Monday, November 25, 2013

The New NCAA Rules: Why Dribble Drive is Your Friend

The NCAA instituted two significant rule changes going into the 13-14 season:

Defending the Player with the Ball 
What Changed:
Several officiating guidelines were voted in as rules, which raised the expectation and importance in this area. Four types of illegal tactics were cited:
1. Placing and keeping a hand/forearm on opponent.
2. Putting two hands on opponent.
3. Continually jabbing by placing hand or forearm on opponent.
4. Using an arm bar to impede the progress of the dribbler.
Note that simply touching the player with the ball is not an automatic foul.

Block / Charge Plays 
What Changed:
In a review of recent seasons, two types of plays were identified as the most difficult to call correctly: Defenders moving forward at the time of contact (even though the contact may occur in the defender’s torso) and the time frame when the defender must be in legal guarding position during airborne shooter situations. Now, when a player begins his upward motion to pass or shoot, the defender must be in legal guarding position.

Ken Pomeroy broke this down here on November 11, a good read with a small but reasonable sample size (163 D1 games in the opening weekend) and determined scoring to be up 6.4%, almost entirely due to additional free throws, and two fewer offensive turnovers each game. What Mr. Pomeroy doesn't mention is the type of turnover that has decreased. Are fewer guards losing their handle because of the lack of hand checking on defense or have there been less offensive charges called because of the change in the Block/Charge rule?

While it's a question worth answering, that data is difficult to obtain, and luckily for us it doesn't need to be answered to continue this particular line of thinking.  Handchecks can occur on the perimeter, but if an offensive player wants to try to draw a call for it, watch for the player to start moving towards the basket.  Similarly, the vast majority of blocking calls are called closer to the basket.  Allowing us to take this as gospel, taking a three point shot is not more likely to draw a foul this year as opposed to last year.  Driving to the basket is the play that gets rewarded with the new rules.  

Roughly 30% of shots from the field are taken from three point range.  If there's been a 0% addition to scoring from last year to this year due to those shots, that means the 6.4% of added scoring in each game is almost entirely due to two point shots.  This means that in the roughly 70% of the game played inside the arc, scoring is up over 9%.  The value of the dribble drive this year has gone up almost 10% from last year, a 10% per possession difference is the difference between Drexel's offensive efficiency from last year, and Alabama A&M's.  Not to pick on A&M, but they were 327th in offensive efficiency last year.  As a player, if you were able to drive the ball effectively last year, you're a stud now.  If you struggled, you're average now.  If you didn't do at all, you're probably still not doing it, and the new rules screw you a bit.  The value of a jump shooter has taken a huge hit relative to his peers.

How then, should coaches adjust to these changes?  Certainly asking Chris Fouch to put a lid on his outside shooting seems the act of a fool, but asking an injury plagued star to create more contact is also probably a poor decision.  In some of this, common sense will need to be used (how that applies to Drexel specifically will be included in a followup post).

I turn your attention to Saturday's William and Mary victory at Rutgers.  The box score reads as follows:

3 Point Shooting:
W&M:  5/17 (29%)
Rutgers: 10/19 (.53%)

In a game in which Rutgers dominated the Fighting WhateverTheHellTheyWannaBeCalled's from downtown, the Scarlet Knights lost by almost double digits.  Think about that.  William and Mary got dominated from three and rolled over an AAC level opponent on the road.  What's next, Princeton not hitting from deep and winning?  

One more stat to lay on you:

Percentage of attempts taken from three point range (2013):
W&M:  32.1% (50th)
Rutgers:  24.9% (326th)

Despite the rates from last season, in this game Rutgers took more attempts from three than W&M did.  Even with the big bodies of Judge and Jack in the middle, Tony Shaver told his guards to get to the rim.  Shaver watched his team go on the road, get buried from 3, fail to win the turnover battle, and win easily.  Oh by the way, TheFightingWhatevers took 32 free throws to Rutgers 12.  They went for the rim, and they got exactly what they wanted.

Grabbing the first three smart coaches that I chose at random, here are their 2013-14 percentage of shots taken from downtown, with the 2012-13 percentage in parenthesis next to it:

VCU:  31.2% (35.7%)
Saint Mary's: 31.3% (37.5%)
UMass:  20.8% (36.2%)

The smart coaches are having their teams take less jump shots/  It's small sample size data, and when I looked at Gonzaga after those three I noticed that they had significantly increased their percentage of three's taken.  It helps that the Zags are also the fifth best three point shooting team thus far this year, hitting almost 50% of them to date.  This highlights that common sense needs to apply when adjusting to this data. 

Common sense also says that each and every coach out there better adjust to this data, or get left in the dust.

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