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Published: Sunday, 4/1/2012

Playing in domes sinks shooting percentages

OSU assistants may get head coaching positions

BY KYLE ROWLAND
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

NEW ORLEANS -- The 2011 national championship game between Connecticut and Butler will long be remembered for its ugliness. The teams combined to shoot just 26 percent from the field and 23 percent from beyond the arc in a punchless prize fight.

UConn won the national title, but Houston's Reliant Stadium was the story. Every Final Four since 1997 has been held in a dome football stadium and in 2009 the NCAA moved the court to midfield, allowing every seat in the stadium to be used for basketball.

More fans are able to attend a once in a lifetime sporting event -- there were 74,400 people in the Superdome on Saturday -- but the game itself suffers.

A recent USA Today study found that during the 2011 NCAA Tournament shooting percentages lagged greatly in domes when compared to basketball arenas. Shooting percentages in domes were 37 percent while percentage in games played in arenas skyrocketed to 47 percent. When you moved to the 3-point line, teams only made 31 percent of their shots in domes compared to 37 percent in arenas.

"It's interesting," Ohio State assistant coach Jeff Boals said of the floor setup at the Superdome. "It's completely different. We played in a dome two years ago in St. Louis. Everyone talks about the depth perception and how you have 74,000 seats with an open environment, so it's a completely different atmosphere when you play."

Upper Sandusky native Jon Diebler, the Big Ten's all-time leading 3-point shooter, fell victim to poor dome shooting in 2010. In the season he shot 44 percent from the field, Diebler only made 1-of-7 shot attempts at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Fellow assistant Chris Jent said there is nothing you can do to combat the wide open spaces. At the end of the day, shooting is shooting. It's muscle memory and trying to recreate the same shot.

"It certainly becomes more mental than physical when you're playing in a different environment," Jent said.

The "dome affect" has been a popular talking point in New Orleans throughout the week, but coaches don't dare mention it to the players.

"I think the more you bring it up the more they think about it," Boals said. "It's like the movie Hoosiers, the rim is 10 feet and the free-throw line is 15. So we just want to stay on task and do the thing we do."

FUTURE HEAD COACHES: When you pull in a top 5 recruiting class year after year and follow it up with continuous on-court success, your assistant coaches will get noticed. So it comes as no surprise that Thad Matta's top assistants, Boals and Dave Dickerson, have been mentioned as head coaching candidates.

Boals' name immediately joined the coaching carousel discussion when John Groce, another former Matta assistant, left Ohio University for Illinois this week. Groce recently led the Bobcats to their first Sweet 16 since 1964.

Boals attended Ohio University and was a two-year captain. In 1994, Boals helped lead the Bobcats to the Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Meanwhile, Dickerson's name has been linked to five openings this spring including Duquesne, Miami, and Samford.

STAY OR GO?: Coaches aren't the only members of the Ohio State basketball team that could depart. Two players -- Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas -- are thought to be prime targets for June's NBA draft.

Sullinger spurned the NBA last season after an All-American freshman season, but there remains little drama about his decision this year. Sullinger is as good as gone.

Thomas's decision, though, offers intrigue. Prior to the Buckeyes' run to the Final Four, conventional wisdom said Thomas would return for his junior season.

He has since averaged 21.8 points (52 percent shooting percentage) and 8.5 rebounds in the tournament.

Despite the torrid three-week stretch, the Final Four remains the focal point on Thomas's radar.

"I'm only worried about getting a national championship," Thomas said.

BLAME GAME: In Ohio State's December 10 matchup with Kansas, Matta never wavered in sitting Sullinger, who was battling a back injury in the weeks leading up to the game. Matta didn't want to jeopardize Sullinger's future and put the team behind the eight-ball in a season with high expectations.

It paid off for both, but Sullinger still has moments of regret.

"I feel like I let the team down," Sullinger said. "When that final buzzer went off and we got done shaking hands I walked off the court and I felt like all the weight was on my shoulders."



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