by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, January 10, 2013
New Mexico beat UNLV 65-60 in a 73-possession game on Wednesday night. I was there (representing an entire branch of science). This is what I saw.
1) New Mexico take a lot of free throws
‘Tis better to miss free throws than not take them at all. People often lament missed free throws and the Lobos missed 14 of their 29 attempts from the line. But rarely do people acknowledge the benefits of getting to the line. Even shooting 52% Wednesday night (plus one offensive rebound of a miss) wasn’t a net drain on the New Mexico offense in a game where neither team came close to getting to a point per possession. And of course those fouls drawn add up. Anthony Bennett got a rare dose of foul trouble – it was first game with four fouls. Khem Birch and Anthony Marshall ended up fouling out.
On a team without another specialty, this has been New Mexico’s so far. They average over one FTA for every two FGA’s they take, the second-highest free throw rate in the nation. (No doubt that’s slightly inflated by the number of close wins they’ve been in.) Is it worse to go 15-of-29, or 4-of-5 as UNLV did? There’s never a clear answer to these sorts of things. Michigan does OK (or perhaps, insanely well) without shooting many free throws, for instance. But in general more FTA’s are better, even when you miss a bunch of them.
2) An own goal
One of the few Rebel field goals down the stretch was a tip-in by New Mexico’s Alex Kirk. When this happens, the scorer’s table must adhere to Section 1, Article 8 of the NCAA’s Statistician Manual which states in part:
Article 8-(b) basically goes on to state that the points are credited to the team but not an individual player. In fact, that did not happen in the case, the scorer’s table defaulting to the common axiom of giving credit to the nearest player of the offensive team. (Mainly, I was assured, this was done because it’s quite complicated to implement the actual ruling.) I thought this was the rule as well, but it came up the night before in Ohio State’s win over Purdue when the Boilermakers’ Terone Johnson scored an own goal for Ohio State. (Thanks, Bob Baptist.) And was correctly noted in the box score.
Spend a few minutes and read the rest of statistician’s manual. Learn the precise definition for an assist and a block shot, in addition to everything else. You can thank me later. And Khem Birch can thank the Lobos’ scorer’s table for a free two points.
UPDATE: The official box score was updated on Thursday to correctly handle this situation. Kudos to UNM Asst. AD for Communications Frank Mercogliano for taking some time to get it right. He didn’t have to do that.
3) Alex Kirk as Anthony Bennett
One thing that forever irks me is that people feel compelled to only compare players of similar races. (Seriously, in what other walk of life would this be acceptable? For instance, what if the performance of every Puerto Rican secretary was only ever compared to another Puerto Rican secretary? Why do we think this is a reasonable approach for point guards?) But Kirk and Bennett aren’t bad comparisons based on their statistical production to date.
Like Bennett, Kirk has some range, is a good-but-not-spectacular rebounder, and gets to the free throw line quite a bit. He doesn’t shoot as well, get to the line as much, or use as many possessions. But the overall game is similar, there’s just a little bit less of it. Kirk is basically an 80% Anthony Bennett. In this game, though, Kirk (23 and 9) got the better of Bennett, in part because Bennett had his first game of the season without taking a free throw.