College

IMLCA Inspired Shot Clock Debate

shot clock
Is this a good idea? Reggie is not so sure.

Editor’s Note: Welcome Ryan Connors to the LAS Mothership!  Ryan will be covering anything and everything lacrosse, and he knows what he’s talking about.  Mr. Connors comes to us from Mercyhurst where he was part of their NCAA D2 National Championship team.  For his first post he’s getting into the shot clock debate after hearing about it repeatedly at the IMLCA Convention. 

I like a writer who will just dive right in on a tough topic!  And we think you’ll like Ryan too.  You can follow him on Twitter: @Connors36

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shot clock

Is this a good idea? Reggie is not so sure.

This past weekend, the annual IMLCA Coaches Convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland.  The shot clock was an important topic, and almost everyone seemed to have an opinion about it.  The discussion is raging as there is a strong possibility that the shot clock could be implemented as early as next fall.  Adding the shot clock early next year could bring massive change to the sport of lacrosse, which is why every coach was not shy with their opinion.

There are valid points both for and against the shot clock and I am going to highlight these points.  Keep in mind that I am against the shot clock and I may offer my opinion at the end of each argument. 

Let’s get right down to it…

The Shot Clock:

This is a tough debate and it has been picking up steam over the past few seasons, but I think it really jumped to the top of the hot list during the playoffs last season.  The Syracuse/Maryland quarterfinal game last year was a huge let down to many people, and the past two championship games were some of the lowest scoring and most boring to date.  Coaches and fans want to speed up the game and it seems that all roads lead towards the shot clock. 

Everyone can say that something needs to be done to speed up the game, and people believe the shot clock is the answer.  The shot clock limits the time of possession a team can have, and there is no doubt in my mind that this would in fact speed up the game in certain respects, but at what cost? 

When you add a shot clock to the college game it will cause a ripple effect.  It cannot be thought of on its own, because the idea of the 2-point arc goes hand-in-hand with the shot clock.  Most teams will sit back and drop into a zone, use time to their advantage and wait for the shot clock to expire.  If the 2-point arc is added, it forces the defense to step out and play.  The idea behind the shot clock is that it will force teams to go to the net within 60 seconds (I use 60 seconds because that was the general consensus on what the time limit should be, 20 seconds to clear 60 seconds for a shot), and keep the pace of play fast with added scoring.  I like the idea of it but there is so much more to it than just getting a shot on net within a designated amount of time.

Say a team works the ball for 45 seconds and creates a good look at the cage but only misses by a foot.  Prior to the shot clock, that would be a good opportunity, but with the shot clock, the shot doesn’t count and the clock does not reset.  In the past, coaches would be happy with a look like that, but with a shot clock now coaches have to hope their kids get that ball on cage.  That changes the game big-time.

And this brings up another point…

Division I teams are really pushing for the shot clock.  I can understand their reasoning, as DI teams are having the most problems with stall calls and the slow down game.  Many teams in DII/DIII play an up-tempo run and gun style, so there really isn’t a need for a shot clock.  For argument’s sake, we will say that all DI players can shoot the ball more accurately than DII/DIII players.  Now, whereas DI players are getting more shots on cage than DII/DIII, they are also getting either more goals or more reset 60 shot second clocks.  DII and DIII teams may get a decent shot but it may not hit the net, and now their clock is up and they have to go play defense.

This means that DII and DIII coaches may start to require extra allotted practice time so that they can improve their team’s shooting.  All coaches want extra time with their team but due to NCAA regulations, during the off-season they are granted very limited time.  This could either result in over-practicing the players, or increased specialization.  Neither are necessarily great options.

As I mentioned earlier, the 2 point arc goes hand in hand with the shot clock.  Sure, the shot clock and the 2 point arc work in the MLL, but let me tell you my theory on why.  In the MLL you have the best of the best; the best attackmen going against the best defensemen.  This is what the fans want to see; attackmen making amazing athletic plays while going to the net or a defenseman throwing a great takeaway check.  These match ups are what the MLL thrives on.  You’ve never seen an MLL team play zone and my guess is that you won’t anytime soon.  It is the idea of the unwritten rule where you don’t play zone, fans don’t want to pay to watch a MLL team sit in a zone.  The 2 point arc and the shot clock are added fan bonuses in the MLL.  It is exciting to see a player dodge and rip from outside the arc and cash-in on a two-pointer.  Personally, I’m a fan of that in the MLL, however, I am a huge fan of the strategies that come with the college game as well and don’t want to see that lost.

