College hoops teams have produced enough data so far this season to evaluate statistical trends across the basketball universe. And yet again, it’s clear that shooting has never been better.
After an awesome weekend from the free-throw line, the national average for free throw percentage rose to 69.78% in games involving two D-I teams. The season-long record was set…last season at 69.96%. But shooting numbers always improve as the season progresses, so that figure will get shattered by season’s end. For instance, through 11 days of basketball action last season, the average was 68.47%. Once players shake the rust off, it’s almost certain this will be the first season since Naismith was dealing with unruly kids at the Springfield YMCA that players collectively shoot better than 70% from the line.
Likewise, accuracy from the three-point line continues to improve. So far, players have made 34.1% of their attempts, up from 33.8% at this time last season. This is the second-best start to the season in that department since the 2002 season. The only season better since then was in 2008 (34.2%), the last year the three-point line was at 19’9″1. Last season, three-point shooting ended up at 34.7%. It’s not quite as certain this season’s figure will get there, but one thing that is certain is that this season will see more three-pointers shot than ever before, breaking…last season’s record.
So far, 36.4% of field goal attempt have been three-point shots, which compares favorably to last season, when 11 days in the figure was 35.6%. Given that the current combination of attempt rate and accuracy are unprecedented2 even the oldest man with the best security system for his front lawn must accept that shooters are better than ever.
And thanks to the awesome shooting, there’s a very good chance this will be the highest-scoring year since 1995, beating out…last season. Let’s take a look at the key numbers through 11 days:
2016 2017 Efficiency 102.8 102.2 Poss/40 71.0 71.7 Fouls/40 20.9 20.4 Points/40 73.0 73.3 FieldPts% 78.7 79.3
Points per possession is down a bit, but that’s more-than-offset by an increase in pace. Overall, scoring is slightly up over last season’s surge. Furthermore, this is being done with fewer fouls called. More points are being scored and a larger share of those points are coming on something other than free throws. That is measured by a stat I just coined as Field Points Percentage, which is at 79.3% so far this season, the highest that’s been since 2009.
So fouls are down, shooting is up, and pace is up. Things are looking pretty good in college-basketball land.