It turns out both Bill Self and Frank Martin have no use for field goal percentage. I’m sure their reasons are different from mine, but I stand with them in this cause. It was 24 years ago that the NCAA painted the three-point line on the floor and while it changed the way the game is played, unfortunately it hasn’t had much of an effect on how the game is viewed.
From an analysis standpoint, the line allows us to separate a group of shots that are made 34 percent of the time from a group of shots that are made 48 percent of the time. In that regard, the line does us a huge favor, and yet there are an overwhelming amount of people that apparently prefer to lump apples and oranges together and assume it’s still good information. For instance, Louisville is taking 42 percent of its shots from beyond the arc this season while Maryland is taking 20 percent of its shots from long range. Care to guess which team has the better field goal percentage? Of course it’s the team taking more 2’s, Maryland.
Truth be told Louisville ranks well in field goal percentage (35th) considering its self-imposed handicap. They’ve made 55.5 percent of their 2’s and 37.7 percent of their 3’s, both figures significantly above average. Maryland, on the other hand has made 53.3 percent of its 2’s and 33.8 percent of its 3’s.
The Terps shoot it significantly worse than the Cards from both zones, and on top of that, Louisville is shooting (and making) many more 3’s, shots that are worth 50 percent more than two-pointers. Yet in terms of field goal percentage, one would conclude Maryland is the better shooting team, where they rank 12th in the nation.
Hopefully you see that conclusion is garbage. Once we break it down by 2’s and 3’s, it’s clear that Louisville is the better shooting team (ignoring the quality of opposing defenses to date), and it didn’t take many words to make that point. Expect more from your college hoops analysis this winter. It’s time to reject field goal percentage, which removes important context from a team’s shooting ability, and demand the use of two-point percentage.