Hutton: Shot clock overdue in high school hoops
By MIKE HUTTON email@example.com Twitter: @MikeHuttonPT February 16, 2013 11:29PM
Andrean's Sam Toporski (far left) tries to disrupt the huddle of Munster players during a time out during their game held at Andrean High School on Friday February 15, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 18, 2013 7:13AM
It’s time for my once-every-decade rant about the shot clock in high school basketball.
We need it — now.
Why? Because of games, like Munster’s 52-50 victory over Andrean on Saturday. Give the Mustangs and Mike Hackett credit. His teams have perfected the art of what I like to call template basketball. Physical, solid man-to-man defense. Sound ball handling. Precise screening and cutting. Great shooting. Cool play under pressure and the dreaded stall ball.
Slowing the game down to a crawl, with a sizeable lead, has been part of the Indiana high school playbook for the last 100 years. It’s nothing new. To be fair, every team in the area utilizes the same principles, not just Munster, at times. It’s good strategy, given the current rules. It’s great when for the Mustangs, who are ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association polls.
It’s also mind-numbingly predictable and antithetical to actually growing the game.
This is America. We want offense. We like to see players make plays.
Consider this: The Mustangs scored one basket in the fourth quarter against the 59ers. They went into stall mode with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter. What came next was as predictable as the Mustangs’ next victory. Pass after pass around the corners of the tiny 59ers gym. Wide open looks for layups that were eschewed for one more pass while the fans watched the inevitable hamster race — Andrean players chasing the Mustangs until they were breathless or they fouled them.
Andrean coach Carson Cunningham, familiar with the Mustangs’ operational mode, was prepared for the slow down. He had rested his guys early, going deep into his bench, using players like JJ Bosak and Nick Podkul and then bringing in smaller, fresh players in to try to create pressure and force Mustangs mistakes when his team dug a hole for itself.
Munster, when it gets a second-half lead, is impossible to beat. I mean that literally and figuratively. The Mustangs made 13 of 17 free throws. Andrean almost pulled off the upset, but only because it was fortunate to hit a couple of 3-pointers in the last 55 seconds and because Cunningham pressed the action the second Munster decided to play slow.
Aside from the last 54 seconds, that second half, from about the two-minute mark of the third quarter, was not fun to watch for the objective fan. Sorry, but it just wasn’t. And let me be clear here. I completely understand why Munster plays the way it does. It works.
The Mustangs are 20-0. Their freshman team is undefeated and their junior varsity team has only lost one game. Why would you change the way you play if you have that kind of success?
The problem is the game has evolved into such a scrum match defensively that it’s time for high school basketball to catch up to the rest of the world and put some constraints on the time of possession for the offense.
A 35-second shot clock gives coaches the opportunity to still employ an element of the slow down offense while making them actually play offense.
I’d even argue the clock should be 30 seconds, not 35, so the game really does move faster.
This end-of-the-game foul fest, while the team with the lead plays keep away, now a permanent part of high school basketball, isn’t visually pleasing or fun or even real basketball, if you ask me. It’s not what James Naismith intended when he nailed those peach baskets up.
To get back to Munster, the Mustangs actually have one of the best 3-point shooting teams in Hackett’s tenure as coach. Before their game against Andrean, they were making close to seven per game.
I loved watching them set double screens for Drew Hackett or Mike Schlotman at the top of the key to free them up for a 3-pointer.
I loved the way the 59ers, after a brief period of struggle, came out and chased their shooters desperately when they absolutely had to do.
I loved the way Nate Bubash turned into a beast inside for a period in the second half when the 59ers were successfully defending the 3-point shot. They are completely capable of playing fast or slow or in between any team in the state on offense.
I love the way they play offense. I just hate it when it comes to a complete stop.
I abhor the kill button, which is the button that Hackett and any coach that wants to play that way, has at his discretion. Let’s get rid of the kill button and replace with it with a slow-down lever.
Plenty of people will argue that it will be too expensive. That is exactly what the IHSAA said in 2002 when I made the case that there needed to be three officials doing games. Plenty of coaches went along with that line as well. Guess what? I don’t see any two-man crews anymore at the varsity level.
Also, there are already eight states —South and North Dakota among them —that require a shot clock. This is Indiana. Schools will figure out a way to shoulder the extra financial outlay. This won’t happen soon, but it should happen eventually if the game is going to grow.