Playing fast is fun. Playing fast is entertaining. Playing fast is great for recruiting. Saying you are going to play a fast pace is a great sound bite at press conferences.
But does playing fast translate to winning?
Here’s a quick look at some numbers (per Kenpom.com):
In 2020 (out of 353 teams)…
-The fastest team in Adjusted Tempo was Mississippi Valley State. They averaged 77.1 possessions per 40 minutes. They finished the season 4-27.
-In the top 30 teams of Adjusted Tempo, 13 teams had a losing record.
-In the top 30 teams of Adjusted Tempo, no team ranked in the top 50 overall.
-Get all the way down to 34th in Adjusted Tempo- Duke, before you hit a top 50 overall team.
-The slowest team in Adjusted Tempo was Virginia. They averaged 59.4 possessions per 40 minutes. They finished with a 23-7 record and 2nd in the ACC.
-In the bottom 30 teams of Adjusted Tempo, only 6 teams had a losing record.
-In the bottom 30 teams of Adjusted Tempo, 6 teams ranked in the top 50 overall.
-Just a few of the names in the bottom 30 of Adjusted Tempo: Virginia (353), 30-win Liberty team (352), WAC Champion- New Mexico State (343), Big 10 Champion- Wisconsin (342), Butler (341), 26-win St. Mary’s (339), and a 30-win and MWC Champion San Diego State (332).
The average rank of the past 10 national champions is 189 (out of 353).
The average rank of Top 10 of Adjusted Offensive teams in Adjusted Tempo over the past 5 years is 160 (out of 353).
Looking at these metrics, there is an argument to be made that teams that try to play super fast have less success than those that play a slower pace, especially in March. While teams on both ends of the spectrum have had some success, the majority of the most efficient offensive teams fall in the middle of the pack.
Regardless of pace, I am sure that if we dive deeper, the things that we would find in common with the all the best offensive teams are:
They have really good, skilled players
They work to get great shots no matter if it is early or late in the clock
I believe that teams can find success by playing fast or playing slow. It is more a matter of finding a pace of play that works for you, your philosophy, and the skill set of the players on the roster.