It’s tough doing statistical analysis of hoops.
In baseball, the sum of the parts equals the whole.
In football, offense and defense are easily separated.
In basketball neither is true, which makes life for a stathead difficult. Especially with respect to my recent rant about how college basketball has seen an offensive decline in offense that is comparable to the mid 1950s. Because while I’ve claimed that defense is dominating the offense like never before, it’s really due to the fact that the wrong kind of defense is prevailing, the passive kind.
The zone defense has come back in college hoops, just like it did in the early 80s – the last time that scoring nosedived. I don’t really know this for a fact. But think about it, increased use of a zone is consistent with recent trends. There are fewer shots attempted, but there have also been fewer turnovers. There are simply fewer things happening in a game. Couple that with the fact that more shots are from long range, and I think the case is convincing.
So what should be done? The decline in scoring actually began one year after the shot clock was reduced from 45 to 35 seconds. Less time to shoot has meant less chance for a good shot, and defenses have adjusted to exploit this fact. Changing the shot clock has been experimented with since ’94, at levels of 30, 40, and 45 seconds (I think). Looking back on things, it’s a wonder the shot clock was reduced. The 2 highest scoring seasons since 1975 were in 1989 and 1991, years when the 45-second shot clock was in effect.
So here’s what should be done: Leave the 3 point line where it is. Don’t mess with the lane. Add some time to the shot clock. This would give an offense a better chance at cracking a zone, which in turn would give more incentive to playing an agressive defense to force turnovers, which ultimatley would create more fast breaks.
It’ll never happen though, for the fear that the perception of increasing the shot clock time would be taking a step back. Sure, there would be a few teams that play the hard-core Princeton style and milk the shot clock creating low scoring games (there are only 4 teams I can think of that might do this). But for the rest of college basketball it would open things up, creating a more exciting product.