We always talk about “shooting” as one of the four factors, and easily the most important of the four. But it isn’t really shooting, more accurately it’s “making shots.” And in my mind, making shots has two components – shooting and shot selection. You don’t have to be a good shooting team to shoot a high percentage if you’re getting mostly dunks and layups. Likewise, it’s every defense’s dream to have their opponent take contested 15 to 19 foot shots all game.

Yet, we just roll shot selection into shooting percentage and say a team shot well or poorly based on that stat alone. Well, the HD box score has come to your rescue to add some clarity to this matter.

The fine folks who score NCAA ball games take great care, or at least some care, to distinguish shots between dunks, layups, and jumpers. And the cause du jour around here is now how 2-point jumpers are often the key to the game. Every time you hear an analyst state that free throws were the key to the game, just think in your mind that 2-point jumpers were really more important, because chances are, they were.

In the admittedly very limited sample I have looked at, 2-point jumpers are about as unlikely to be made as 3-pointers. Without the one-point bonus in your offensive account, this would seem to be an area to avoid.

Indeed, in Marquette’s 80-67 win over Villanova on Monday night, the Wildcats took 19 of their shots from no-man’s land, compared to 12 for Marquette. Both teams were horrible on those attempts – a combined 7 for 31, but the seven “worse” shots Villanova took could be thought of as the difference offensively.

Or check out last Saturday’s Air Force/Colorado State game. At Air Force, it’s nearly mandatory to avoid the 2-point jumper. The teams were a combined 9 of 25 from this zone, but Air Force only took eight of those shots. The shots they didn’t take from there were shot from beyond the arc. The Falcons went 10 of 24 on 3’s while CSU was 5 of 13. Air Force would win by 9.

This concept doesn’t work out so nicely for every game, but normally 2-point percentage is heavily dependent on the types of shots that are taken.

(Oh yeah, if you look at the second box, you can tell that my possession counter is not quite rock solid yet. CSU should have a one-possession advantage for the game, but is shown with a 58-55 edge. Nonetheless, I’d like to point out that I have CSU center Jason Smith with 51 offensive possessions and just 41 defensive possessions, which has to be some kind of record for possession imbalance. Maybe the difference was really only eight, but still, whoever is in charge of substitutions for the Rams deserves a raise.)