It’s All Relative

In the run-up to this season’s Final Four we were greeted by two interesting but unsurprising commentaries. Unsurprising because they merely confirmed what we already knew: that the number of 3-point attempts in college basketball continues to surge, and correspondingly, the number of dunks has followed suit. 

In his April 8th Sports Illustrated piece, citing data compiled by Ken Pomeroy, Andy Staples recounted the record number of treys attempted in the tournament. Back in 2014 and ‘15 the percent of three-point field goal attempts per tournament game hovered around 32% but rose to 35% in 2016, then cleared 38% last season. Through the first 64 games of this year’s tournament, Pomeroy found that the average percent of three-point attempts had grown to nearly 41%.

Hoop Vision’s Jordan Sperber chimed in with a nifty chart, illustrating the trend over a ten-year period.

And what does the dramatic uptick in three-point attempts have to do with the increasing number of dunks generated in this year’s tourney?

Josh Plano’s March 28, 2019 piece at FiveThirtyEight.com revealed that six of this year’s Sweet 16 entries had a dunk share, or percent of 2-point attempts, exceeding 10%. Four years ago, only one did. “This is less about a few dunk-crazed teams and more a reflection of the nationwide trend in college basketball,” reported Plano. On the eve of the Final Four, the season had produced 19,550 dunks, about 2,000 more than just five years ago.  

And the reasons?

“We’re seeing more dunks,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told The New York Times, “because there are more spectacular athletes out there.” More significantly, though, Bilas cited the symbiotic relationship between 3-pointers and dunks. 

The rise of the three as a strategic weapon has created an either-or game: you shoot the three or drive to the rim for a high percentage layup or dunk. You avoid all other lower percentage 2-point attempts. Throw in the long-range accuracy of a Carson Edwards or Kyle Guy and the crazy athleticism of players like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, and you end up with lots of threes and dunks. 

Again, interesting but not really surprising. 

While the three-pointer has greatly influenced offensive schemes and strategy, I sometimes wonder if the media echo chamber has overly dramatized its importance, imbuing it with near magical qualities when its actual benefits are, in many ways, quite relative.

Continue reading…

A Picture is Worth…

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 11.57.15 AMIs there a more dramatic explanation for why this season’s rule changes – while steps in the right direction – were insufficient to reverse the decline in pace and scoring in any significant way?

I don’t mean the embarrassed looking Hall of Famer and coaching extraordinaire Mike Krzyzewski during last season’s Final Four but the stool on which he’s perched and what it represents: the ascent of the coach from the bench to the court, the shift from coach as teacher to coach as participant.

In effect, today’s game is presented as strange theatrical production in which the director shares equal stature with the performers. He’s on the stage with them, shouting instructions and modifying the script as the play unfolds, and in the process, leaving little room for the actors to actually act. That’s what we have in college basketball today.

The coaches are smothering the game. Continue reading…

Time Machine

Let’s go back.

In fact, let’s go back forty-five years to an era of college basketball retired sports columnist Mike Loprestti fondly remembers.

“There was no shot clock, no three-pointers and no complaints about lack of scoring. Jacksonville put up 109, 104, 106, and 91 points on its way to the 1970 championship game that it lost to UCLA. Who knew that the more they put in rules friendly to the offense, the lower the scores would go?”

That same year I sat on the Notre Dame bench as the Irish student trainer and witnessed first-hand that historic tournament game I referenced in my last post. The one in which Austin Carr set the single-game tournament scoring record, garnering 61 points against Ohio University in the first round of the 1969-70 tournament.

Today, captured on ancient video tape, the game is not only great fun to watch but is of historic interest as it marks the beginning of the end of one era in college basketball and the launching of the one we now experience. In many ways, it foreshadows what the game was to become and how it began to deteriorate even as it grew in popularity driven by 24/7 cable coverage and the explosion of March Madness. Here’s a quick rundown of what the game tape reveals: Continue reading…

March Madness Pool

You’re cordially invited to participate in the better than a layup NCAA Tourney Pool! I’ve set up a bracket at CBS Sports and hope that you’ll join in the fun.

To accept my invitation, click the link below and when you arrive at the site, register with CBS Sports. It takes about three minutes and requires you to enter an email address and set a personal password. Very easy.

Once that’s done, you’ll be directed to our better than a layup page where you can fill in your bracket. To get started, you’ll be asked to enter our group password — seeberg. It’s that simple.

Here’s the link.

http://betterthanlayup.mayhem.cbssports.com/e?ttag=BPM14_em_cbsinv

Oh… and the winner? Will he receive a billion dollars? Not from me, but if he’s willing to be acknowledged, I’ll conduct a brief “interview” and announce his or her name here at better than a layup. This could be your 15 minutes of fame!