College Basketball’s “Dome Effect” Is A Myth


“It’s time to settle the madness.”
You may remember the 2011 men’s college basketball
national championship game, when the Butler
Bulldogs scored 41 points on 19% shooting
and lost to UConn.
UConn didn’t win so pretty, either.
They made just 2-of-23 three-pointers at that
year’s Final Four.
The year before that, Butler and Duke struggled
from long range at the Final Four.
And the year before that, Villanova and Michigan
State did, too.
People wondered why?
“0-for-6 from out here… 0-for-7”
For the first time in modern history, the
2009, 10, and 11 Final Fours were played in
the middle of enormous domed football stadiums.
Players, coaches, pundits, and fans began
to speculate that shooters were struggling
from long range because they weren’t used
to the weird and distant backdrops behind
each hoop.
The phenomenon became known as the “dome effect,”
and it feels like we hear about it at the
end of every NCAA tournament.
But is college basketball’s “dome effect”
real?
Or do people simply blame the stadium when
teams don’t shoot well?
First some history.
The 1996 Final Four at Continental Airlines
Arena in New Jersey was the last one held
in a normal basketball arena.
Championship game attendance that year was
a little over 19,000.
From 1997 to 2008, Final Fours were played
in bigger domed stadiums, usually football
stadiums, with the court laid down in one
corner or end zone.
This setup created Final Four crowds of 40-
and 50-thousand plus.
Starting with two regionals in 2008 and the
Final Four in 2009, the NCAA moved the court
from the end zone to midfield.
This allows people to sit all throughout the
stadium, and it’s led to record crowds of
70-thousand plus.
The setup’s been used at the Final Four ever
since, and as we saw, it became conventional
wisdom that it creates a terrible shooting
environment, particularly from long range.
Most dome-effect conversation relied on anecdote,
a few infamous shooting performances, or evidence
from only a couple of NCAA tournaments.
But what story do the numbers actually tell?
Fact number one.
Forget everything you heard, because the truth
is that late-round NCAA tournament teams shoot
threes BETTER in football stadiums with the
court at midfield than they do anywhere else,
including regular basketball arenas.
Now to be fair, the court-at-midfield setup
is used in later rounds, which usually means
better teams, so couldn’t these teams simply
be better at three-point shooting to begin
with?
To account for that, we need to look at how
teams shot in these venues relative to their
season averages.
Shooting performance declines pretty much
across the board in later rounds because teams
are up against top competition.
But on average, three-point field goal percentage
falls by slightly LESS in domes with the court
at midfield than it does in standard arenas.
“Stauskas lines up another three.
He is ON FIRE!”
Fact number three.
Despite being the subject of so much suspicion
and blame, most stadiums that have used the
court-at-midfield setup have had LESS OF A
NEGATIVE EFFECT on threes than the average
late-round tournament venue.
In fact, five standard arenas have had a worse
effect on threes than the worst stadium with
the court in the middle, including Quicken
Loans and Oracle Arena, where the NBA’s Cavaliers
and Warriors kill it from long range.
Nobody’s criticizing those venues for messing
with three-point shooting at the tournament.
When teams don’t shoot well there, we chalk
it up to good defense or an off night.
It’s easy to blame the domes when teams can’t
hit shots.
You got that tiny little court in the middle
of those giant football stadiums, and it kinda
feels like it should be weird for shooters.
But in reality, NCAA tournament teams struggle
from long range MORE OFTEN in regular basketball
arenas.
Only there, people can’t scapegoat the venues.
If you don’t believe the numbers, go back
and check out Villanova and North Carolina’s
three-point shooting display in the 2016 title
game, or Gonzaga at the 2017 Final Four.
And if you don’t think we should draw conclusions
based on a couple of memorable games, THEN
NONE OF US SHOULD HAVE BELIEVED IN THE “DOME
EFFECT” IN THE FIRST PLACE.
“Three seconds at mid-court…
(Jenkins)… gives it to Jenkins… for the
championship!”
Thank you all for checking out our first video.
Feel free to drop comments, questions, and
feedback down below.
You can read more about the “dome effect”
and other sports and non-sports topics by
visiting ELDORADO at E-L-D-O-DOT-C-O.
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