Monday, November 11, 2013

Scoring is way up ... so far

The biggest sub-plot in college basketball this season is the new rules preventing the use of hands on defense, and favoring the offense on the block/charge call. So far scoring is up, and in games we actually care about it is way up.

After three days of play, and 163 games involving D-1 teams playing other D-1 teams, scoring is up by about 4.7 points per team as compared to the first three days of last year, an increase of about 6.9%. Kevin Pauga breaks down the additional scoring and finds that it amounts to about one bucket and three FTs per team. In other words, so far about 60% of the scoring increase is due to more fouls, and 40% of it is perhaps due to freer play.

Other than a relatively small sample size, one problem with the data so far is that the opening weekend of college basketball season has a lot of mismatches, which lead to a lot of blowouts. One might think that the new rules wouldn't affect the blowouts much, or at least might affect them in weird ways.

So I looked at some subsets at the data. First, I excluded all games involving a non-D1 team. That made just a slight difference, but it weeded out a bunch of probably worthless data.

Second, I looked at games decided by ten points or less. In those games, scoring has increased from 66.6 points per team last year to 74.2 points per team this year. That's an 11.5% increase, which is huge. (The result is essentially the same if you account for overtime minutes.)

Third, I wanted to look at games between relatively good, relatively evenly matched teams. To determine this I used only the top ten games in Ken Pomeroy's daily Fan Match feature. The downside of this is that it decreases the sample to just 30 games each year so far. The upside is that we can be more confident that the samples are similar. Also, these are the games we really care about. The result: in those games, scoring has increased from 68 to 76.1 points per team—an 11.9% increase. Assuming Pauga's ratio holds true in those games, that's about three more buckets and ten more made free throws per game so far.

Fourth, I looked at the games that were both close and expected to be competitive. In those games, scoring increased from 66.8 to 77.1 points per team—a 15.4% increase.

Given the sample sizes, I'm not ready to declare these increases Torvistically significant, but it does seem like the people who think we need even more scoring in college basketball might be getting their wish this year.

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