How will Lucas Oil Stadium affect totals in Final Four?

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One of the biggest topics of conversation for the Final Four will be how games are impacted by being played in cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium. There is always concern for offensive output when basketball games are played in football venues. Speculation will center on if scoring will be harder since the court is dwarfed by the interior with unconventional backdrops that seemingly alters depth perception.

Keep in mind that this year’s setup inside the massive venue is different. Instead of just one court, there are two playing areas adjacent to each other to help create distancing and cleaning opportunities.

Bettors can do some unique Final Four scoring handicapping because of this year’s altered tournament schedule. The venue housing the last three games of the tournament has already been used for early-round games and those in the Elite Eight.

We complied the shooting percentages for the tournament games played at Lucas Oil Stadium compared to the teams’ overall regular-season averages below. This will provide some quantifiable data to help understand if the venue plays a role in the final score and if there is a betting edge to be gleaned.

There are a multitude of factors that alter shooting percentages (defense, good shooting teams, poor shooting teams, travel, injuries, etc.), but 12 tournament games already played in the stadium provide a frame of reference and data for those hypothesizing the venue’s role in scoring. 

The closing total numbers (from William Hill) are also included. If the general perception is that scoring will lower in the football facility than keep the closing total in mind as a possible contrarian play. 

2021 Tournament Games at Lucas Oil Field - Unity Court (South)

UCLA 51, Michigan 49

Opening total: 137

Closing total: 136

UCLA 38.9% Field Goal vs. UCLA 2020-21 FG percentage: 46.0%

UCLA 23.1% 3-point vs. UCLA 2020-21 3-point percentage: 37.2%

UCLA 85.7% Free Throws vs. UCLA 2020-21 FT percentage: 71.5%

Michigan 39.2% Field Goal vs. Michigan 2020-21 FG percentage: 48.5%

Michigan 27.3% 3-point vs. Michigan 2020-21 3-point percentage: 38.3%

Michigan 54.5% Free Throws vs. Michigan 2020-21 FT percentage: 77.4%

Anecdotal takeaway: Defensive game that saw poor shooting from both teams. Key point is this was Michigan’s second game in Lucas Oil Stadium and its percentages dropped considerably.

Baylor 81, Arkansas 72

Opening total: 149.5

Closing total: 147.5

Baylor 48.4% Field Goal vs. Baylor 2020-21 FG percentage: 48.6%

Baylor 53.3% 3-point vs. Baylor 2020-21 3-point percentage: 41.1%

Baylor 76.5% Free Throws vs. Baylor 2020-21 FT percentage 70.1%

Arkansas 48.1% Field Goal vs. Arkansas 2020-21 FG percentage: 45.1%

Arkansas 27.3% 3-point vs. Arkansas 2020-21 3-point percentage: 33.2%

Arkansas 73.9% Free Throws vs. Arkansas 2020-21 FT percentage: 74.0%

Anecdotal takeaway: No discernible difference in shooting percentages for either team playing at Lucas Oil Stadium. Baylor, the top 3-point shooting team in the country, performed even better behind the arc in this game compared to a successful regular season. 

Michigan 86, LSU 78

Opening total: 148.5

Closing total: 148

Michigan 53.8% Field Goal vs. Michigan 2020-21 FG percentage: 48.5%

Michigan 40.0% 3-point vs. Michigan 2020-21 3-point percentage: 48.5%

Michigan 80% Free Throws vs. Michigan 2020-21 FT percentage 78.0%

LSU 39.1% Field Goal vs. LSU 2020-21 FG percentage: 45.9%

LSU 28.6% 3-point vs. LSU 2020-21 3-point percentage: 23.2%

LSU 78.3% Free Throws vs. LSU 2020-21 FT percentage: 75.0%

Anecdotal takeaway: No discernible difference in shooting percentages for either team playing at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Houston 63, Rutgers 60

Opening total: 132

Closing total: 131

Houston 37.3% Field Goal vs. Houston 2020-21 FG percentage: 44.1%

Houston 36.4% 3-point vs. Houston 2020-21 3-point percentage: 35.5%

Houston 61.1% Free Throws vs. Houston 2020-21 FT percentage 73.0%

Rutgers 44.0% Field Goal vs. Rutgers 2020-21 FG percentage: 44.9%

Rutgers 43.8% 3-point vs. Rutgers 2020-21 3-point percentage: 31.2%

Rutgers 75.0% Free Throws vs. Houston 2020-21 FT percentage: 63.1%

Anecdotal takeaway: Houston’s FG and FT percentage did show a dip at Lucas Oil Stadium against a physical Rutgers defense that allowed a defensive FG percentage of 41.6% on the season.  Rutgers going against a very good Cougars defense shot slightly better in Lucas Oil Stadium than it did in the regular season. 

Abilene Christian 53, Texas 52

Opening total 139.5

Closing total: 139.5

ACU 29.9% Field Goal vs. ACU 2020-21 FG percentage: 44.9%

ACU 16.7% 3-point vs. ACU 2020-21 3-point percentage: 34.4%

ACU 83.3% Free Throws vs. ACU 2020-21 FT percentage: 67.8%

Texas 45.0% Field Goal vs. Texas 2020-21 FG percentage: 45.4%

Texas 35.0% 3-point vs. Texas 2020-21 3-point percentage: 35.6%

Texas 81.8% Free Throws vs. Texas 2020-21 FT percentage: 69.7%

Anecdotal takeaway: Any shooting shortcomings from being in the football stadium had nothing to do with this upset, as the Longhorns had almost identical shooting numbers in this game than through the season. It was the Wildcats who saw a considerable dip in their shooting numbers en route to the victory.  