I enjoy the college game because there is more strategy that comes with it.  Some teams have such high-level, stand-out players and scorers that their opponents must create a whole new strategy to stop them.  Last season, teams had to come up with strategies to stop players such as Billy Bitter or Rob Pannell.  We saw Virgina use the zone for the first time against North Carolina to stop Billy Bitter simply because they did not have anyone to match up with him.  I don’t want to get away from the point here, but I also don’t want to lose this cerebral approach to the game all in favor of speed.

The shot clock is great in the MLL, and that is where it belongs; the college game is NOT the MLL.  I love turning on the TV and watching college lacrosse.  I like to predict which match ups or strategies teams will use each week against varying opponents.  I have heard people make the argument, “I don’t want to watch a 6-5 lacrosse game”.  Most people agree with that statement, as do I… but only to a certain extent.  If it’s a 6-5 game, but it is a good lacrosse game, then what’s the problem?  Syracuse against Villanova last year was a low scoring game, but I personally thought it was a great lacrosse game that was exciting to watch.

The coaches who used the experimental rules this fall said that most of the rules were great.  I heard comments saying that it was “Fast, exciting and the kids loved it”.  In these games, it was recorded that there were very few shot clock procedures.  You have to keep in mind that the teams that used these experimental rules were typically run and gun teams, so the clock doesn’t affect them as much.  One point that the coaches made about the shot clock was that they couldn’t get their D-mids on the field as often as they’d like, and that should be expected.  I believe that the shot clock will bring back the old school two-way midfielder.  Many people believe that this is a good thing, and I agree… but once again only to a certain extent.  I do love an athletic old school two way middie.  A player that can get up and down the field and play at an extremely high level at both ends.  However, I like good straight up D-mids, the unappreciated heroes of the sport as well.  D middies that can play solid defense all over the field and get dodged on time after time.  Teams can thrive off of middies like these, players such as Will Barrow and John Carozza, that are bull dog defenders and play physical D.  Again, I am getting away from the point, but I don’t want to see one player lost for another.

Like I said before, shot clock will speed up the game, but at what cost?  You lose tough D middies, but you bring back two-way mids.  You lose the exciting strategies that coaches sit in the office for hours scheming up.  All teams will soon adapt a very similar style of play and you lose the unique individualism of the game.  There is a tremendous amount of push to add the shot clock for next year.  It is becoming a rush because NCAA changes rules every two years, and next year is a rule change year.  If the shot clocked is not added next year, we will have to wait the full two year cycle for it to be added.  Whatever the result, it will be interesting to see where the sport of lacrosse will take us in the future.

While I think the shot clock is inevitable, I think there are a few ways to speed up the game in stead of such a drastic change such as the shot clock.

  • No horns: Some teams use this experimental rule this fall and loved it.  All subbing is done on the fly.  This leads to quicker restarts and a faster pace of play.  I also believe this rule helps new viewers of the game.  They will no longer be confused by why a horn sounds and why everyone runs off the field sometimes rather than others.  Without horns they only have to be confused by on the fly subbing and subbing through the midfield, which is plenty!
  • Goalie 5 second rule:  We are seeing a trend where goalies will chase the ball to the end line to back up a shot.  If the goalie does not gain possession, he will take the full 5 seconds he is allotted to return to the net.  This gives the defense time to reset, find their match ups and become organized.  If we eliminate this rule and add quick restarts, you have goalies scrambling to get back in net, this creates a more exciting style of play.  The MLL has this rule and I am a big fan of it.
  • Diving in the Crease:  This doesn’t have much to do with pace of play, but I was a huge fan of this rule.  I know they got rid of it because it was dangerous for the goalies, but if you bring this rule back it adds another element to the offense.  It creates a more exciting offense.  The MLL has this rule and it is one of the staples of the professional league.  Bring this rule back, you add more fans plain and simple.

Feel free to leave comments about the story and my ideas.  That is what makes the shot clock debate so enticing, everyone has an opinion and I want to hear them!  Leave a comment here or via twitter.  Follow me @connors36 and I’m more than happy to hear to what you have to say.

This past weekend, the annual IMCLA coaches’ convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland.  The shot clock was an important topic that everyone seemed to have an opinion about.  It is a strong possibility that the shot clock can be implemented as early next fall.  Adding the shot clock early next year could bring massive change to the sport of lacrosse, which is why every coach was not shy with their opinion. 

There are valid points both for and against the shot clock and I am going to highlight these points.  Keep in mind that I am against the shot clock and I may offer my opinion at the end of each argument. 

