College Basketball Scoring Problem

Submitted by itauditbill on February 20th, 2013 at 1:07 PM

An excellent article on Grantland today:

I don't know if others think this about basketball as well, but I know I love Michigan's offense under Coach Beilein than many other coaches in the area.

I would love to see the West Liberty Team and would love to see offenses like Bo Ryan's disappear. However there is an advantage to slowing things down, and with the officials allowing the increase physicality on the perimeter there is a distinct advantage in mauling the better players.

Jay Bilas himself noted that Trey Burke will do well in the NBA where the kind of physicality practiced by Aaron Craft for OSU and the other guards in the Big 10 will not be allowed.

Ah well one can dream.



February 20th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

Dan Dakich won't shut up about this.  Jay Bilas himself?  That guys a douche.  I kinda like the basketball that is played in the B1G this year, it is (usually) exciting to watch.  That game between IU and MSU last night was intense, I also felt like they called a fair amount more fouls last night than we have seen lately.


February 20th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

Bilas, again, has not been a douche since he got over the Amaker firing and has provided really complimentary analysis of both Beilein and Burke.


As for fouls, maybe the increase in fouls called in the IU-MSU game was what allowed it to have better flow because it wasn't one uncalled mugging after the next, and instead, skill was rewarded.


February 20th, 2013 at 1:23 PM ^

ESPN The Magazine, I think, had an excellent article a few months ago about how tempo has slowed down. It highlighted Loyola-Marymount, for those of you who remembers those teams, and their epic game against LSU when Shaq was there. An excellent read, if someone could find the link.


February 20th, 2013 at 1:37 PM ^

If you want an epic Loyola -Marymount game to watch see if you can find the 1990 Michigan game against them in the NCAA's.  Played shortly after Hank Gather's death and it was easily the most amazing display of offensive firepower I've ever seen.  A very talented Michigan tried to hang with with them but it was hopeless as Michigan lost 149-115.

For those of you old enough to remember - the Michigan - Layola-Marymount game to me was the basketball equilivent of Hearns v Hagler.  Two great fighters hitting each other as hard as they could until one couldn't get up anymore.



February 20th, 2013 at 2:03 PM ^

Ugh.  That was probably the worst single game of coaching Steve Fisher's ever had.  He's clearly a good coach overall, as evidenced by his work at both Michigan and SDSU, but I have no idea what he was thinking trying to keep pace with that team.  Unfortunately, since the pace of college basketball has slowed so much, Loyola's 149 points (an NCAA tournament record) might never be broken.  A game would probably have to go to four or five OTs for it to happen now.




February 20th, 2013 at 3:11 PM ^

It's a shame that no one plays like that anymore. Can you imagine anyone scoring 149 points now? That's like 3 games worth for Wisconsin. It was really kind of a crazy way to play basketball but it was so incredibly entertaining and unique. That was when the shot clock was still 45 seconds then too I believe. If I recall correctly I believe their goal was to get a shot up within 7 seconds on every possession and because of the way they trapped with the full court press the other team pretty much wound up getting an open shot pretty quickly. But they would still win a lot because they generated turnovers, could out shoot most teams and they had way better conditioning. 

I knew we were going to lose the day before the game when Rumeal was quoted in the Ann Arbor News saying that we could run with them. Which was insane, no one could run with them. UNLV beat them the following weekend by having Larry Johnson post up and then having Augmon slash to the basket. Oh well. UNLV would have killed us anyway. That UNLV team and the one the next year that lost to Duke in the Final Four was as good as any team in the 30 years that I've been watching college basketball. 


February 20th, 2013 at 1:37 PM ^

Thanks for posting.  I think college basketball's biggest problem is that the best 20 and 21 year olds in the world no longer participate in it because they're already in the NBA.  Style has certainly changed too, though, and I don't know why anyone who doesn't have a rooting interest would watch a Wisconsin game. 


February 20th, 2013 at 1:51 PM ^

The talent issue is huge, and it manifests itself in ways that aren't just directly about scoring. It seems like coaches are exerting more control over game flow now, calling more plays, and particularly calling more time outs in late game situations because they don't seem to trust their inexperienced players to generate good opportunities.

I think this is probably a bad approach, as I've rarely seen those late game TOs produce great plays or great shots this year. Too often they seem to lead to iso 3s (which we're, of course, very familiar with, but the same thing happened in yesterday's Florida game). I wonder if coaches wouldn't just be better off allowing their players the freedom to run a play without allowing the defense time to get set and organized.  And the most memorable buzzer beater this year, Illinois's win over Indiana, came from a baseline OOB play with Illinois out of TOs.


