The Loop

Ban The Timeout

The Ohio State-Seton Hall finish is proof that basketball should have no timeouts

November 23, 2021

Mark Brown

First off, watch what happened in the last 20 seconds when Ohio State and No. 21 Seton Hall met at something called the "Fort Myers Tipoff" (Note: I would normally rather read a detective novel called the "Fort Myers Tipoff" than watch a November college basketball game at such an event, but this time it actually delivered).

Apologies for the video quality and lack of sound, but that's the only place that showed the full sequence. You can see the finish in living color, and audio, here:

That's a fantastic finish, but what's truly remarkable about it is that despite having two timeouts to burn, Chris Holtmann decided to just let his team play. It's almost certain that he did this because it was a preseason game, and that if this were a grueling Big Ten game in the dead of winter in some hell-hole like West Lafayette, Indiana, he'd be sprinting to the ref, grotesquely sweaty, to call the TO.

Coaches are control freaks, and the better the coach, the more control-freaky he is. Football is the ultimate control freak sport, which is why all football coaches are such intense weirdos, but college basketball is close, and the main method of control exercised by college coaches especially is the timeout. As any college basketball fan understands, the effect of this is to make close games virtually unwatchable at the end, because coaches hoard timeouts and use them almost exclusively in the high-pressure moments. The NCAA took a positive step in this direction by reducing the total timeouts to four recently, but the problem is that three of them can carry over, which is why you often see teams come down to the wire with five or six collective timeouts remaining between them. At that point, it's the safest bet in sports that you're in for a slog where the last two minutes of game time take like 25 minutes of actual time. On top of that, there are nine TV timeouts in every game, which already halts the pace of play to a crazy degree. It sucks.

The worst part of all this is that it deprives us of those insane sequences like the one above where the energy and drama mount with every moment, and things happen in a whirling dervish of pure chaos. The only time this happens now is when a coach chooses not to call a timeout—they always have some remaining—and the only time that happens is if you're playing before January, or the coach is a psychopath like Jim Boeheim:

How awesome is that? I swear college basketball could boost its ratings overnight by giving each team literally one timeout per game in all televised games. Coaches can coach their team beforehand, and during the TV timeouts. The game is for the game. Take the power away from the control freaks, and restore the madness of the wild finish.