17 times in 130 chances for 13.1%. Not good. But….DI Women’s teams on Monday/Tuesday broke the 2 ppm barrier 6/64 times for 9.4%, far less than their HS counterparts. But maybe this was a one time anomaly…
On Thursday GIRLS HS teams broke the 2 ppm barrier 9/44 times for 20.4%. DI womens teams broke the 2 ppm barrier 11/130 times for 8.4%. Conclusively, more offense is happening at HS without a shot clock of any kind than in DI with a 30 second clock (and advance the ball on TO rules, and double bonus every quarter rules, etc.). But maybe this is only true for women…
On Tuesday for KHSAA boys 90/196 teams scored at least 2 ppm. That is (45.9%) On Thursday they did even better with 23/46 boys KHSAA teams scoring 64 or more points for a whopping 50%. Meanwhile…
DI mens teams had 6 out of 44 teams score 80 or more on Tuesday for a lethargic 13.63%. They did improve on Thursday as 28/124 mens DI teams scored 80 or higher, 22.6%.
So I guess I am left to wonder after digesting all this (and these numbers hold pretty close to true every single night), why is it we want a shot clock again? The high school game for both boys and girls score more points per minutes and have more teams score in bunches than the clock monitored :30 slugfests in DI. Yet I am told the shot clock will increase pace and flow. Statistically, it looks like the pace and flow of a typical KHSAA game is better than the DI game. So maybe the college folks should look to adapt the HS rules.
Inevitably, the shot clock folks always fall back on basic anecdote. Somebody watched a game where somebody held the ball once so that must be the way all these slow, archaic high school games are played. But let’s look at one game and see…for this article I have chosen the last game I have access to on film, Metcalfe County vs Russell County girls. The final score of the game was 57-50 Russell Co.
In the contest few possessions lasted much longer than 20 seconds and several were under 10. Metcalfe County played the entire game and never had the ball longer than :25 at a time. Russell County was more patient and did have 9 possessions that may have been shot clock violations. Two possessions lasted right at :30. One lasted :32 exactly to end a quarter. Two possessions lasted :35, one :38, one :40, one :42 to end a quarter, and the longest possession of the night was a :45 one that ended in a made jumper for the Lady Lakers.
Both teams were credited statistically with 62 possessions apiece for a total of 124 possessions. So, to be clear, shot clock advocates want a rule to be changed at the high school level for what likely ends up being less than 10% of all possessions. Does this seem reasonable?
In fairness, with 2:45 to go Russell Co. began to stall the ball up 49-44. Shot clock advocates apparently are more entertained if the team with the lead and the ball is forced to play the way these fans want (because that is what HS amateur level basketball is about right, fan entertainment?). And in this case, having a shot clock likely would have changed the way the game ended not so much in the result but in how the result was produced.
Side note, while trying to stall the ball, Russell County had consecutive turnovers that gave the Lady Hornets a brief chance. Those turnovers concluded possessions that lasted :06 and :07 respectively. And only one possession in the last 2:45 of the game would have resulted in a shot clock violation.
Lastly, shot clock advocates argue that since the NBA, WNBA, and college hoops all use shot clocks we should have it in HS to help those who go to the next level. A) very few HS kids go to the next level. B) I have coached a number of college players and not once has any of them come back to me and said, “Coach, college was great, but that shot clock thing totally threw me for a loop.” They likely don’t say that because their HS games (as evidenced by the numbers) probably went quicker than the college ones per possession.
In conclusion, I have written a number of posts about how the shot clock is counter-intuitively a net negative for offensive, fast break basketball. So, I won’t bore you with that further, but the next time you or one of your friends starts to yearn for a HS shot clock, please, check the numbers, the real ones…