Getting you ready for the 2012 college lacrosse season. What, the season already started? Drats.
There is going to be a day when I don't write about the tempo of lacrosse games. (To refresh your memory, "tempo" is just a fancy way of saying "total possessions per game." Get with the program, buddy.) That day is not today.
With the summer and fall ball behind us and no regulatory action taken to try and open up the men's college game, the biggest issue facing the activity is still unresolved: How long will men's college lacrosse look like a game of Canasta at The Wrinkle Village Old Folks Retirement Community? As I've detailed in the past, despite outcries to try and speed up "the fastest game on two feet," more and more teams are taking a "Yeah, right, buddy. I do what I want!" approach and are driving the game directly into the ground:
In 2009, 31 of the 59 Division I teams played below the national pace average for the respective year. In 2010, 45 of the 60 teams playing in Division I played at a tempo below the 2009 national pace average. In 2010, 31 teams played below the national pace average for the respective year. In 2011, 43 of the 61 teams playing in Division I played at a tempo below the 2009 national pace average. 40 of the 61 teams playing in Division I played at a tempo below the 2010 national pace average. In totem, 32 teams played below the national pace average for the respective year. The national average has lost just about two possessions per 60 minutes of game each year since 2009. I'm not sure what this is a function of other than assuming that teams are adopting a "monkey see, monkey do" approach. Look at the slowest of the slow in 2011. That is appalling. In fact, there are a total of 13 (!) teams in 2011 -- the five listed above plus Maryland, Villanova, Rutgers, Notre Dame, St. Joseph's, Pennsylvania, Drexel, and Lafayette -- that are playing slower than Princeton did in 2010 (the runaway slowest team in that year). Teams that play slow are playing even slower each year, dragging the national average into the tank. What's worse, more and more teams are going to this style which is creating a tempo anchor among Division I.
So, what's going to happen in 2012? Is this going to get even worse? My gut tells me, "Yes, stupid!" but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, if all indications are pointing to 2013 as the first year of some substantial rule changes to try and get the game out of the mud, a terribly slow 2012 would be all the NCAA needs as motivation to finally get its act together and give everyone jet packs to speed things up.
More after the jump.
It appears as if a shot clock is a fairly decent likelihood after some fall experimentation, and I'm okay with that, I suppose. The problem, though, is that a simple shot clock isn't a magic cure-all. There are deeper problems with the game that are impacting tempo, and the resolution items really need a hard look in the overall:
Do you implement a shot clock? If you do, is it 30 seconds or a minute? Is it tied to entering the ball into the attack box or when offensive possession is generated? Who administers it? Is the shot clock in the style used by Major League Lacrosse or do you forge a new path that redefines "shot"? What are the potential downfalls of a shot clock? (Sloppiness? Increased use of zone defenses?) Will shooting suffer? There are a lot of residual issues stemming from the resolution point. Do you restrict substitution patterns to just dead ball scenarios? Will this effectively re-invent the two-way midfielder, thereby increasing transition opportunity importance and keeping teams from rushing through possessions if a shot clock is implemented? Do you carve out an exception for getting a long-stick midfielder on the field? Is this fair to a 40-man roster? Do you change face-offs, either through total elimination or by merely downgrading their importance to only occur at the start of quarters? Is this a fair treatment to a specialized part of the game that has developed significantly over the years? Is this even necessary if possession is going to be changing every 30 to 60 seconds? Remember: Basketball got rid of the tip-off rule long before it instituted a shot clock. The comparison to hoops here isn't quite on point. Do you materially change the game in limiting what defenses teams can play and where? Is this a fair limitation on coaching strategy? Is this done on its own or in tandem with another rule change? Is the zone defense the wave of the future and should offenses adjust accordingly? Are there any equipment changes that need to be considered? It takes a hacksaw to get a ball out of an offensive player's crosse these days. Should the NCAA re-evaluate equipment specifications to encourage defenses to pursue the takeaway more?
I don't have the answers to these questions. That's not my job. (My job is to write surrealistic nonsense and pass it off as quality sports content. Duh.) All I know is that 2012 is looking like an epically slow year and I'm not even sure that a cooler full of fresh cold ones is going to help me with that frustration.
Alright, what do you knuckleheads think? Slowest year ever and is this a bad thing? What does 2013 look like from a rules and tempo standpoint?