Let’s get right down to it,

Shot Clock:

This debate has been picking up steam over the past few seasons, but I think it really jumped to the top of the hot list during the play offs last season.  The Syracuse/Maryland quarterfinal game last year was a huge let down, and the past two championship games were some of the lowest scoring and most boring to date.  Coaches and fans want to speed up the game and the answer seems to be the shot clock. 

Everyone can say that something needs to be done to speed up the game, and people believe the shot clock is the answer.  The shot clock limits the time of possession a team can have, and there is no doubt in my mind that this would in fact speed up the game, but at what cost? 

When you add a shot clock to the college game it will cause a ripple effect.  It cannot be thought of on its own, because of the idea of the 2-point arc.  Most teams will sit back and drop into a zone and wait for the shot clock to expire.  If the 2-point arc is added it forces the defense to step out and play.  The idea behind the shot clock is that it will force teams to go to the net within 60 seconds, and keep the pace of play fast with added scoring.  I like the idea of it but there is so much more to it than just getting a shot on net within a designated amount of time.


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13 Comments

  • How does only having subbing on the fly speed up pace of play?  Constant subbing is the number 1 reason for the game being so slow.  When the offense gets the ball they slow it down and sub out 3-4 players for how ever long they want.  Stalling consideration, in the D1 game, doesn’t even become an issue until they start passing the ball around AFTER subbing.  You’ll hear the commentators even say that refs have admitted that they will call a stall after the 3rd or 4th time the ball is passed around and goes behind the goal.  A shot clock will allow a team to sub all they want but then have to choose if they want to eat up shot clock time to sub.  This will be a coaching issue.  But eliminating the horn will only exacerbate the current issue of teams on offense slowing it down so they can get specific personnel on the field and passing the ball around in a circle.  THAT’S the issue.  The issue isn’t the game is slower.  You don’t see players walking around or taking their time. 

    IT’S THE SUBBING in between exciting parts of the game that is the issue.  Sure, low scoring games can be fun to watch and even the ND vs Duke championship game was fun to watch.  It could have been much higher scoring except ND kept taking horrible angle shots.  Like, I mean, stupid horrible.  Time after time.  Like, dude, what are you thinking horrible.  So as a lacrosse player that was exciting, and if half of those horrible shots had gone it, we’d be talking something different. What the non-lacrosse playing person ALWAYS brings up is: “Why are they taking so much time to sub and then just throw it around in a circle?  What’s up with the coaches affinity for seeing the ball go around in a circle so much?”  

    ALWAYS.I’m glad you didn’t use the shot clock cost money argument b/c it doesn’t.  The simple rebuttal to the shot clock cost issue is: Why isn’t there a clock for all the other time restrictions like clearing, goalie 4 sec, etc…  The answer is b/c it’s not necessary.November 19, 2011.  Nebraska at Michigan football game.  Power outage at the stadium.  No scoreboard or play clocks.  Game kept going.  Everything from timing to scoring is done through the refs. (Just like any other high school lacrosse game)  proving you DON’T need a physical shot clock to implement a shot clock in lacrosse, and that cost involved IS NOT AN ISSUE.  Scoreboards, shot clocks, and play clocks are ONLY FOR THE FANS.  THEY DO NOT CONTROL THE GAME. AT THE MOST BASIC LEVEL THE REFS CONTROL EVERY ASPECT OF THE GAME.  Even if the scoreboard said it, if it’s not marked on the refs scorecard, the goal/touchdown didn’t happen.

  • Good article. Welcome to the Network. A couple of points-
    1) The fans want to speed up the game. The coaches want to win games. The shot clock discussion has blown up because the most talented teams in the country played at a slow pace and were successful while doing so. I think fans might be over-reacting to the 2011 postseason, but it will be interesting to see if those teams open it up this year. 2) I like your point about the team identities in college sports. The match-ups between the styles create great story lines. I don’t want to see every college lacrosse team play the same way for the sake of the fans or tv viewers. Remember the 90s Princeton-Syracuse match ups? You had control vs chaos. Good vs evil (or at least that’s how I saw it). That was compelling and exciting to watch. 3) The shot clock is a really bad idea outside of D1. Even the D1 coaches that experimented with it in the fall made comments about poor shot selection or the extra burden on the refs or shot clock operator. While I think a Cuse-UVA game or UNC-Maryland game would be great with a shot clock, I really don’t want to see a Wagner-Mercer game (sorry guys) with bad shots and a 4-3 final score. The clock might speed up play, but I think shot clock fans have overestimated its ability to improve play. 

