Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why Economists Should Love 138 points from Jack Taylor

Last night Grinnell's Jack Taylor scored 138 points in a basketball game shattering an NCAA record for most points scored in a game (previously 113) [see article here]

As an economist and Grinnellian I feel it is my duty to point out why economists should love this performance

Top 5 reasons Economists Should Love Jack Taylor's 138 Points
1. Economists believe in specialization. Clearly Jack Taylor has a comparative advantage in shooting three and not in playing defense.
2. Grinnell isn't maximizing wins with their system, the maximize utility. From what I have heard Grinnell basketball players have a ton of fun, get to play a lot of minutes, and shoot lots of shots. Plus Lebron James wouldn't be asking about Grinnell today if Taylor doesn't go wild.
3. Economists love crazy strategies in games. The rules of basketball don't say you have to play defense, they don't say you can't launch a ton of threes. If Grinnell wins by shooting threes and not playing D sometimes that's an optimal strategy.
4. Economists have the Taylor rule, so in honor of Jack Taylor let's have the basketball Taylor Rule. If Jack Taylor has the ball he should shoot it, if he doesn't you should pass it to him. This reduces uncertainty of who will score.
5. Productivity is key. In this case I measure productivity in terms of points per game played. Making Jack Taylor the most productive NCAA basketball player.

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Bob Gitter said...

Ahhhh, productivity. Back in the day, there was a local sportswriter in the Delaware Gazette who argued that total points did not measure offensive success. If your opponent slowed the game down you had fewer possessions and hence most likely fewer points. He argued for PPP. (No, not Purchasing Power Parity.)

PPP, or Points Per Possession merely asked how many points for each possession. An interesting concept. So, I wonder what Grinnell's PPP was that night and how it compares to others.

Note, however, that although the idea of PPP has merit, it never really caught on.

Millsy said...

As someone who never really played basketball, I've always been curious as to why opponents don't slow the game down, rather than following suit with the team that practices this sort of play all the time. When I was in college, some of my friends on the team told me they played up to that style in their game against a similar offense as well.

What happens if we take away the shot clock and have an opponent play the 4-corners. What does Dean Smith have to say about this apparent strategy?

The shot clock at the college level is 35 seconds, yet the opponent here allowed one shot every 20 seconds by a single player. Perhaps both run this offense, but I'm curious about other strategies. The opponent's top scorer had a higher percentage of shots made than Taylor so it seems that the advantage would be in their favor if giving only the best looks and slowing things down.