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Would Villanova Basketball Benefit From A 24-Second Shot Clock?

The Wildcats have adjusted well to the faster pace of play this season. But what if they played with the NBA standard 24-second shot clock?

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

2015 was a big off-season for the NCAA rules committee.  Following a season where D1 average scoring fell to just 67.6 points per game, the committee made a concerted effort to speed up the game.  The committee made adjustments to increase spacing, reduce game stoppages, and empower the refs.  But the headline rule change was reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30, a change expected by many to lead to increased scoring.

The Villanova Wildcats have taken the rule changes in stride, winning all four of their games by an average of nearly 29 points.  While it is a small sample size, the 'Cats are putting up defensive efficiency numbers similar to the 2009 Final Four team, one of Jay Wright's best.  So with Villanova seeming to adjust to the new rules quicker than most, we come to this week's What If Wednesday: What if Villanova played with a 24-second shot clock?

It's not impossible that this question may come to fruition in the near future.  Many pundits and reporters argued that while the 30-second shot clock was a step in the right direction, it didn't go far enough.  The Wildcats have succeeded in recent years by methodical ball movement on offense and a "grind it out" mentality on defense, neither of which lend themselves to a faster paced game.  But a closer look at how Villanova is winning this season suggests that they could still be effective, possibly more so, with the 24-second clock.

The shorter clock hasn't effected shooting percentages this season, not yet anyway.  What's clear is that every team will see more possessions per game.  Scoring should go up if teams are getting more shots and hitting the same % of them, so one of the keys to taking advantage of the shorter clock will be turnovers.  More possessions won't mean anything if they end up with the other team before you can get a shot off.  Fortunately for the Wildcats, that's an area they've excelled in this season.

While the shorter shot clock takes away the ability to slow the game down, it also forces action on offense, which can lead to a high turnover percentage.  But Villanova is trending in the opposite direction, granted with a small sample size.  With three proven ball handlers in Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, and Phil Booth, the 'Cats are averaging just 10 turnovers per game.  Arcidiacono, who averages more court time than any other ball handler, only has 1 turnover on the season.  With this kind of ball control, it's easy to see how Villanova would be better equipped than most to pick up the pace.

As good as the offense has been, the defense has been better.  The Wildcats are allowing the 11th fewest points of any team in the country (56 per game) this season and have a Top 20 TO%.  Their 1-2-2 press is designed to slow or disrupt the opponent from getting in to their offensive set. When those teams have 6 less seconds to work with, they're more likely to be rushed and make a bad decision - possibly a turnover.

We all hope that Villanova will be able to sustain these numbers as the level of competition picks up.  That may be possible as their TO%'s on offense and defense aren't too far off from where they were last season, when the 'Cats finished with over 30 wins.  There's no question that the Wildcats are an elite level defense, but they're significantly better constructed to handle the shorter shot clock than many of their counterparts in the Big East.  Another regular season championship in the "30-second era" may end up being proof of that.

How do you think Villanova would handle the 24-second clock?  What factors would contribute to their success or struggle?  What should we expect from the shorter shot clock this season?  Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave your comments below.