Our First Look at the NCAA Shot Clock

Photo Credit: Lacrosse Playground

This weekend we got our first in-person look at the new NCAA shot clock. Under the new trial rules, a 60-second shot clock starts up as soon as the offensive team gets a touch in the box. The entire lacrosse community has been waiting with bated breath to see how it affects our game.

Based on what we saw in this weekend’s action up at Hofstra at the Headstrong Foundation Nicholas Colleluori Classic, Brody and I are OUT on this rule. Here’s why:

1)  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Who had a problem with the shot clock rules the way they were? Over the last three seasons, refs had the discretion to put a shot clock on a team if they were taking too long on offense. I haven’t talked to a single person who didn’t like it that way. To me, it seems like the rules committee is just trying too hard. The college sport is a phenomenal product and viewership grows by the year. Stop trying to fix what isn’t broken and instead focus on marketing outside of hotbed areas. Fans will come.

2)  It doesn’t create shots, just turnovers.

Less time to shoot means more shots, right? Actually not really. All day, we saw offensive players roll the ball into the corner, take the shot clock violation and go set up their ride instead of actually taking a shot to beat the clock. I assume the NCAA thought that players would be taking circus shots or ripping long bombs with the shot clock running down like they do in the NBA, creating #SCTop10 moments.

Instead, it’s more advantageous to accept the turnover and get back on D than it is to risk a popcorn save and a transition opportunity going the other way. If only the NCAA could have foreseen this strategy. Oh wait, that’s right. Teams have been rolling the ball into the corner since the inception of the shot clock. Even GW, a 4-9 club team, knew to do that against us.

Now, newcomers who already complain that the rules of lacrosse are too hard to understand are going to see 3-6 seemingly intentional turnovers per game and only end up more confused. Congratulations, NCAA, you set up a punt without the excitement of the return.

3)  It further minimizes the role of middies.

60 second possessions are brutal for midfielders. This new rule will mean that the premiere offensive talents at midfield will spend even less time on the field, unless they have superhuman conditioning. The superstar middie has been disappearing from our sport. As a matter of fact, the last eight Tewaaraton winners have all been attackmen. As someone who grew up on middies like Kyle Harrison, Paul Rabil and Max Seibald, this has been disappointing. This new role will only further incentivice teams to move their most talented middies down to attack to maximize their time on the field.

Hopefully what we saw this weekend were just growing pains. Maybe by the spring, teams will scheme around this rule so it’s less disruptive. But for now, it looks like the NCAA has tampered with a good thing and it’s going to blow up in their face.

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