You’re preaching to the choir.
Tennessee’s returning players say the NCAA’s recent decision to reduce the shot clock from 35 seconds per possession to 30 is a moot point, as far as they’re concerned. If the 2015-16 Vols are taking anywhere near 30 seconds to launch a shot, something is amiss.
“Coach Barnes wants to run,” senior forward Derek Reese told InsideTennessee. “He said from Day One that he wants a high tempo. All we’ve been doing in practice this summer is working on our fast break. He said if we can score in transition we’re really not going to run plays. He wants us to run and use our skill set. He’s big on running, so it will help us having a lower shot clock.”
Maybe. The Vols played such a deliberate pace under Donnie Tyndall last season that they ranked 327th among 351 NCAA Div. I teams in possessions (63.2 per game) and 278th in points (63.3 per game). You have to wonder: Are these same guys capable of playing at warp speed under Barnes this season?
“Everybody on our team has no choice,” senior forward Armani Moore said. “You will run or you will come out of the game.”
Junior guard Robert Hubbs agrees that players who can’t keep the pace will keep the bench warm.
“We’re going to play fast regardless,” he said. “We’re going to get up and down and push the ball regardless.”
Based on summer practices, senior guard Kevin Punter believes the Vols have enough athleticism to succeed playing a blistering pace.
“From the workouts we’ve been having everything’s going to be fine in terms of running the floor, playing pick and roll, getting to the basket,” he said. “Coach is letting us play. That’s his style — just to let us play basketball, get out there and have fun.”
Moore’s combination of strength and athleticism makes him very effective in the open floor. Since a faster pace creates more open-floor opportunities, he endorses the shorter shot clock.
“I like getting out ahead of the defense and scoring easy buckets,” he said. “I feel like easy buckets is always the key to winning.”
No Vol is happier about the reduced shot clock than sophomore guard Detrick Mostella. He led the freewheeling Rocky Top League by scoring 39.0 points per game last summer but struggled mightily in the halfcourt system Tennessee played last winter. A faster pace is a godsend in his eyes.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “Anything that speeds the game up will help us out as a team and help me out as a player.”
Tennessee’s team speed is average at best. Still, Mostella believes the Vols can succeed in a run-and-gun offense.
“We have the right makeup,” he said. “We should be good playing a fast pace. We play up-and-down in the practice facility, so we should be good.”
Because opponents have just 30 seconds to score, the new shot clock should help mask some of Tennessee’s defensive deficiencies, as well.
“I think so,” Hubbs said. “Instead of playing 35 seconds you play 30, so that gives us a little extra energy.”
“It will help,” senior guard Devon Baulkman agreed. “The less time you have to be on defense, the sooner we’ll be out in our transition to offense. I think it will be really sweet because teams won’t be able to relax (on offense) and waste time.”
Reese believes a shorter clock will help keep defenders fresher and more alert.
“You don’t have to play D as long,” he said. “Teams are going to put up more quick shots that produce long rebounds (and fast-break opportunities), so you really have to communicate on defense.”
One potential pitfall for Tennessee: The Vols lack a veteran point guard to get their offense flowing quickly and efficiently. Quality point guards will be even more valuable now that teams have just 30 seconds in which to score.
“Most definitely,” Mostella conceded. “They’re going to have to get the offense running quickly. If they don’t, the shot clock will be gone by the time they get it set up.”
The shorter shot clock undoubtedly will impact college basketball. The question is: How much impact will it have?
“I think there will be a way lot more scoring,” Baulkman said. “Teams will get more possessions and take more shots than usual.”
“I think that will make a huge impact,” Reese said. “It will definitely speed up the game – a lot more possessions, a lot more shots up, more scoring. We’re going to see more of a high-tempo game.”
Moore agrees, adding: “It’s definitely going to speed the game up, allow us to get out in transition a little quicker and definitely get off more shots.”
One Vol, however, believes reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 is no big deal.
“That’s just five less seconds,” Punter said. “In this day and age a lot of teams shoot the ball fast anyway. I don’t feel like it will have a huge effect.”
This much is certain: If Rick Barnes has his way, it won’t have a huge effect at Tennessee.
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