Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

March 12, 2011

The slowest game you’ll ever see. Hopefully.

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:42 am

Friday was madness. Sweet, glorious madness. I’ve been trying to decide what’s more amazing. Jimmer Fredette scoring 52 points in BYU‘s 87-76 win over New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament semifinals; Jimmer Fredette taking 54 percent of his team’s shots from the field in their win against the Lobos; Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg weeping openly; or Saint Joseph’s making the A-10 semifinals after going 4-12 in-conference.

I’ve settled on “none of the above.” The most amazing thing that happened Friday was that Penn State beat Wisconsin 36-33 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. That’s pretty notable right there — both the score and the fact that the Badgers were upset by the Nittany Lions.

But what was truly remarkable about this game was its pace. When the final horn sounded fans at Conseco Fieldhouse had been “treated” to just 42 possessions of basketball, and that is historically low.

This wasn’t a regular-season game, of course, but one way of grasping just how slow this game really was is to compare it to all the basketball that came before it. There were 621 major-conference games played this year during the regular season, and just 75 (12 percent) of those came in at under 60 possessions. And even when we look at this slowest 12 percent, we see a powerful gravitational pull at work, trying valiantly to pull all these aberrantly slow games up into the normal 60s.

Here’s how the slowest major-conference games were distributed this season. By the time we get down to 51 possessions, we can cite the games individually. That’s how rare they are.

The shot clock played a featured role
Major-conference games under 60 possessions, 2011

Poss.  No. of occurrences
 59     19
 58     18
 57     16
 56      4
 55      8
 54      3
 53      3
 52      0
 51      West Virginia @ Villanova, Feb 5
 50      Wisconsin @ Northwestern, Jan 23
 49      Ohio State @ Northwestern, Jan 29
 48      Notre Dame @ Pitt, Jan 24
 47      0
 46      0
 45      0
 44      0
 43      0
 42      (Penn State vs. Wisconsin, Big Ten tournament)

That was one slow game.

BONUS superstition! Last night’s loss by the Badgers marked the fifth time in the past six years that the Big Ten tournament’s 3-seed has lost in the quarterfinals. That seed line is cursed, I tells ya. Cursed.

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