How Has the 30-Second Shot Clock Affected NCAAB Totals?

On June 8, 2015, the NCAA formally voted to reduce the length of the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds, and it was immediately clear this would have major ramifications for college basketball bettors. A shorter shot clock means more possessions, and therefore higher-scoring games. In other words, anybody betting college basketball totals would need to refine their approach.

Reducing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds is arguably the most significant rule change in recent history, as it forces teams to get into their offense sooner. This obviously leads to several additional possessions per game, but it has also led to an uptick in three-point attempts. That’s a huge revelation since most data analytics have argued that the three-point shot has been widely under-utilized. The NCAA also reduced the number of timeouts and extended the restricted-area arc from 3 feet to 4 feet, but the new shot clock was the biggest rule change.

Between 2004 and 2015, the average college basketball total was 136.23 and the under went 18,107-17,761 (50.5%) in those games. The table below, which uses the closing line at Pinnacle, displays the average total and how that has impacted betting unders.

Year Average Total Under Record Win Rate
Overall 136.23 18,107-17,761 50.5%
2004-05 137.51 959-969 49.7%
2005-06 136.38 1,592-1,551 50.7%
2006-07 137.09 1,626-1,730 48.5%
2007-08 137.17 1,743-1,704 50.6%
2008-09 135.68 1,673-1,677 49.9%
2009-10 137.13 1,677-1,576 51.6%
2010-11 135.99 1,830-1,813 50.2%
2011-12 134.22 1,871-1,837 50.5%
2012-13 133.69 1,539-1,541 50.0%
2013-14 140.47 1,983-1,730 53.4%
2014-15 133.17 1,614-1,633 49.7%

These totals were fairly consistent with the exception of the 2013-14 season, where the average total was just north of 140. Not surprisingly, that was also the best season for betting unders (1,983-1,730, 53.4%).

Ever since this new rule change was implemented, scoring has increased substantially. During the 2015-16 college basketball season, the average total was 7.63 points higher than it was over the previous 11 seasons. Despite this massive increase, the over actually posted a winning record (2,025-1,949, 51%).

Oddsmakers have continued to increase their college basketball totals this season, yet overs have been hitting at a record-setting pace. Although the average college basketball total is 1.36 points higher than it was during the 2015-16 campaign, overs have gone 1,598-1,519 (51.3%) this season. That would qualify as the second best “over” season in our database.

The table below displays the average closing total for each of the past two seasons.

Year Average Total Under Record Win Rate
Overall 144.46 3,468-3,623 48.9%
2015-16 143.86 1,949-2,025 49.0%
2016-17 145.22 1,519-1,598 48.7%

As you can see, the average total with the 35-second shot clock (136.23) was 8.23 points lower than it has been with the 30-second shot clock (144.46). Despite these inflated totals, the under has hit at a significantly worse rate with the 30-second shot clock (48.9%) than it did with the 35-second shot clock (50.5%). In other words, scoring has been outpacing the total. This raised the question about whether public betting has changed over the past two seasons.

I thought there was a chance that bettors would look at these lofty totals and be increasingly willing to take the under. In fact, the exact opposite has been true. Looking at the public betting percentages from our contributing sportsbooks, the majority of bettors (more than 50%) took the over in 69.6% of all games between 2004 and 2015. Since the NCAA voted to shorten the shot clock, the majority of bettors have taken the over in 72.6% of games.

Year Public Over Games Percentage
2004-05 391 481 81.29%
2005-06 948 1525 62.16%
2006-07 1675 2426 69.04%
2007-08 2076 3274 63.41%
2008-09 2476 3309 74.83%
2009-10 2205 3188 69.17%
2010-11 2598 3605 72.07%
2011-12 2801 3706 75.58%
2012-13 1767 2529 69.87%
2013-14 1797 2994 60.02%
2014-15 1902 2623 72.51%
2015-16 2911 3951 73.68%
2016-17 2220 3114 71.29%

If we look at games with increasingly one-sided public betting, it becomes even clearer that bettors are willing to take the over in spite of these increasing totals. At least 75% of bettors took the over in 16.2% of games between 2004 and 2015. Since the shot clock was reduced from 35 seconds to 30 seconds, at least 75% of bettors have taken the over in 17.8% of games.

Year Public Over Games Percentages
2004-05 129 481 26.82%
2005-06 345 1525 22.62%
2006-07 681 2426 28.07%
2007-08 579 3274 17.68%
2008-09 644 3309 19.46%
2009-10 325 3188 10.19%
2010-11 394 3605 10.93%
2011-12 446 3706 12.03%
2012-13 456 2529 18.03%
2013-14 364 2994 12.16%
2014-15 434 2623 16.55%
2015-16 727 3651 19.91%
2016-17 480 3114 15.41%

With college basketball totals on the rise and public betting continuing to hammer the over, contrarian bettors may be able to take advantage of these inflated lines by taking the under. There’s also increased defensive intensity and less scoring in late season games, which could create additional value on the under. Since 2004, unders have hit at a 50.2% clip during the regular season and a 50.9% clip during the postseason. Bettors should never blindly take the under, but it’s worth noting that the under has gone 3,110-2,771 (52.9%) in neutral court games.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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