I have written and talked and tweeted and argued. Sadly to no avail with some. I’ve interacted with local folks, folks from different states, reporters near and far. The odd thing is (and I say this at the risk of seeming boastful) I am the only one in the arena who has tried to take the time to research the actual numerical effect of a shot clock compared with the real current state of the high school game (in Kentucky).
I have heard a great number of hypotheses: The high school game is boring, the shot clock is simply the way the game is played now, shot clocks are for the defense as much as the offense, etc. I have had anecdote thrown at me: I was at game last night where_________, look at this video of a guy holding the ball…, back in my day we did ___________, and so on.
But no one has to date presented any type of argument in favor of adding a high school shot clock with any statistical numbers which present either a need or a solution or even an actual problem.
As for me…
One of the things I have been told when presenting my numbers is that it does not take into account opponents. In other words, my numbers are skewed because bad teams (who hypothetically can’t guard anyone) play bad defense. Again, this is not evidence based, but conjecture. Still…let’s look at last night.
As most of you know, district tournaments have ended and over half the state has been eliminated. This leaves teams who at the least are decent (with a couple of exceptions). Mismatches still exist, but overall the level of play should be good enough to assuage those who worry about the match ups.
At the college level the games are either conference match ups or conference tournaments at this point. So in many ways this is as close as we can get to an apples to apples comparison. Comparable high school teams playing each other and comparable college teams playing each other. Additionally, many high school games are being played in college arenas therefore adding to the difficulty for high school teams used to playing on 84 feet courts with very different shooting backgrounds. One could guess that level of competition, longer floors, and different shooting conditions along with the high level of pressure involved in season ending type games would swing the numbers in favor of the college guys.
Let me stop for a moment to share again the numbers I have already put forward.
Every night (almost without exception) our KHSAA girls and boys score more points per minute than their DI counterparts. I have been told points are a poor measure of pace. I have also tried possessions per game.
I was told that too was a poor measure. Apparently any measure that does not produce the desired outcomes of the shot clock crowd are “poor measures.” But I use points for a couple of reasons. One, it is all I have access to at the high school level usually. Two, you can’t score a bunch if you are holding the ball for long periods of time. It is impossible to score in the game of basketball without shooting a shot of some kind. And shooting more is the real argument, right? It says it in the name: “shot” & “clock”… If the rule is that a team after a certain time is forced to “shoot” the ball or turn it over, then what the “shot” clock should incentivize is more shooting, quicker (it actually does the opposite…but,). Therefore, it should not be a stretch of logic to suggest that lower scoring games tend to be played at a slower pace. Unless what shot clock advocates really want are more bad shots with less of a chance to go in the basket (and unwittingly I think this is exactly what the shot clock gives us).
So about last night,
Fourteen boys KHSAA regional games were played last night. That is 28 teams worth. I usually just look at the first 20 winners for the sake of time, but since we had so few playing I added all 28, even the losers who probably had as many possessions (as basketball is a game that alternates possessions by rule at every level) as the winners, but were less effective in either getting shots or making them. Here is what I found: The average score last night for any team KHSAA boys was 61.53. That averages out to 1.92 points per minute. 11 teams broke 64 (2 points per minute). All 11 actually scored in the 70’s and 80’s except one who broke 90.
In college, I took the first 14 scores on espn.com and did the same. Here are the results. The 28 teams scored on average 68.32 points. That averages to 1.7 points per minute (significantly less than the HS avg of 1.92). 8/28 teams broke 80 (2 points per minute). Now these are far more talented players, playing with a :30 clock. And while I know they play much better defense, and have much better scouting reports, surely those advantages do not exist solely on the defensive side. These same players should be more athletic, more skilled, and tougher to guard than their high school counterparts by far. In other words, with high school kids playing high school kids and DI men playing DI men, this should be a fair comparison.
If you accept that it is, then how in the world can anyone argue that high school needs a shot clock? We are essentially suggesting that the game with more scoring (hence, more shooting or at least better shooting) must look more like the game with less scoring. And to be clear, if conjecture and anecdote is to be believed is there really anyone on the planet suggesting that DI men’s offense is anything other than purely offensive? That is the game we want the high school game to look more like? Really?
I know I should let it go. But I can’t. I coached high school basketball in Kentucky for twenty-two years. It is a great game, beloved in so many communities big and small. It draws mostly packed houses for district finals in 128 spots throughout the commonwealth. It has the most popular state tournament in the country and likely the world. And it is beautifully varied. You may see a fast paced, high scoring affair, or you may see a tense, grind-it-out low scoring one. Both are wonderful. Each should be preserved as should this brand of basketball itself. May the game continue to turn back attempts to kill it under our very noses. Let freedom ring, death to basketball tyranny!