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
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.