Or consider No. 1 Kansas, which leads the country in field goal percentage. The Jayhawks have a good percentage, 60.6, but that's only 43rd in the country. Georgetown, the only other team that is shooting 50 percent or better from the field for the season, is roughly the same at 60.9 percent, or 40th.
I suppose that what we can take from all of this is that, for the most part, teams with a better-than-average percentage of assists on field goals are usually pretty good teams. There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking the teams that share the ball and make the extra pass are usually doing something right and are rewarded for that.
West Virginia is no exception.
Here, though, is what actually intrigues me about WVU's 82.2 percentage over the last two games: It's not necessarily a good thing.
Sure, it's good when Joe Mazzulla has seven assists against Syracuse or when Mazzulla, Truck Bryant and Cam Thoroughman combine for 17 in just one game against DePaul. But consider for a moment why it is that even the best teams generally have assists on only six out of every 10 baskets.
Two reasons come to mind:
1. The best teams have players who are able to create their own shots. Coaches call it scoring off the dribble. When it happens there is generally no assist.
2. Second shots. Think about it. If even the best players make four or five shots out of every 10 they attempt, then perhaps half the potential assists in every game don't materialize because of missed shots. But the best teams recover a lot of those points with offensive rebounds and immediate scores. There are no assists on those, no matter how good the initial pass.
Now, throw in backcourt steals that result in layups without a pass and loose balls picked up in scrambles near the basket and the result is a decrease in the assist percentage. That's a good thing because teams are finding all sorts of ways to score.
But West Virginia hasn't been doing that, and it artificially increases the assist percentage. Yes, it's good that of the baskets the Mountaineers are getting they are doing so through teamwork, but it's a negative that they aren't getting many others.
That the Mountaineers aren't scoring off the dribble is no great surprise. Coach Bob Huggins has lamented all season that he has no one capable of doing that. How often have you seen a WVU player take the ball and beat a defender? Perhaps the best at doing so is Mazzulla, although in the unconventional manner of his sometimes awkward drives to the basket. But even he hasn't done that lately.
The second shots are the real problem these days, though. Against Syracuse, the Mountaineers had but one put-back basket, by John Flowers to start the second half. They had none against Seton Hall and two against Pitt. Granted, there were other occasions when they scored second-chance points (by either resetting the offense or on fouls at the basket). But as offensively challenged as this team is, it has to get more.
In the meantime, of course, there's nothing wrong with sharing the ball and piling up those assists. But if that's the only option, well, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.