Shot clock a net neutral for Denver Men’s Lacrosse

Inside Lacrosse published an article on the shot clock, Have the New Rules Increased the Pace of Play? And the piece concludes, “The shot clock (80 seconds) has resulted in every DI team playing at a faster pace of play in 2019. The average possessions per game has hit its highest mark in our 10-year data set at 82 possessions per game. This represents nearly a 20% increase year-over-year as compared to 2018.”

So, how have the new rules affected Denver Men’s Lacrosse?

We did an analysis below comparing this season to the prior three years. However, this does not take into account roster changes during this period, the Trevor Baptiste factor (.714 winning % at the X), weather and opponents.

Year Games Denver Goals – total/Avg Goals Allowed – total/Avg Total Goals – Avg Denver Turnovers – Total/Avg Opponent Turnovers – Total/Avg Turnovers – Total/Avg GM
2019 12 146/12.2 109/9.1 21.3 174/14.5 213/17.7 32.2
2018 17 193/11.3 134/7.9 21.7 201/11.8 169/9.9 21.7
2017 17 229/13.4 149/8.8 21.1 200/11.8 158/9.3 20.8
2016 16 217/13.5 146/9.1 22.6 199/12.4 164/10.2 22.6

And the conclusions?

Turnovers are way up this season in Denver’s games with opponents losing 7 more possessions per game and Denver coughing up the ball 2.5 more times per game. Like many Pioneer fans, you may have thought Denver was a turnover machine this season but Denver has a net turnover advantage. Still, an average of 32.2 turnovers between the two teams per game this season is tough to watch at times, nearly 35% more than the prior three seasons average.

The Inside Lacrosse analysis points to the 20-second clearing requirement as one of the primary contributors to increased turnovers. The rate of non-clear turnovers has also increased to its highest levels since 2013. While the average team committed non-clear turnovers on 34% of its possessions in 2018, the average team is turning the ball over on nearly 37% of its possessions in 2019.

As for goal scoring, Denver’s 12.2 goals per game this season ranks third out of the last four years for Denver and only a goal-per-game better than last season.  Opponents are scoring at a 9.1 goals-per-game clip against Denver, tied with 2016 and a bit more than a goal better than the prior two years. So, no significant difference in goal scoring – a surprise to many lacrosse fans who anticipated that more possessions would equal more goals.

More possessions merely mean more opportunities. Unfortunately,  many of those are not quality possessions with the time pressure of the clock. Denver, known for having a slower, more deliberate offensive philosophy, would appear to neither benefit nor be significantly disadvantaged by the new rules. Longer term, it would seem that teams would benefit by recruiting creative one-on-one players who can generate quality scoring chances with the clock winding down.

Still, it is hard to argue against the benefit of a shot clock to generate spectator interest and grow the sport. And Denver, just like all the other programs, is learning to adapt.