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Math Stats Science

Statistics Key To Success In Run-and-Gun Basketball 97

theodp writes "Two decades before Moneyball hit the Big Screen, Coach David Arseneault of tiny Grinnell College came up with a unique style of run-and-gun basketball that he called The System, the principles of which were subjected to statistical analysis in Keys to Success in a Run-and-Gun Basketball System, a paper for the 2011 Joint Statistical Meetings. Well, as they say, sometimes The System works. On Tuesday, biochem major Jack Taylor, just three games into his career as a Grinnell College basketball player, made national news when he poured in 138 points — yes, 138 points — in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible College. Even LeBron and Kobe were impressed. The old NCAA Division III record of 89 was set last year by Taylor's Grinnell teammate, Griffin Lentsch. Taylor's feat also bested what was deemed to be the unbeatable overall NCAA scoring record of 113 points, set by NCAA Division II performer Clarence 'Bevo' Francis of Rio Grande in 1954."
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Statistics Key To Success In Run-and-Gun Basketball

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @08:19PM (#42061899)

    Sorry to burst the bubble, but watching game tape from Grinnell shows Arsenault to be an opportunist more interested in promoting his "system" (and of course the handy video and text guides he sells so that you too can be an "innovative" baskeball coach) than in winning games or even satisfying the majority his players. But as long as it's "fun" for (some of) the players and makes him tons of money, who cares, eh?

    Here's how to be like Coach A:

    -Press, but leave one Special shooter to stay in the offensive zone all game, leaving his teammates out to dry on defense
    -Let the other team score once they move it past you
    -Get the ball to your shooter and let him jack threes all game.
    -Other players who collect rebounds and attempt to lay them in are pulled. Only the Special One may shoot.
    -Platoon all the other players, because who cares about them?
    -Hope that your opponent is either
    ---a) brain-dead, unathletic and unwilling to play on their own terms
    ---b) a team from the second division of the fifth tier of college basketball (seriously), from a school with 330 students (seriously) who believe Satan made dinosaur fossils (well, maybe)
    -Collect a few wins, some notoriety if you're the Special One, and gobs of money (if you're the coach)

    He picked this opponent for a regular season game, mind you, despite the fact that for them it was an exhibition game. Nothing special about this. You want to be innovative? Try competing against someone on your level first.

  • by conspirator23 ( 207097 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @09:30PM (#42062467)

    All of the "Why the hell are we talking about sports on Slashdot?" commentary above is to be expected... but let's get this established for the record: You people are talking about of your ass.

    To the uninitiated, watching basketball can feel tedious and repetetive, with guys running back and forth, making similar looking movements, play being stopped for unfathomable reasons, and so forth. If you experience this sensation, it is because you are a noob. N00B. You are not trained to understand the numerous split-second decisions that are being executed within the span of a 24-second shot clock. Of all professional sports, watching basketball has the steepest learning curve. That is reason #1 why it is the perfect spectator sport for geeks.

    This leads to the next point, which is that basketball is the most cognitively demanding of all professional sports for the player as well. Because the game is has a relatively small number of players on each side, and each player faces an ongoing series of 1-on-1 interactions with those players over the course of a quarter, a game, or a season. Good players study detailed scouting reports of their opponents in each game which details their strenghts, weaknesses, and habits. If you are going to defend Steve Novak knowing he is a phenominal 3-point shooter but not good on the dribble drive, then you are going to close in on him so that you can bother his jump shooting. But a guy who has a strong ability to drive will get right past you if you get too close to him on defense. If you're defending a guy like Kobe Bryant who can both shoot and drive, you've got a much harder job. Another player on your team may have to offer "help defense" which means rotating off of his own man to help you defend. That means the NEXT player over on the court has to notice that the help defender has left his own man, and the next guy "rotates" over so that the one guy on the floor being left open is as far away from the ball as possible. If the player on offense then chooses to throw a pass to the open man, the entire defensive lineup needs to rotate back into proper position. Good team defense requires the coordination of a dance team while improvising like jazz musicians. So that's reason #2 for nerds to like basketball. The stereotypical "dumb jock" will not excel in this game.

