New College Lacrosse Rules: Impact on Statisticians

Winslow Townson - Getty Images

If you're going to be putting in a shot clock and change the function of the game, the box score better reflect that.

You probably haven't read the official NCAA lacrosse statistician's manual. Don't feel bad about that or anything; it's actually pretty normal to not read it. Generally, most people don't read statistician manuals for fun, unless, of course, you're a sociopath that has nothing left to read in the prison library and you believe that if you cross out all the words that have an "a" in them you'll receive a special code that will unlock the secrets of the universe (or, at a minimum, make a peanut butter sandwich magically appear). Regardless, though, you probably need to know this: An official statistician manual exists, and it's probably going to need some updates going into the 2013 season.

The foundational principle of a statistician's manual is pretty straightforward: Catalogue the components of a game, accurately reflecting what occurred during a game. For the most part, the NCAA's statistician's manual does a decent job of that: You can look at a box score of a game that you didn't see and have a pretty good idea of what happened, what the bigger issues where, and which players did what things. That's cool, babycakes, but there's just one problem -- the shot clock has the potential to drastically change how games are played and the current statistician's manual does nothing to address that.

Let's use a ridiculously simple example: A team shoots 30 percent on the day (30-100).

What can we imply from this? Well, probably a lot of things:

  • The team shot very well on the day in terms of percentage.
  • Looking at the man-up conversion rate contained the box score, we can make some assumptions about the impact of playing in the personnel imbalance impacted the team's ability to can the bean.
  • Looking at the individual statistics, we can see which players drove that shooting percentage and whether there was a hub of the activity.

So on and so forth. You get the idea. And you probably also see, now, the gap: There's no way, under the current system, to see how shot clock situations impacted shooting. None. A stall that leads to a shot clock in no way shows up in the box score, either as a penalty or other infraction. There's no notation for the posture; it exists in a very tangible way and has wide-reaching impact on how the game is played, yet it is not (yet) in the manual as a component part of the game that is to be charted. Man-up and man-down situations are catalogued, presumably because these are special situations that require a highlight due to their unique nature and impact on the game; stall-shot clock situations require the same treatment given the impact on the pace of play.

I can feel, already, that these situations will be likely lumped into "turnovers" or "caused turnovers" (much like delineated crease violations). That's six different kinds of dumb. A stall-shot clock situation (whether it ends up in a violation posture or otherwise) is markedly different from a common violation. It needs separate accounting. The evaluation of the strength of the rule depends on the analytical value ascribed to it; that cannot occur unless these situations are separately tracked by a statistician.

Plus, you know, it'd help me out a lot with writing words about possessions and stuff, and that's really the most important thing in the history of history.

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