After placing last in the nation in pace factor as a basketball conference in 2013-2014, ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced at the league meetings on Amelia Island this week that the ACC will tinker with their shot clock, reducing the time allotted per shot-less possession to 30 seconds during exhibition games to see if that increases scoring activity.
The clock, which is constituted at 35 seconds since being reduced from 45 seconds in 1993, would mimic the 30 second model used in the NCAA Womens' game. Keep in mind that this rate of change is way faster than the glacial pace that finally saw a shot clock adopted at all in 1985 after years of permitting teams to decide to slow the game to a complete halt. Dean Smith at North Carolina would build a lead and waste the last 10 minutes of the ticket purchaser's time by going to the four-corners offense as he strangled ACC win after ACC win away from his opponents.
According to this excellent article, the ACC was:
"The second-fastest league in 2002, with an average tempo of 74.2 possessions per game, it was dead last among the 32
conferencesin 2014, with just 61.8 possessions per game, according to KenPom.com."
Assuming an average of about a point lost per possession, you are talking about 11 points off the total score per game. There were so many games in the low 50s in the ACC as that number of possessions has shrunk with coaches opting to shorten the game, particularly coaches who are outnumbered or overmatched personnel-wise (VT has consistently been on that list under Greenberg and Johnson since joining the league in 2004).
Technically the math adds up as such: 2400 seconds of game time/ 35 seconds, which allows for somewhere between 68 and 69 possessions a game if things tie perfectly. If you shorten that to 30 seconds, it becomes an even 80 possessions. No it won't be so nice and neat when it all shakes out, but you can see that they've managed to secure those 11 possessions back that have been lost since 2002.
Virginia Tech under James Johnson last year averaged 64.3 possessions per game, which was good for 9th in the conference, but they were last in almost all efficiency categories.
James Johnson had always stated he wanted to get out and run but as we can clearly see he had neither the horses or the acumen to coach such a style. Greenberg was happy with the wrestling matches that kept games close, and the pace suited him better.
Last year Buzz Williams and Marquette ranked 222nd nationally in pace factor with 66.3 possessions per game, which was good for 5th in the Big East. Lets take a look at Williams tenure at Marquette:
As you can see Buzz moves at a faster pace than we are accustomed to, and in a somewhat down year he took a slower approach.
Slowing down the pace has long been a hallmark of the less talented team, and to combat this the NCAA instituted new "Freedom of Movement" rules that were supposed to help schools recognize an uptick in scoring across the board. If anything these new (difficult to interpret) rules caused a great deal of consternation with a lot of games devolving into full floor death marches between the free throw lines in games' waning moments; as if the extra TV timeouts weren't enough of an interruption.
We'll see how things go in October and November, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the 30 second shot clock adopted for 2015-2016. Not only will new NBA commissioner Adam Silver get his way with an abridged age limit for entry to the league (reported to be 20), but he'll likely get athletes that are better prepared for the even faster 24 second shot clock in the NBA.
But don't think this is the panacea to games featuring poor offense. Those teams that struggle will just be throwing up their desperation heaves five seconds sooner now.