Is it time for a fresh 30?

Should New Jersey add a shot clock for high school basketball?

Adding the sports channel collection to my cable package has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I love getting MLB Network, NFL Network, CBS College Sports and, maybe most importantly, the Fox College Sports channels (Atlantic, Central and Pacific). They allowed me the opportunity to watch nationwide high school football in the fall, and now being the sick person I am, I’ve been catching up on state championship girls basketball from across the country.

One of the biggest things I get from these games is that I don’t think the talent is that much greater anywhere else than it is here in South Jersey, it’s just packaged differently or simply gets better exposure thanks to a better reputation (whether it’s deserved or not). But that’s another post entirely.

I caught something interesting the other day that prompted this post. The FSC Pacific channel was showing one of the Washington state championship girls games (I can’t remember which one). Apparently in the Evergreen State, there is a 30-second shot clock in play.

There has occasionally been talk about instituting the shot clock in New Jersey, and I must say I was torn at first. The idea of potentially speeding up what has sometimes been thought of as a slow, uninteresting game whose scores are often painfully low had its appeal.

But by the same token, many of the better teams don’t have the problem of low scores or boring play. Those who focus on defense and thus don’t score as many points likely wouldn’t be affected that much by the shot clock and neither would the lesser squads. Their main hindrance to lighting up the scoreboard is often shooting woes, and speeding their possessions up certainly won’t help with that.

Another thing that made me wary of the 30-second limitation is the thought that, like the designated hitter in baseball, it could limit a coach’s options in play-calling. By the same token, adding the new element of the shot clock could force coaches to expand their horizons when it comes to play design and maximize the quality of every possession to try to take advantage of the few extra possessions the clock could create during a game.

Like I said before, it was seeing the Washington state final game on TV that prompted this post, and I haven’t really talked to any coaches about their opinions on the topic. For me personally, I wouldn’t want to see a rule  simply foisted on the teams across the state and force them to scramble to adapt.

However, I could see an instance where a trial run with a shot clock could give everyone a chance to see the effects over time. To borrow again from baseball, it seems the perfect place to try it out would be with the South Jersey Invitational Tournament.

The inaugural event was a huge success, bringing together some of the top teams in South Jersey, and expansion is already in the cards for next season. A shot clock could potentially work in the same way that the speed-up rules are utilized in South Jersey’s Diamond Classic in the spring.

Obviously a running clock would seem a better equivalent, but note this: The speed-up rules are something used nowhere else but in the Classic. Despite rather substantial rule changes and a final weekend in which teams could play three games in 36 hours, baseball teams are willing to put up with it all for the prestige that comes with winning the tourney.

The Invitational could work in much the same way. With teams clamoring to get into the field, they could be more willing to experiment with the clock to be part of the event and have a chance to win it.

As far as I’m concerned, the shot clock wouldn’t do much good. Scores didn’t seem significantly higher in the Washington playoff games (the final I saw was 47-44), and that’s because shooting ability will raise the scores far more than shooting quickly. It would also be one more thing schools would have to spend money on and find someone to run (the clocks in Washington work independently of the scoreboard clock and are run by a separate clock operator).

But if the NJSIAA ever got it into their collective head to try such a thing, a trial run in a tournament setting would be far preferable in my opinion to a trial season across the state.

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