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Layups: Correlations Between NCAA & NBA Stats

Posted by Neil Paine on March 18, 2009

Our friend Jon Nichols over at the Basketball blog has a neat study today on the correlations between college stats and NBA stats... For instance, NCAA & NBA blocks per minute have an R-squared of 0.93, meaning good shot-blockers in college tend to be good shot-blockers in the pros; meanwhile, there's only a 0.29 R² between a player's NCAA and NBA FTA/min, so players who draw a lot of fouls in college don't necessarily do the same in the pros. Obviously there's some selection bias in the study, but it's still a cool snapshot of what abilities players tend to retain as they make the leap to the pro level.

8 Responses to “Layups: Correlations Between NCAA & NBA Stats”

  1. Ben Says:

    Any ideas on why free throw % wouldn't have the highest r^2?

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    No clue, but yeah, you'd think FT% would be the most correlated, since it comes under exactly the same conditions at both levels. Could just be noise, but then that calls into question how relevant the other correlations are. On average, I wonder if FT% tended to be higher or lower in college or the NBA. I'll have to ask Jon what his thoughts are...

  3. MyArvydas Says:

    Well, it would seem to make sense that if you can make your FT in college, you could make them in the NBA as well. However, it's not quite the same job: I know there are stll no defenders and the line is at the same distance, but to take a FT you have basically to regain your composure after the foul (which are harder in the NBA), be able to slow down your heartbeat (which is more prone to high activity in the NBa), and so forth.

  4. merl Says:

    I think that there are lots of NBA big men who were bad FT shooters in college but gradually got better over the course of their nba career.

  5. kjb Says:

    Maybe pros get better with practice?

  6. Neil Paine Says:

    It's true, the average for all of D-I this year is 69%, the NBA average (in a record-breaking year) is 77% (75.5% last year) -- though with selection bias you'd expect the avg. of NBA-caliber talents to be higher: 70% for power-conferences this season, 70.4% for NCAA Tournament teams, 71% for power-conference teams in the tourney.

  7. scott wallace Says:

    I believe that the stat is Free Throws Attempted per Minute- not Free Throws made. It's a correlation of the ability of a player to draw fouls in college and then draw fouls at the same rate in the pros. It's a comment on the differences in the refs between college and the pros.

  8. Michael Casper Says:

    I think players have a hard time drawing fouls in the pros for a number of reasons. Above all probably they come into the pros and are suddenly surrounded by much better, faster, more athletic, and SMARTER defenders than what they faced in college.
    Then there's the possibilities that in college they only play 35 games and play every game full out. They have to. Otherwise the coach (and college ball is the coaches game) will bench their sorry behinds. Whereas in the pros (which is not a coaches game) players know that 82 (and hopefully more) games is a long season, so they might not go all out on every possession which means they might not play as physical, which means they might not get whistled. Then there's the star players that don't want to commit fouls because they want to stay in the game.