  • The TRUE issue in D1 lacrosse is: subbing without any consequence.  All that constant subbing is what “slows down the game” and is what is quickly questioned by new viewers of the sport.  No other sport allows this much subbing in the middle of the game.

    What should happen is to add one more line to the field and GLE.  (Turf fields just need to paint another line across the field so low coast)  Implement a new rule of an automatic stall call after 60 seconds after gaining possession where the offensive team needs to keep it in the box.  This will effectively do what the people wanting a shot clock without adding a shot clock.  If the coach wants to eat up part of the 60 seconds to sub then that’s his coaching decision to make knowing he will have to play the rest of the possession within the smaller box 6 on 6.  The fact that a team can bring it behind during a stall call eliminates the purpose of the stall.  This will not force a team to take bad shots even though they’ve successfully backed it up multiple time, but it will cause more forced turnovers.  More forced turnover and less bad-shot turnovers is what we want to see right?

  • One of positives about a shot clock in lacrosse is that it would be simple to understand. You run out of time, you lose the ball. I don’t want more lines, and I don’t want to have to explain to someone that because the team threw the ball around 5 times, they are now confined to a hexagon drawn on the field. Let’s keep it simple. I’m of the opinion that the game is pretty damn good as it is (attendance is not suffering), but if we make the move to speed up the game, I’m in favor of a shot clock over creating more conditional situations. 

  • These are all excellent points.  The cost issue was brought up in conversation multiple times, and that is a entire argument on its own.  I do agree with the idea of changing the box to a smaller box with a stall.  Like you said subbing is now up to coaches on how the want to do it and risk being stuck in a smaller box.  My idea i had was eliminate the edges of the box when stall is called, this prevents the offense from going corner to corner when your under two mins and trying to kill the clock, however there are multiple arguments against that as well.  I agree with your point about teams taking an eternity to sub, but the eliminating the horn just adds the quick restart, but then after a quick whistle teams can take 4 mins to sub, so I understand where you are coming from.  Thanks for the input. 

  • A few comments here on the shot clock. I was also at the convention this weekend as a first year assistant coach and there really were some great talks to sit in on. One thing I do know is that after working with the NLL last year and being on the bench for games people fight. The coaches,players and even officials will fight with each other as to what was a shot did it hit someone? No it hit the goalie no it didn’t that hit a defender, did you reset it? No did you? Just one example. Another things that was great was I accidentally sat at the table where we had Matt Poskay and Dom Starsia sitting right next to me during the Nike lunch. Matt had similar to say about the arguing among players in the MLL when it comes to shot clock times and resets along with officials just wanting to get out of the middle. One person brought up the question of who controls these clocks? Most schools have to hire students to run the scoreboard so bringing some kid who never has seen the sport before and asking them to run the shot clock in a sport where he doesn’t even know how many men are on the field would be a tough thing to say the least. On the last note Dom Starsia spoke at the table when asked about the clock (since no one could avoid it all weekend) and his response was not as much a shot clock but if someone is given a stall warning what about taking the goal line extended and having a line on the field on either side of the net maybe. Then when you are told to keep it in you can not go behind the goal anymore. This way shrinking the field and not really giving up a defensive stand or position by being forced to chase people around. Just some great ideas and points of view from the weekend. Sorry this was so long! But needed to be said

  • Determining whether it was a shot or not is still an argument in today’s game for backing up the shot.  Was it a shot or a pass?  This would not be any different if we implemented a shot clock.

  • The key is an AUTOMATIC stall call after 60 seconds.  People want to eliminate the subjectivity of the refs too.  Why should the refs have to determine if a team is playing stall-ball.  Just make it automatic.  60 seconds, as you said, seems to be the popular amount of time people are throwing around.

    Seriously, I don’t know why we don’t just go with my rule suggestion.  It’s literally the easiest method, changes the game in no way except for accomplishing what the shot clock does, and I don’t see an argument against it.  If there are arguments against making a solid line along GLE and making that the new stall box I’d like to hear it.

  • The issue isn’t whether it was a shot or a pass, which as you point out is currently a part of the game, but whether a reset should be granted. In the MLL a shot needs to hit the goal (pipes) or the goalie in order for the offense to get a fresh 60 seconds on the shot clock. From my experience, this was often debated during the course of the game, and caused many delays while the issue was sorted out. Some of the issues stemmed from having an inexperienced shot clock operator (or one unfamiliar with the game). I’m not saying that this is necessarily a deal breaker for shot clock proponents, but it is another issue that many might not consider. 

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