With the OVC Tournament behind us, it’s time for a little debrief. There were a few minor changes at Municipal Auditorium this year, including one that might have had an impact on the game: black curtain’s behind both baskets on the upper deck.
I do mean might here, because I’m relying on general sayings as much as the small amount of data available.
You may remember before the OVC Tournament I looked at how three-point shooting was worse, generally, in the OVC Tournament. But I couldn’t find any correlation between shooting on day two versus day one, or between great shooting and winning.
This year, on the other hand, three-point shooting was solid overall…unless your colors are blue and yellow. Here’s the breakdown:
- SIUE: 5-17 (29.4%)
- TTU: 12-33 (36.3%)
- EIU: 5-17 (29.4%)
- SEMO: 18-36 (50.0%)
- EKU: 27-62 (43.5%)
- Morehead State: 5-30 (16.7%)
- Belmont: 19-48 (39.5%)
- Murray State 9-28 (32.1%)
Overall: 100-271 (36.9%)
The overall percentage is by far the highest in the new format at Municipal Auditorium. If you take out Morehead State, who wasn’t a good three-pointing shooting team in the regular season, the percentage is over 40%.
It’s commonly said that it’s harder to shoot in open arenas because there’s no backdrop for the shooter. This year, there was, even if it was a black curtain. Did this have an impact? Was it the new rules on fouls that led to players backing off guards? (Unlikely, given the foul rate during the tournament) Or is it just an anomaly from have just seven games of data? I don’t know, but I do know is that shots were falling at a much higher clip in this year’s tournament in any of the past three.
After UT Martin won their fourth straight tournament title, their head coach, Kevin McMillan commented that referees in the women’s tournament went back to calling “tournament style” basketball, meaning more physical play and less fouls.
That didn’t happen on the men’s side. It was quite the opposite, in fact. Again, we’re just looking at a small sample of data here, but here are the number of free-throw attempts in the last four tournaments.
- 2011: 321
- 2012: 271
- 2013: 327
- 2014: 377
There were about 15% more free-throws this year than either 2011 or 2013, and 36% more than in 2012. It’s a significant number, and undoubtedly had an impact on the tournament.
Is it “ruining college basketball,” though? I don’t know about that. EKU’s last few games were still quite exciting, by my view.
Think about it for a second. We talk about the “four factors” here at times, which are four advanced statistics that are considered key to winning. They are: turnover percentage, effective field goal percentage, (efg%) free-throw rate, and offensive rebounding percentage.
Is that last one as important as it used to be? As the game has changed, fewer possessions are ending in missed shots, because they’re more likely to end in free-throws, or the new rules are causing defenders to play a bit looser. As a result, there are fewer offensive rebounds.
In a way, it kind of mirrors changes to football. It used to be you can win with a smash-mouth, run it up the middle offense. Now, teams tend to find the most success throwing it around the field. In basketball, are hard nosed, physical teams (like Morehead State) at a disadvantage? Physical play isn’t necessarily a characteristic of great defense any more, and with fewer rebound opportunities, does that style still work in today’s game?
As has been the disclaimer throughout this post, this is just one year, it could have been an anomaly, and the rules could always change again. But it’s worth keeping track of in the future: how many teams are winning with physical play compared to teams winning with finesse and great shooting.