[Moderated by Matt Jones]
If you recall, last week I wrote a piece on the lack of scoring in the Final Four and how the “Open Dome Effect” can be considered a factor. However, I forgot the Final Four in 2009 that took place at Ford Field in Detroit was also held in what can be considered an “Open Dome” (the court on the 50-yard line as opposed to the end zone). In the last article I concluded that the bad shooting performances have come from the teams who shot poorly over the regular season while the good shooting teams have shot near their season percentages. Since I had forgotten to include the three other games that have occurred in the “Open Dome” era I went back and examined them to see if the shooting percentages and scoring were down there as well. Below is the updated in chart (note: effective field goal percentage is regular field goal percentage but with 50% more credit given to threes).
(Sorry for the large chart, it looks a little bit intimidating but it’s actually easy to read and chalk full of useful info).
The first issue I’ll address is the down three point shooting. At first glance if you compare the season percentages to the in-game percentages you’d think that all teams are shooting poorer than their season percentages, but this is not the case. There are three severe outliers taking down the entire sample; 2011 UConn (twice) and 2009 Villanova. But, when you see their season percentages you’ll see Villanova was an average three point shooting team and UConn was a terrible three point shooting team, so it’s not hard to believe these two teams would have bad shooting nights. All other Final Four participants in the “Open Dome” era have shot right around their season percentage, so this leads me to believe that distorted sightlines have less to do with the low point totals than I originally thought.
The next issue that I examined is the down free throw shooting percentages. Even though the in-game percentages are down from the season percentages, I don’t think it’s a significant enough difference to blame on a certain factor like altered depth perception. Much like three point shooting most, teams are shooting near their season percentages with a few exceptions like 2011 Kentucky and 2011 Butler. Both of these teams were good free throw shooting teams so it is a bit surprising that they would shoot so poorly. But since the other teams are shooting right about their season percentages I, again, have a hard time attributing low scoring to the altered depth perception.
I was torn on using effective field goal percentage because it includes close range shots that have nothing to do with depth perception, but it does include mid-range jump shots and three point attempts. Even though this stat includes jump-shots take it with a huge grain of salt because it can be skewed severely by a team missing close range shots or not taking a high volume of threes.
To conclude I do not think that altered depth perception is the driving force in the recent low scoring trend in the Final Four. The low scoring “Open Dome” Final Fours can be attributed to the glacially slow pace the last two have been played at. In 2010 and 2011 respectively there has been an average of 58 and 62 possessions per game. For some perspective Wisconsin averaged 60 and 58 possessions in those years respectively. The past two Final Fours have drawn the ire of college basketball fan for low point per game scoring (59.5 in 2010 and 56.2 in 2011), but it’s not the “Open Dome” causing the scoring issue. In 2009 the Final Four was played in the “Open Dome” and the teams averaged 78 points per game while averaging 76 possessions per game. See, teams can still score when their sightlines are altered in the “Open Dome,” the lack of scoring simply comes from the Wisconsin-esque pace. (I expect the scoring to be higher this season because all teams in the Final Four average 67 possessions per contest, a very uptempo pace compared to the past two).
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