Monthly Archives: November 2013

Syracuse and the Huggins tree agree that shooting’s overrated

C.J. Fair glowers disdainfully at your traditional basketball metrics like "shooting."

C.J. Fair glowers disdainfully at your traditional basketball metrics like “shooting.”

Yesterday at Insider I wrote about Syracuse, and in passing I mentioned a curious feature of this team that’s already become apparent. Jim Boeheim’s men have proven they can win games while not shooting as well from the field as do the overwhelmed opponents (Cornell, Fordham, Colgate, and St. Francis NY) that are imported into the Carrier Dome. Since that post hit the interwebs, the Orange went out and extended this rather remarkable streak, defeating Minnesota in Maui 75-67 despite the fact that the Gophers (52.9 effective field goal percentage) were more accurate from the field than were Boeheim’s men (47.3).

Winning teams are outshot from the field every day of the week, of course, but what’s fun about Cuse is that they’re raising this to an art form.  Continue reading

How an ACC with nine so-so teams can still be the best conference ever

This could be the ACC's future: The Big East in 2009.

ACC, meet your future: The Big East in 2009.

My unplanned multi-day ACC festival continues! Yesterday I pointed out that the 10 programs that constituted the “other” teams in the pre-expansion league — Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest — haven’t been very good at basketball over the past eight years.

Today I want to flesh out the “Who cares?” objection to that line of critique. So:  Continue reading

The “rest of the ACC” has been weaker than commonly understood

ACC teams besides Duke and North Carolina used to do well in the NCAA tournament. But it's been a while.

ACC teams besides North Carolina and Duke used to do well in the NCAA tournament. But it’s been a while.

Every year we expect an ACC team besides North Carolina or Duke to finally break through, for lack of a better term, and certainly Miami seemed to fit that bill last year. The Hurricanes won the regular-season championship outright at 15-3 and took the ACC tournament title as well.

Maybe Jim Larranaga’s success in 2012-13 can provide a blueprint for the ACC’s non-Carolina and non-Duke programs. Certainly a blueprint is needed. That No. 2 seed the Canes got last year stands out in historical terms. Florida State received a No. 3 in 2012, but otherwise no ACC team not named “North Carolina” or “Duke” has secured anything higher than a No. 4 since Wake Forest was on the 2-line in the 2005 tournament.

And with the conference’s performance once again earning the wrong kind of headlines, this seems an appropriate moment to reflect on a rather weighty question:

What in the world happened to the rest of the ACC these last few years?  Continue reading

How I learned to stop worrying and love the new free throw rate

I think I see a trend.

I think I see a trend.

Depicted here in all its scintillating glory is Division I’s median free throw rate (FTA/FGA) from 2002-03 through last night, courtesy of Ken Pomeroy’s vault. As is plain from the upside-down 1929 line, the FT rate has been notably robust over the first 12 days of the 2013-14 season.

What this suggests for the season as a whole is still an open question. As Ken pointed out last week, turnovers have dropped more or less in lockstep with the jump in the free throw rate, meaning I could show you a really cool graph with the TO rate dipping about as dramatically as the FT rate has spiked. Maybe both developments will regress toward their respective means as the season unfurls, or maybe we’ve embarked on a new era of low-turnover high-free-throw ball. At this point it’s anyone’s guess.  Continue reading

Psychosomatic reactions and college basketball

You don't need a Ph.D. from Illinois like Dr. John Giannini to understand how folk wisdom influences perception.

You don’t have to have a Ph.D. from Illinois like Dr. John Giannini to wonder how folk wisdom influences perception.

People will say certain things during this college basketball season that are said every year. Certainly there really are some things that are true each year, but coaches, announcers, and writers don’t expend precious time saying “The baskets are 10 feet high this year,” or “made free throws are worth one point.” Instead the annual statements I refer to are phrased as considered judgments based on what’s been observed that particular season. “Parity,” for one, or “there are no great teams,” or possibly even “more blown calls than ever before.”

Still another considered judgment that recurs quite often is that we’re seeing a decline in the overall quality of play in college basketball. I suppose the interesting question is whether this can ever be true under normal circumstances. Obviously when the NFL uses replacement players during a strike, or when major league baseball tries to keep things going during a world war, there is likely to be a decline in the quality of play.

In the case of college basketball in particular, there are what appear to me to be conflicting attitudes toward defense. The underlying dynamic goes roughly like this….  Continue reading

Being the best conference ever is really hard to pull off

Some ACC guy in 2004 -- was this The Greatest Conference Ever?

Some ACC guy in 2004 — was this The Best Conference Ever?

Today I have a piece at Insider considering the new-look ACC’s claim to being “the best conference in the history of the game,” as Mike Krzyzewski memorably put it. Specifically I look at just how good the league can reasonably expect to be starting next season when Louisville arrives (and Maryland leaves for the Big Ten).

I’m not at liberty to divulge any conclusions I reached as a result of that particular effort, but as part of my daylong festival of Greatest Conferences, I thought I’d cover some of the other candidates for this particular title from years gone by.  Continue reading