February 20th, 2013 at 2:11 PM ^

The talent drain is an issue (although teams are more talented now than they were when superstars were going straight to the NBA out of high school), but this is also part of a more general basketball-wide trend toward tougher defense.  NBA games are also much lower-scoring than they were 20-30 years ago.  Players exert a lot more energy on the defensive end than they used to, which inevitably means less energy for the offensive end.  It used to be completely unheard-of to hold a team under 40% shooting in a game.  Now you see teams doing it for an entire season.  We're currently giving up 41.7% shooting, which would have been considered outstanding as recently as the Fab Five era, but now is considered shaky.

I think the slow tempo is partly a reflection of the fact that halfcourt possessions require players to work harder than they used to.  If a team has to work extremely hard to get an open shot out of a halfcourt set, it's only going to have so much energy for the game, so - especially in those long stretches in the middle of a half - teams are going to want to shorten the game.  




February 20th, 2013 at 3:55 PM ^

This is a great point, but it's also worth pointing out that while the NCAA has followed the NBA in placing increased emphasis on defense, they haven't followed the NBA's mostly successful efforts to stamp out the hand checking and cutter bumping that made mid-90s NBA defense so difficult to play against (and the games increasingly ugly). It's those changes  to eliminate contact and encourage offensive motion (along with the new offensive emphasis in playing small and spacing the floor that began with the 7-seconds or less Suns and reached its high point with last year's Heat) that helped spark the new offensive resurgence that's created a new golden age for the NBA (cue outrage from NBA haters who never watch the games).

Those rules haven't hurt good defensive basketball or forced everyone into similar styles. You still have Thibedot's Bulls and the Pacers (can't remember coach) playing both good defense and deliberate offense. But it has separated good defensive players from the perimeter grabbing and bumping that too often characterizes NCAA play (seriously, watch Lenzelle Smith for OSU sometime, he just grabs everyone he's guarding. Craft gets away with a lot of checking, but actually moves his feet).

If I could make two changes in college basketball it would be to impletment the NBA perimeter contact rules and eliminate 2 timeouts from each team. In a sport with automatic media timeouts every 4 minutes of game time, there's no reason to have five additional timeouts. There's nothing worse than watching a close game and noticing with 3 minutes left that each team retains four timeouts. It encourages overcoaching and slows the game down.

(If you want to keep all the timeouts, then voluntary timeouts should substitute for the upcoming media timeout, ie if Beilein takes a TO at 12:30 of the 2nd half, then there should be no under 12 media TO. That will never happen because CBS couldn't get 10 extra commercial breaks during the final four, but it would improve game flow immeasurably).


February 20th, 2013 at 5:04 PM ^

"...but actually moves his feet."

Everyone mentions how Craft hand checks, and  I do agree he does to an extent but no one ever mentions how he has some of the best feet in the country.  He moves his feet so well that, to me, it helps his hand checking because the Refs are clearly able to see him doing so well in moving that the slight hand-checking he does pretty much gets ignored.  Yes, there are times where it's a bit ridiculous and fouls could/should be called.  But for the most part people don't seem to realize how well he does move his feet and stay in front by that fundamental.


February 20th, 2013 at 2:02 PM ^

An interesting read, and thanks for sharing.

Actually, the team in the Big Ten which comes nearest to West Liberty's 80 possessions per game is Indiana, which averages 70.3 possessions per game - that's good for 87th place in Dvision I in this particular statistic. Actually, here's the entire Big Ten and their relative ranking as well as a comparison to last season, courtesy of TeamRankings:

Possessions Per Game
Team 2012 2011
87 Indiana 70.3 68.3
89 Iowa 70.3 69.2
168 Purdue 68.4 66.2
179 Illinois 68.1 66.5
220 Penn State 67 65
250 Michigan St 66.3 66.6
263 Ohio State 66 67.9
266 Minnesota 65.9 66.7
291 Michigan 65.2 62.7
317 Wisconsin 63.9 60.2
320 Nebraska 63.7 63.6
321 Northwestern 63.7 65

Contrast that, however, with the one thing the Big Ten does do fairly well despite the relatively few possessions - get something out of the possessions they do have. Here is the conference performance in terms of effective possession ratio, which essentially measures your ability to get scoring chances:

Effective Possession Ratio
Team 2012 2011
2 Wisconsin 1.026 0.999
14 Minnesota 0.993 0.922
15 Michigan 0.992 0.95
18 Illinois 0.989 0.93
21 Ohio State 0.987 0.986
30 Purdue 0.983 1.007
32 Iowa 0.982 0.969
54 Indiana 0.972 0.946
114 Nebraska 0.954 0.91
118 Penn State 0.953 0.981
120 Northwestern 0.953 0.951
137 Michigan St 0.948 0.962



February 20th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

I suppose I haven't really noticed it, I don't mind games in the 60-70 point range, and the balanced teams.  I'm happy watching whatever -- in games with fewer possessions, it makes things that much more interesting/important/meaningful each time you've  got the ball, it becomes a chess-game of sorts, and I enjoy that aspect.  However, I don't mind a good old fashioned shootout either because everytime teams score it is exciting.

