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April 1, 2011

Shooting in Stadia

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:22 pm

Earlier this week, a friend told me he liked Butler to beat Virginia Commonwealth easily on Saturday with VCU’s run of improbably hot shooting coming to an end. I told him the fact that the game will be played at a mammoth football stadium (Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans) could hurt the Rams’ shooting, to which he replied, “Data backs that up? It’s not just something people say?”

I had to admit the answer was no. I was just going off conventional wisdom and had never seen any numbers on how playing in a football stadium actually affects shooting. This is tricky to study, since the only games played in such large venues are in the regionals or the Final Four, which feature elite teams. I decided to throw out the Final Four and look only at regional semifinals and finals, which gave a sample of some size over the last two years. (Since none of this year’s regionals was played at a true football stadium–I consider the Alamodome, like the Carrier Dome, to be somewhere in between–I did not use it at all.)

Over the 2009 and 2010 regional finals, which were about evenly split (12 games in stadia, nine in traditional basketball arenas), here are the relevant shooting numbers:

Location   2P%     3P%     FT%

Arena     .493    .318    .713
Stadium   .481    .344    .709

Hard to see much evidence there of the shooting background mattering at all. This was a quick study, and the samples are hardly conclusive, but it’s also easy to see why it would be easy to be seduced by the allure of thinking shooting is worse in the larger buildings. Against top defenses, teams often struggle to shoot no matter the venue. It’s just easier to remember Northern Iowa going cold against Michigan State at the Edward Jones Dome (4-of-16 on threes) than it is Xavier and Pitt combining to miss 29 of 38 triple attempts at the TD Garden.

If you want to cling to the notion that the bad backdrops do hurt teams that rely on shooting, the team that relies more on threes over the course of the season went just 4-8 in the games played in stadia, as compared to about .500 everywhere else. But this almost certainly is too small a sample to be meaningful and one exception was Duke, which swept two games in Houston during last year’s regional final en route to the title.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

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