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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

April 4, 2014 at 12:18 PM

March Madness: Tweaking shot clock would take tedium out of last 2 minutes


How long must we endure the frustration of watching every close and exciting game of March Madness devolve into something resembling a hybrid between a round of hot potato and a free-throw contest?

And when I say every close game, I mean it.

Take any NCAA men’s basketball game with less than two minutes on the clock and with a margin of six points or fewer and invariably the fast-paced back and forth scoring is gone. Sure, the losing team still attempts to score. But the majority of the final two minutes is spent on free throws and players frantically passing the ball around, struggling to avoid being tagged with the ball in their hands.

Can we not put an end to this tedium?

NCAA basketball commissioners, listen up: shorten the shot clock to 15 seconds during the final two minutes of regulation. Wasting clock time while skittering around the court trying to avoid a defender’s foul is not the way basketball was meant to be played, nor is it what viewers appreciate about the sport. Coaches whose teams are in the lead instruct such behavior only because it would be imprudent not to run out the game clock when their teams have 35 seconds to waste and fewer than two minutes on the game clock. A 15-second shot clock in the final two minutes strikes the right balance between giving trailing teams a fair chance to make a drive and giving leading teams incentive to shoot rather than waste time.

The fixed 35-second shot period has created a basketball loophole, just like the loopholes in our tax code. Sure the spirit of the tax code might be that I pay my fair share, but if there’s a legal way for me to pay less (maintain offensive possession with little pressure to score), of course I’m going to take it.

If a team can win a “basketball” game by playing intra-team hot potato and sinking free throws, then why wouldn’t it? School prestige, coaches’ jobs, and trophies demand a win at all costs, and usually the cost is degrading the quality of the final two minutes of game time.

It’s time that NCAA policymakers seriously assess the problem of close games’ anticlimactic, athletically undemanding final minutes and shift to a shorter late-game shot clock. NCAA basketball rules should encourage athleticism, crowd rousing three-point shots and elegant, gravity-defying layups.

The time is now. Make it happen, NCAA.

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