I've noticed the game seems to be slowing down, but I don't think I've cared that much.


February 20th, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

I don't remember who said it (or if its even true, so take this however you want), but someone said that there didn't used to be much zone defense in basketball. That could be why there is less scoring now, since good players would just blow by the one man assigned to them before.


February 20th, 2013 at 2:27 PM ^

I don't think that's true.  I would guess the opposite - that the increased emphasis on 3-point shooting has made it harder to play zone nowadays.  

The 3-point shot was introduced to the NCAA in 1986.  Before then, playing zone and packing it in would have seemed like a really good idea almost all the time.  Offenses could try to space the defense out, but there was no reward for taking a low-percentage 20-footer.  When the 3 was added, suddenly there was a clear-cut reward for taking those shots, so playing a zone now became more risky.  Shooting threes also means lots of long rebounds, which also can be tough for a zone defense to rebound.  

I don't have the data in front of me, but I'd be very surprised if teams don't play a lot more man than they did a generation ago.



February 20th, 2013 at 3:23 PM ^

One of the things I have always liked about college basketball, as well as college football, is that there are a lot of different styles of play.  If all of the games were 127-115, it would get boring pretty quickly for me.  

As for what the refs call in the Big Ten, it's much preferable to most of college basketball, where Duke does whatever they want on defense and everyone else gets called for touch fouls.


February 20th, 2013 at 3:36 PM ^

The physical play is definitely the biggest thing. On the perimeter and on finishing near the basket. So much bumping with the hips and torso too. It's the fouls that don't get called. There are some teams that basically foul on every play because the coaches and players know that the refs are not going to call all of those fouls. Calipari was 100% correct. They need to call those fouls even if it means calling 70 fouls in a game. But they won't. A game with a zillion fouls called would be brutal to watch but eventually if you keep calling them the overly physical play will stop and the end result will be a superior game.  

The 30 second shot clock is definitely something that they should go to. The women do that and the NBA plays with 24. There is no reason that you can't get a good shot within 30 seconds. That won't solve everything but it will be an improvement. 

The lack of the veteran talent which is now in the NBA instead of being college seniors and juniors certainly hurts the high end teams a lot. But that really hurts a relative handful of teams and since a lot of those guys are post players anyway it really doesn't slow the game down that much to not have them around. 


February 20th, 2013 at 3:54 PM ^

Miami games have been particularly low scoring, in particular. The score was 18-16 at the half against Clemson on Sunday. They played another low-scoring game last night too. 


February 20th, 2013 at 4:55 PM ^

Re: the shot clock, I'm not sure it'd make much of a difference to lower it to 30 seconds.  It's been lowered once before (from 45 to 35 seconds, in the mid-'90s) and that didn't seem to increase the pace of the game or scoring output.  As Pomeroy notes in the article, while cutting it down to 30 seconds would presumably increase the number of possessions, it might actually make teams less efficient per possession.

Phil Jackson has argued that the NBA should extend its shot clock to 30 seconds now that zone defenses are legal.  Having teams take quick shots doesn't mean much if they're not quality ones.




February 20th, 2013 at 4:31 PM ^

I would love to see the West Liberty basketball team play, too. I'll search for their games on You Tube later.

It sounds like they could have some great games against Division-I teams. What a bummer that after beating Marshall in 2005, their coach has had trouble getting D-I opponents to face them. Also, it's nice to hear that several coaches "enjoyed watching Indiana and Michigan's balanced offenses this season..." 


February 20th, 2013 at 6:18 PM ^

Watching a lot of games recently, I can't help but think the lack of players capable of hitting the midrange (10-17 feet) jumper with consistency contributes to the lack of scoring too.  I understand the risk-reward benefit of backing up behind the 3 point line with the similar likelihood of success, but it seems defenses gain more by only needing to guard outside the arc or at the hoop.  Without having a threat from the elbow/short corner the defense can clog the lane and make drives more difficult.  Not to mention being in better position to take charges, which was discussed in a thread last week.  But without being able to spread the defense across the entire floor inside the arc, offenses are having a more difficult time finding open shots.


February 20th, 2013 at 6:32 PM ^

High ball screen action-missed shot, high ball screen action-missed shot, high ball screen action-missed shot, etc.. I swear this was the Pitt-ND game the other night and it seems it's almost every college basketball game these days. Don't get me wrong I love college basketball but this is definitely one of the offensive issues.