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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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  • John 11:35 (Score:2, Funny)

    by greg1104 ( 461138 )

    a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible College.

    Jesus cries when he loses to statistics.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @07:32PM (#42061513)

    This system of play is real old, it goes back to Frank Keaney's "Firehouse Gang" [] system at Rhode Island State College (now URI) in the '30s and '40s. Basically it was the ultimate fast break, five guard-size players sprinting up court after each change of possession to wear out and demoralize larger opponents. They generally got open shots and a surprising number of rebounds, even at the defensive end, because the other team was back on their heels.

    I read about it in a layman's guide to hoops (now out of print) written by Celtics' Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach about 40 years ago. Auerbach said that the system was often wildly successful in Division II, but could be defended relatively easily by the more talented teams in Division I ball.

    • This seems more like 3 guards / 2 large forwards ...

      Defense appears to typically be a 3-2 full press with no half court defense if a steal or turnover doesn't occur. So not quite the endurance game of 5 guards but similar concept.

  • Who would be surprised to find out in 10-20 years' time it's discovered that steroid use is what they mean by 'statistics key'?

  • This "basketball" game - what console is it on?

  • Maybe, 1 goal / 21 pts... so 6+ ... not bad.
    Although in Soccer thats only about 1.5 not so great.
  • 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.

    • Totally agree with you; but exactly what "level" is Grinnel on? hehe I'd like to see Duke use this against UNC (or the other way around...) it ain't gonna work. Real teams are usually balanced and have players that are in College because they're good at BBall and a coach that can play his 11 players wisely against the team he is playing that night.
      • by rlk ( 1089 )

        Grinnell is NCAA Division III. But don't worry -- most D3 teams take their basketball a lot more seriously than this, and there's a lot of excellent (if less athletic than D1) basketball. D3 schools don't give scholarships.

    • by rlk ( 1089 )

      Apparently, it's not normally the case that they give one player the chance to do this. Usually no one goes more than 20 minutes, and everyone's in on the platoon system, so everyone gets minutes and shooting opportunities. They make an exception when they want to set an individual scoring record. I suspect some of the players like the notoriety, but otherwise he gives them all an opportunity at some time or other to have a big game.

      From the comments on d3boards, it sounded like it was a mutual decision

    • by ooshna ( 1654125 )

      Don't worry that wasn't a really basketball game. I mean hell the other teams didn't have one black player.

  • "Success", my ass (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @08:34PM (#42061999)

    "Success", my ass - this only counts as "success" if you're not watching the utterly shit game that's produced by the technique:

    TL;DR - it's basically turning the entire game into "give D00d X the ball no matter what". In Slashdot-friendly terms, the basketball equivalent of spawn-camping.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the main problem with this is it'll be possible for a team playing similar to Providence to overcome Grinnell's offense. When Providence won the NCAA men's basketball tournament, they won by playing a slow, plodding, methodical, well-executed half-court offense that was able to get the ball up court as well as a stifling and physical defense that screwed up their opponent's run-and-gun offense. The team Providence played was a high-octane, run-and-gun offense that was flummoxed and ground down by Providence

    • GO DAWGS!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Maybe in Div III basketball it's hard to find the right players to play this style.

      I would think it is hard to find the players to fit this type of slow-down system, but it has been used with success in Div. III. Look at University of Wisconsin-Platteville (Div. III school). They won four national championships at that level (1991, 1995, 1998, 1999) using a "slow-down" system called the Swing Offense. The coach who brought in those national championships was Bo Ryan, now the head couch at University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!), where he uses the exact same system. It works. He hasn't

  • Anyone who believes in this so-called "System" is just a shill for the liberal elite news media. I laugh at their so-called "arithmetic" and "science".

    Also, Nate Silver is GAY.

  • 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 styrotech ( 136124 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @10:04PM (#42062779)

      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.

      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:

      Here's some resources for those who aren't married to their own stereotypes:

      Admittedly, I don't expect to change a lot of minds here. But knee-jerk haters need to STFU.

      All that presumption and defensiveness really detracts from your otherwise insightful post. Basing on your own broad brush stereotypes is also a bit hypocritical too. Get over it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of all professional sports, watching basketball has the steepest learning curve

      I can only conclude that you've never watched anything BUT basketball by that statement.

      Quite frankly, the rest of your post contradicts all the assertions in your first paragraph. Both soccer and ice hockey eclipse basketball in terms of athletic ability and forethought required.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      tl;dr: Because it's "hacking" the sport by trying unusual things.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      OTOH, basketball analytics really *IS* rocket science.

      Only in Houston ;)

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      that it has a deep learning curve for watching doesn't mean that it's perfect for geeks. and that's not really just it. it's just that a single play isn't that relevant for the outcome of the game. a single scoring event is maybe 1-3% of the overall game scoring - easy enough to argue that it makes using statistics easier for determining the outcome than in football where a single lucky shot can turn the entire game.

      great fun to play though. but never found it too exciting to watch.

  • 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 [])

    • You bothered to research it but then didn't really present a fair summary ??

      Over the 6 years of data that is available, they are one 1st place finish and another four 2nd place finished ... so top 2 in 5 out of 6 years ... They also have 69-31 record which is only bettered by St Norbet's 70-30 record.

      Might be an average D-III division but that style of basket ball DOES work against that level of competition. It is incredibly sad that it works - but it does.

      • by rlk ( 1089 )

        Looking at their record on, they won a lot of games, but most years (at least since the mid-2000's) their final game was a loss to a conference team -- which I assumed was a conference playoff. However, at least from what I've read, they've never won a game in the NCAA (Division III) tournament.

        Looking at past standings (, it looks like the last time they actually won their conference (defined as winning the conference tourna

  • 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.

    • by alexo ( 9335 )

      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.

      If it was possible for these records to be set, it is possible for them to be broken.

      • Parent didn't say it was literally impossible, just that it won't happen given the changes in how the game is managed since that era. Baseball equivalents would be Cy Young's starts & wins, and Cal Ripken Jr.'s consecutive games played. Starting pitchers are not allowed (by their managers, not the rules) to start more than one out of every four or five games; back then it wasn't uncommon for them to pitch two or three consecutive games, and complete ones at that. Likewise, any manager who played the sam

      • Of the three I mentioned above the only one that has any chance is the 100 point game. Kobe got 81 points back in 2006 so that's at least within striking distance. But who is going to average 50 points a game over an entire season? Not gonna happen. If a player gets 30 points in a single game it's considered a huge achievement. Michael Jordan, who many people consider the greatest player ever, averaged 30.1 points per game for his career. His best season was 35 points per game. Remember, the season that Wil

  • by tubs ( 143128 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:04AM (#42064819)

    I know nothing about basket ball, other than it has a ball and bounces and you have to throw it through a hula hoop or something, and have to be over 7 foot to play.

    But, in all sports there are certain systems that work at certain levels of play - in soccer it's the "long ball". The theory being that most goals are scored within the penalty box, therefore the quicker you get the ball into the penalty box the more likely you are to score. One dimensional teams fair well in lower divisions where the talent pool is lower, and the system can compensate for that. An ideal candidate for this would have been John Becks teams in the early/mid 1990s, and he was so rigid that the overriding aim was to get the ball into the box that would substitute a player who passed backwards ...

    Eventually, once the successful coach moves up a division (either with promotion, or moving on to another team due to their brilliance) the "strategy" becomes less effective - with better players/coaches in opposition being better able to cope with nullifying it.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.