    Actually, I have to cite another example for reason #2 because I know I'm going to get pushback on the notion that people who devote their lives to physical activity might possibly be really smart: Guys who have phenomenal bodies and weak minds can be successful in pro ball assuming they don't get injured... but eventually their limited mental agility makes them predictable, which makes them less effective. "The book" is out on them and they become easy to counter. Once they start getting near 30 years old, they lose their elite athleticism as well and become largely useless. Guys like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Ray Allen who continue to be highly effective, star-level players into their mid-30s do so because they have tremendous minds for the game they are playing.

    "Moneyball" was largely about using statistical analysis to acquire players who were undervalued by other teams because the old-school methods of player evaluation were unscientific and based on folklore and assumptions regarding pro baseball. Baseball is, in video game parlance, a "turn based" game. It is slow. Everyone has a clearly defined role. The mathematics involved in baseball analytics isn't trivial, but it's roughly akin to "value investing" in financial terms. It's harder than balancing your checkbook but it ain't rocket science. OTOH, basketball analytics really *IS* rocket science. Basketball is chaotic and non-deterministic by nature. Outcomes result from a rapidly cascading series of interrelated events. Quantifying this is possible, but it is really, really hard. The Moneyball revolution has led to many NBA teams hiring and retaining full-time analytics teams where statisticians and data miners vie to determine who should b

  • by rlk ( 1089 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @09:50PM (#42062649)

    Faith Baptist Bible isn't even a Division III team. Everything I've read, from people in the know ( -- starting around page 814) indicates that Grinnell specifically intended to have Jack Taylor set this record. He literally wasn't playing defense -- he was standing around at halfcourt to receive an outlet pass so he could jack up yet another 3.

    Somebody watching the video noticed that Faith was cheering this on, and the Grinnell crowd was cheering scoring by both teams ( I have a suspicion that they were in on this joke. Given that their opponent was not an NCAA team, I don't think this record should count.

    It's interesting that for all this, they've never won an NCAA tourney game (Division III, that is). I don't think they've even won their conference (see [] and look at the other years -- usually their last game is against a conference team, and they've always lost). That kind of run and gun and press may be fun to play and watch, but it doesn't work against good teams.

    And there's plenty of very good basketball being played in Division III. Yes, it's very rare for Division III teams to beat Division I, but a couple of weeks ago MIT lost to Harvard 69-54, and the game was not a blowout -- Harvard had to work hard for its W (Harvard shortly thereafter beat Manhattan College, which is also Division I, 79-45). If you watch the real power teams in Division III -- schools like MIT (yes, MIT is ranked #1 in Division III right now, and they have some damn good players, including a point guard, Mitchell Kates, who was abusing the Harvard back court all game), Amherst, Williams, Franklin and Marshall, Cabrini, UW-Whitewater (which beat MIT last year in the semifinal, and went on to win the title), it's very high quality basketball, just not the kind of athleticism you'll find in Division I. Teams like these, that play real defense and are in control on offense, would make short work of Grinnell.

    And one of our (MIT) alumni, Jimmy Bartolotta '09, was Division III national Player of the Year, and is now playing professional basketball in Iceland.

    (Yes, I'm an Ancient and Honorable Nerd of the Infinite Corridor -- VI-3 '87. I'm unofficially one of the team photographers. See [])

  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @02:40AM (#42064195)

    Your opponent was Faith Baptist Bible, not even an NCAA team. Translation - tomato can. To me the greatest feat in basketball still belongs to Wilt Chamberlain and the 100 point game. Done without the benefit of the 3 point shot by the way. That same year he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game. Astounding. Those records will never, ever, be broken at the professional level.

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