Monthly Archives: October 2014

Why be bad at part of a sport you’re trying to be good at?

Alex Olah seems somewhat skeptical of his coach's ban on offensive boards. (Chicago Tribune photo.)

Alex Olah is very excited about his coach’s decision to forego offensive rebounds. But has a team ever succeeded because of bad offensive rebounding and not merely in spite of it? (Chicago Tribune)

Offensive rebounding is one of the few antecedents of scoring in sports that a significant minority of coaches consciously and indeed insistently tries to do very badly.

That fact alone doesn’t mean those coaches are wrong — sometimes the smart play is to miss a free throw or let the opponent score — but it sure is interesting. This season a handful of coaches with realistic chances at an NCAA tournament bid will seek to win that reward, in part, by avoiding offensive rebounds.

Stats will be brought into this discussion momentarily, don’t you fret, but at the outset I trust plain old words can do justice to a rather remarkable state of affairs. First let us note that there’s nothing intrinsically special or magical about offensive rebounds — or, conversely, about transition defense. Continue reading

Academic life after UNC

It appears some of these guys weren't subjected to particularly rigorous challenges in the classroom. It appears in some instances there was no classroom.

It appears some of these guys weren’t subjected to particularly rigorous academic challenges. What’s far more surprising, however, is that neither were some of their fellow students in the stands. (Grantland)

After reading Kenneth Wainstein’s report on the University of North Carolina’s academic misdeeds between 1993 and 2011, it occurred to me that if I were a graduate of UNC the really galling thing would be that my highly prestigious alma mater was so badly outperformed in this one respect by Auburn.

Eight years ago more or less the exact same transgression that has now been documented so thoroughly in Chapel Hill also came to light at Auburn. In both cases a faculty member was found to be offering an inordinately high number of “independent studies classes.” In both cases the grades that athletes received in their independent studies were far higher than their overall grade point averages. Continue reading