I’m leaping off my usual topics of travel, books, and occasionally movies or stage shows to something that has been a passion since the 1970s: college basketball, particularly the “March Madness” of the NCAA Tournament.
Today I’m analyzing the 3-point shot. Here’s a history lesson for that shooting distance (feet and inches) during the existence of the three-point shot in the men’s game:
2007-08: thru that season, the 3pt line was 19', 9" 2008-09: the line was moved back to 20', 9" 2019-20: the line was moved back to 22', 1 3/4", the International distance
It seems there has been no drop-off with this season’s longer line. Things are not always as they seem, eh? Analysis makes those “things” clearer. I’ll get to the data in a moment.
Why would the longer distance not cause a drop in shooting? My theory was that the distance had the following effects:
- Yes it was harder for the offense to shoot from there
- But it was also harder for the defense to cover that distance
- So defenders “helping” away from 3-point shooters were caught
- Help defenders could not recover to guard the 3-point shot adequately
- A 3-point shooter could stand at their shooting spot, and
- Upon receiving the ball, easily assess that the defense cannot “close out”
- More 3-point shots were essentially uncontested, stand-still shots
- The less-contested nature of the shot offset the distance difficulty.
- There is a drop-off in 3-point shooting; the premise was wrong
- The conjured theory was a well-known fact for coaches
… from the outset!
Here is the analysis I “leapt” into on Leap Day that led me to that two-part conclusion.
All-teams 3pt shooting has been reduced:
Is there a different picture for the best of the best at this skill?
Highest Tier of 3pt teams (the top 5) also reduced:
Again, the total impact is that overall scoring has declined 1.5 points thusfar in 2019-20, to 71.17ppg vs. 72.71ppg in 2018-19.
Well! There has been a drop-off with the greater distance.
But the theoretical part of this study was still intriguing, namely that perhaps the effects on defense had not been understood as much as the effects on offense.
Research showed that the NCAA conception of the impact from moving the 3-point line had 3 components:
->[Open] the lane more ... for dribble/drive plays ->Slow the trend of the 3-point shot ->Assist in offensive spacing
->"Good spacing, (Winthrop Coach Pat) Kelsey says, [will] help increase high-percentage 3-pt chances." ->“We’re going to have to have some more plays that attack long closeouts,” (Wofford coach Jay McAuley)
(1) thinking I have discovered something only to later uncover that Amerigo Vespucci had taken the necessary next steps to work beyond the first impressions and find the real data; and
(2) realizing after historical analysis that the coaching equivalents of Leif Ericsson and the Vikings arrived at this point long ago.