The Terrible NCAA Tournament Shooting Was Not Of Natural Origin - It Was Made In A Lab

If you thought March Madness was supposed to be this… well mad, then you need to do your own research. Luckily, you're doing that now by reading this blog. If you've been watching the NCAA Tournament you know a Monstar shooting pandemic has pretty much infected everyone not named Jordan Miller or Andrew Funk and for the first time ever there will be no 3-seed or higher in the Final Four. But I'm here to say this sudden pandemic of bad shooting, major upsets, even the SIX ball/backboard wedgies (and eternally rare "sitter" shown above) wasn't a product of natural occurrence. It was made in a lab. 

By now you've probably heard the bureaucrats at the NCAA introduced a new basketball for the NCAA tournament which was also used for at least three Power Five conferences (Big ten, SEC, and Big 12). It's the Wilson Evo NXT variant basketball that was designed (in a lab) to be the "highest caliber" with a micro-touch cover. But many have spoken out in resistance to the ball including Mark Few who accused the ball of being overinflated. Many players have corroborated this complaint not only this year, but last tournament as well when the ball was first mandated for tournament play. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will but you literally can't pronounce "ball" backwards without saying "lab". 

The shooting really has been bad. NBA baller DeAaron Fox went on record to say he's physically unable to watch a full college basketball game, and under betters are probably all bidding against one another for what private island to buy. But I haven't seen anyone graph out just how drastic and sudden the spread of shooting woes has been over time. So I looked at the data the experts don't want you to see and made the following graph. It tracks all 68 tournament teams by running a rolling four-day field goal percentage average across the entire 2022-23 season. For example, the season started on November 7th. The first recording would be shooting percentage of all 68 teams combined from November 7th - 10th. The next recording would be November 8th-11th…etc. The point of doing it this way is that more data goes into each recording thus reducing the variance so you can see what's really going on.

I don't know about you, but I don't see much gain of function with this new "high caliber" ball. You can see the clear downtrend right after the first black bar (or wave) indicating when Power Five conferences first started using the new ball. This EVONXT-23 variant came in fast and came in hard. The good news is that things are starting to rebound as we've been able to slow the spread in about 15 days. First time for everything, I guess. But this improvement is certainly a clear-cut case of survivor bias as only the better teams advance on throughout the tournament. Quite frankly the damage has already been done here. 

While there's still no official consensus as to why shooting percentage is down, I think it's fair to say the Selection Committee department of the NCAA probably thinks the most likely origin was in a lab based on how terrible they've been at seeding teams this year (blue dot). The new ball issue definitely gets them off the hook here. 

The only Final Four with a higher sum of seeds since the traditional field of 64 was in 2011 with VCU (11), Butler (8), Kentucky (4) and Uconn (3). That makes Uconn the highest seed in the Final Four in multiple years while not even being a top-2 seed themselves. That's not an accusation, just a fact. Shout out Selection Committee 2008 with a perfect 4 grade. All #1 seeds. Whoever was on that committee should pop champaign like a '72 Dolphin every time the first #1 seed loses in the tournament. 

I think if you're a fan of a top-team that got bounced early you have a legitimate gripe with the fuckery going on at the NCAA. What an absolutely insane move to just switch to new equipment at the most critical time of the year. You probably thought there's no way on Earth your #1 or #2 seed team would lose so early by their own doing. Well, except for Purdue. But here's the thing. The NCAA is apparently contracted through 2028 with this new ball so moving forward I think you have to start using it in the regular season so you're not thrown off again in the NCAA tournament. 

I'm sure this was all unintended and I'm even hopeful the NCAA will develop some sort of a jab to inoculate the ball from the PSI issues outlined by Mark Few. Even if we need to give it another a few months later. But maybe we also need to see how many unders betters work for Wilson Sporting Goods. Just for due diligence. If this turns into a new Tim Donaghy situation credit me first for running this forensic statistical investigation. 

- Jeffro