Overtime could be better. No, really.

By: Jack Henkels

College basketball is over, and that is sad. But, Duke lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and that is funny.

Good news is, the NBA playoffs will be in full swing next weekend and that is PEAK Twitter. Seriously, there is no better Twitter than NBA Finals Twitter.

Anyways, I must give some credit of this brain child to my roommate. He recognized that basketball games in general experience a lull after the final horn sounds and the stretch run of overtime commences.

You know, Steph Curry hits some bananas three to send the game into the extra session as the buzzer expires, but then you sit on your couch through a commercial break, then a tip at center court, and then 3 minutes of basketball where every possession is definitely more crucial than in the second quarter, but not nearly as crucial as it should be. If a team doesn’t score on it’s first 2 or 3 overtime possessions, the games not quite over yet, as a 4 or 6 points deficit with 2 and a half minutes remaining isn’t totally out of the ordinary. Point is, there’s not quite enough emphasis on every possession in overtime.

We, then, looked into ways of fixing this problem. The obvious first solution is shortening the clock. Done. Let’s start overtime with 2 and a half minutes on the clock.

In college basketball, there’s a 30 second shot clock, meaning there could be as little as 2 possessions for a particular team. To avoid that, rather than extending it to three or four minutes, we’re going to shorten the shot clock. In both the NBA and college basketball, the overtime shot clock will be 20 seconds. In the NBA, this is obviously a less aggressive change, whereas slow-paced college teams would, I guess, be at a disadvantage.

To which I would reply – big deal? If you’re a Virginia or a St. Mary’s or a South Carolina, you need to have plays in your arsenal that can be run effectively in fewer than 15 or so seconds. You should be rewarded for having a player on your team who can get you a quick isolation bucket. You know the rules before the game starts, so make sure at practice you’re allotting time for your players to get used to this new overtime rule.

In the NBA, I don’t think shortening the shot clock is nearly as big of a deal because end-of-game offense is largely isolation anyways – they’ll just have to get into their move faster. Again, less standing around waiting for the clock to tick down and instead more basketball playing. Which equals more entertainment. You follow?

So, then, why don’t we just go to this extreme and make it sudden death overtime? Great question. That puts entirely too much weight on a jump ball. It’s a severe advantage to whoever is the tallest or can jump the highest. It’s the same thing as the coin flip in football – too much advantage on an overly arbitrary entity.

Why don’t we just go to a college football overtime style where each team gets dead ball possessions and each team has to match scores until someone scores more than the other team? This answer should be obvious – that would suck. The team who gets the ball first would be too inclined to shoot a three in fear of making a layup but then the other team hoisting a three at the other end. Again, this puts entirely too much of the fate in the hands of the team that’s better at shooting the 3. It’s stupid. Also, this eliminates transition opportunities, which are the most exciting plays in basketball. So, again, stupid.

My roommate and I have tinkered with it a bit, and I’ve decided that 2.5 minutes with a 20 second shot clock is the way to go. There’s none of that early OT lull. Each possession is crucial. Teams must get into their offensive sets earlier, thus cutting out a lot of the dribbling at the top of the key.

I, honestly, don’t think this rule change is that drastic. As always, the biggest issue is the basketball purists pointing out that you can’t just change the sport in overtime. I don’t think this is changing the sport – I think this is tinkering the sport a bit to make it a little more exciting at the sport’s inherently most exciting juncture, without deciding the game with a skills competition (See: hockey and soccer shootouts). People will complain that slower-paced teams will be at a disadvantage on offense because they generally like using the entire shot clock, but those same teams will be at a huge advantage on defense because they’ll only have to strap up for 20 seconds instead of the usual 30.

Overtime, as is, is exciting. I love overtimes both in the NCAA and NBA. I don’t necessarily complain about the overtime lull – I’m usually just happy that the game has advanced to that stage. But, I will say, this method avoids that lull without tinkering with the nature of the game too much. I think it keeps most of the purists happy while also providing more of an electric finish for its viewers.

I’m not sure something like this will ever happen. The NCAA and NBA are far more focused on fixing things within the game that are BROKEN. Overtime isn’t broken – they’re not losing any viewers during overtimes. Hell, that’s when you get the most viewers. So, this rule change wouldn’t necessarily attract more people – it would just further satisfy those already watching. I’m not sure the NCAA and NBA will ever buy into a change to a rule that isn’t broken – but I don’t think there’s much of an argument that this WOULDN’T enhance viewers’ overtime experience.

If you see a massive flaw with my plan that somehow I’m myopically missing, please let me know.


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