Clark Kellogg commented that last night’s shooting was “unprecedented,” and that he’d never seen anything like it. Clark must not have been paying attention over the past 20 years as domes playing host to basketball championship games have severely impacted the shooting. One of the first “dome” games I recall watching was in 1984 when the Kentucky Wildcats, the consensus #1 team in the country led by Sam Bowie and Mel Turpin, shot 12% in second half versus Georgetown in Seattle’s Kingdome.
Since then, I’ve watched annually as great shooting teams have entered the cavernous confines of some football stadium and seen their shooting percentages plummet like they were GM stock. It’s not surprising. Depth perception and sight lines are a huge ingredient to successful shooting. One simply has to watch the games played in domes to see the effects. Empirically, the numbers define this phenomenon as well. According to the Wall Street Journal,
In the 15 Final Fours since then (including this year’s), teams are shooting a mediocre 32 percent from three-point range and 42 percent overall. Before then, in the four previous Final Fours that were held in traditional basketball arenas, those figures were 36 percent and 46 percent.
Additionally, we’ve seen a change in dome arrangement, beginning with the 2009 Final Four in Detroit’s Ford Field. Prior to that event, the domes were cordoned off and the court was positioned in a corner of the facility. The rest was draped off. This gave at least a semblance of backdrop for shooters. Now, in an effort to cram 75,000 folks into a stadium, the court is located in the center of the dome. The picture above gives a good perspective of how wide open this configuration is.
Granted, the sight lines aren’t the only contributor to the poor shooting. There are nerves to be sure on such a big stage and good defenses. And tight rims. Because these games are no longer being played at arenas, standards and goals are brought in specifically for the events. That means they haven’t been dunked on or otherwise “loosened” by play. See any kind rolls off the rims this weekend?
The winning team shot 9% last night from beyond the arc…the winning team! UConn won simply because they were able to score at close range. I’ve not seen an in-depth analysis done, but I’d bet the house that a study of games over the past 15 years would show a huge advantage for teams with superior inside games.
Given the NCAA’s and BCS control over other championship venues, this is not acceptable. The collegiate baseball tournament has been played in Omaha since time immemorial. Can you imagine if they added two rows of seating all the way around the stadium to pack more folks in, taking away foul ground and shortening the outfield fences? A cry would be sent out that they were sacrificing competitive integrity for money. In football, championship games are always played in warm weather sites or domes in order to stay away from detrimental effects weather might have on games. Some argue that itself is an unfair advantage for warm weather teams.
It’s not fair to the teams and not good for the game to take it out of its intended confines of arenas and place it in a football stadium for championships. I doubt that the NCAA will do anything about it since to change would cost them money, but it’s a huge blight on a great game. Meanwhile, good shooting might get you to a Final Four, but once there, you better have some “aircraft carriers” down low who can shoot from 10 feet in. Otherwise you’ll be putting up enough bricks to building an arena of your own.