I was messing around on the internet this morning when I saw a tweet that disturbed me. It was this one:
In both games tonight, the last minute of regulation took 16 minutes in real time: pic.twitter.com/RSySQlSx3s— Mike Beuoy (@inpredict) September 3, 2020
That is in reference to the last-minute "action" in the NBA games last night. Thanks to the usual assortment of things that slow late-game play - reviews, fouls, endless strategic timeouts - the final 60 seconds of each of two basketball games ended up taking over half an hour combined to elapse. That's brutal.
College, of course, is no better.
This is a problem. What should be the most entertaining possible scenario ends up being a piecemeal conglomeration of set plays out of timeouts, free throws after immediate and intentional fouls, and official reviews. The sudden declaration of the game's pace is approximately equivalent to if the competitors in the Tour de France had to run the last couple of miles of every stage. If I wanted to need 16 minutes to watch 60 seconds of ball-in-play action, I'd turn on a football game.
So what's the solution? It's probably a combination of things. I've got some suggestions though.
First, I'd severely curtail the length and frequency of official reviews. Anything time related would be out unless it pertains to whether or not the final horn should have sounded. Nothing irritates people more than taking five minutes to figure out you needed to add two tenths of a second to the clock. Any other review would be limited to a minute; if it's not obvious enough to make the change in that amount of time, you're left with the call on the floor.
The NCAA has already tried to eliminate some stoppages by giving teams fewer timeouts; I'd go farther and change the rule to limit teams to a single timeout in the final minute. Use it wisely. Guys who have been playing ball most of their lives and have been being coached up intensely since August should be able to cobble something together on the fly. I don't think X needed a timeout last season to tell Q to dribble from the left point to the right point and pitch the ball back to Naji for a three. If the opponent scouts out your last-minute actions, you'd better have some counters.
There are countless other adjustments possible. I wouldn't mind seeing the NCAA flirt with instituting the Elam Ending, for instance, which would eliminate the need for a lot of timing related issues. Mostly, I just want to see breathless grandstand finishes instead of mind-numbing slogs to the buzzer. European soccer and the MLB have used the pandemic-altered season to experiment with rule changes; I think it's time the NCAA do something to free us from having final minutes spent looking at ref butts while they hunch over a monitor for the fifth time in four plays.