Sunday, March 31, 2024

Caitlin Clark - Iowa Hawkeyes

How can any team beat Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes?

Answer: hope she has an off night.

The opposing coach might try to get into her head. Caitlin Clark actually missed 11 three pointers in a row during one game in the Big Ten tournament.

The next team to play Caitlin Clark, the LSU Tigers, in an elite eight game, might try to back off from her and dare her to shoot the three. The defensive players might back up when she's behind the three-point line and scream, "shoot shoot shoot!"

Instead of stopping her three pointers, the defense could focus on shutting down her passing and driving to the basket. They might even play a box and one defense, with the one player guarding Caitlin Clark man to man always dropping off when she's behind the three-point line, daring her to shoot.

The risk of the psychological game is that Caitlin Clark could make a three-pointer or two in a row and go on a shooting streak.

The other way to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes would to be better at every position. This actually could happen. After all, LSU beat the Hawkeyes last year for the national championship.

[UPDATE: Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes beat the LSU Tigers and Angel Reese in their elite 8 game, 94 to 87. Iowa will play the Uconn Huskies in the final four.]

The three-point idea is interesting though. When Caitlin Clark's team beat Colorado, Caitlin only made 27% of her three-point shots, which actually hurt her team.

In the Big ten tournament against of Nebraska Caitlin Clark only made 29% of her three-point shots, which again hurt her team.

Sometimes, Caitlin Clark makes 37% of her three-pointers. At that clip, if she made 37% of 100 shots, she would score 111 points. Each 3-point shot would be worth 1.11 points.

Sometimes, Caitlin Clark makes 40% of her three-point shots. If she shot a hundred shots at that clip, she would score 120 points. Each three-point shot would be worth 1.2 points.

The Iowa Hawkeyes, as a team, make 50% of their two-point shots. That means if they shoot 100 shots, they make only 100 points. Each team shot that is a two-point shot is only worth 1 point.

(ESPN and television programs airing the games have provided some of these stats for my scholarly commentary) 

Women's March Madness has been far more entertaining than the men's March Madness this year. For me, it's because the women fast break more often, and because Caitlin Clark has uncanny ball handling and shooting skills reminiscent of Pistol Pete Maravich.

The women have more space in which to run and gun. Anecdotally, there seems to be a lot of fast breaks in the women's game. Very roughly, women are 5 ft tall. Every woman with a 5-ft arm span covers roughly 25 ft² on defense. Since there are 10 players on the court that's roughly 250 ft² of space taken up on the court.

Again, very roughly, men in the NBA are approximately 7 ft tall. That's roughly 49 ft² per man being taken up. Since there are 10 players, that's 490 ft² of the court being taken up by the players. 

The basic point is the more space taken up on the court by players, the harder it is to drive to the basket or pass to the basket.

The second basic point is that as players get better at shooting the three-point shot, it's far better to shoot a three-pointer than to play for two-point shots. 

You might think it's weird that teams tend to make only 50% of their 2-point shots, but it's because defenses keep getting better and better as players keep getting taller and faster. Getting an actual layup, or a dunk, is getting to be more and more rare in basketball.

The one great exception to this rule is 7' 4" Zach Edey. He's making about 65% of his two-point shots. If he shot a hundred times at that clip, he would make 130 points. Each shot would be worth 1.3 points. That's why the Purdue Boilermakers are winning. 

This blog is all about thinking outside of the box and disruption. I think the future competitor of the NBA will be playing four-on-four full court.

There is an excess supply of players who can handle the ball and dunk today. Just look at the men's March Madness tournament. Many of those players won't get a shot at playing professionally, yet they are still exceptional athletes.

Playing four-on-four full court will open up the two-point game and enable players to make a much higher percentage of their 2-point shots.

It would be like having four Michael Jordans playing against four Russell Westbrooks. The ideal player would have all the skills. 

Copyright (C) 2024. Bradley R. Hennenfent, M.D. All rights reserved. This is an ongoing treatment and script for playing basketball with fewer players on the court yet still going full court. This copyright protection is for scripted and unscripted TV shows, games, leagues, and visual entertainment in any medium invented or not yet invented. 

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