Creighton 63, Santa Barbara 62

Opening total 139.5

Closing total: 137.5 

Creighton 44.8% Field Goal vs. Creighton 2020-21 FG percentage: 47.4%

Creighton 28.0% 3-point vs. Creighton 2020-21 3-point percentage: 36.6%

Creighton 57.1% Free Throws vs. Creighton 2020-21 FT percentage 64.3%

USB 38.6% Field Goal vs. USB 2020-21 FG percentage: 48.2%

USB 23.8% 3-point vs. USB 2020-21 3-point percentage: 34.7%

USB 76.5% Free Throws vs. USB 2020-21 FT percentage: 75.1%

Anecdotal takeaway: Both teams had poorer numbers in Lucas Oil Stadium than in the regular season.

West Virginia 84, Morehead State 67

Opening total 137.5

Closing total: 136

WVU 50.8% Field Goal vs. WVU 2020-21 FG percentage: 42.9%

WVU 50.0% 3-point vs. WVU 2020-21 3-point percentage: 36.4%

WVU 73.3% Free Throws vs. WVU 2020-21 FT percentage: 71.9%

MSU 52.0% Field Goal vs. MSU 2020-21 FG percentage: 47.1%

MSU 52.6% 3-point vs. MSU 2020-21 3-point percentage: 36.3%

MSU 55.6% Free Throws vs. MSU 2020-21 FT percentage: 67.8%

Anecdotal takeaway: Both teams shot better in all categories (exception MSU FTs) in Lucas Oil Stadium than in the regular season.

Baylor 79, Hartford 55

Opening total: 141

Closing total: 138.5

Baylor 41.3% Field Goal vs. Baylor 2020-21 FG percentage: 49.5%

Baylor 33.3% 3-point vs. Baylor 2020-21 3-point percentage: 42.0%

Baylor 60.0% Free Throws vs. Baylor 2020-21 FT percentage: 66.5%

Hartford 35.2% Field Goal vs. Hartford 2020-21 FG percentage: 43.1%

Hartford 22.7% 3-point vs. Hartford 2020-21 3-point percentage: 32.3%

Hartford 80.0% Free Throws vs. Hartford 2020-21 FT percentage: 71.6%

Anecdotal takeaway: Both teams had poorer numbers in Lucas Oil Stadium than in the regular season. 

 

2021 Tournament Games at Lucas Oil Field - Equality Court (North)

Gonzaga 85, USC 66

Opening total: 155.5

Closing total: 153

Gonzaga 50.0% Field Goal vs. Gonzaga 2020-21 FG percentage: 55.1%

Gonzaga 33.3% 3-point vs. Gonzaga 2020-21 3-point percentage: 37.3%

Gonzaga 70.6% Free Throws vs. Gonzaga 2020-21 FT percentage: 73.6%

USC 38.7% Field Goal vs. USC 2020-21 FG percentage: 47.4%

USC 26.7% 3-point vs. USC 2020-21 3-point percentage: 36.3%

USC 73.7% Free Throws vs. USC 2020-21 FT percentage: 64.6%

Anecdotal takeaway: Gonzaga came close, but still didn’t matching its lofty regular season standards. USC was equally ineffective on the perimeter and in the post during an overall poor shooting performance.

Houston 67, Oregon State 61

Opening total: 130.5

Closing total: 130

UH 32.3% Field Goal vs. UH 2020-21 FG percentage: 43.7%

UH 34.4% 3-point vs. UH 2020-21 3-point percentage: 35.4%

UH 66.7% Free Throws vs. UH 2020-21 FT percentage: 73.2%

OSU 46.8% Field Goal vs. OSU 2020-21 FG percentage: 43.6%

OSU 37.5% 3-point vs. OSU 2020-21 3-point percentage: 35.7%

OSU 55.0% Free Throws vs. OSU 2020-21 FT percentage: 76.2%

Anecdotal takeaway: This Elite Eight game featured two of the best defenses in the tournament. The drop in the Houston percentages was offset by the Beavers’ increase in shooting at Lucas Oil. 

Oklahoma 72, Missouri 68

Opening total: 140.5

Closing total: 139

OU 41.8% Field Goal vs. OU 2020-21 FG percentage: 44.3%

OU 46.7% 3-point vs. OU 2020-21 3-point percentage: 34.1%

OU 79.2% Free Throws vs. OU 2020-21 FT percentage: 74.5%

Mizzou 37.9% Field Goal vs. Mizzou 2020-21 FG percentage: 44.6%

Mizzou 40.7% 3-point vs. Mizzou 2020-21 3-point percentage: 32.5%

Mizzou 81.3% Free Throws vs. Mizzou 2020-21 FT percentage: 70.1%

Anecdotal takeaway: Very little difference in FG percentage, but both teams shot better behind the arc and on the free-throw line in Lucas Oil Stadium than during the regular season. 

North Texas 78, Purdue 69 (OT)

Opening total: 125.5

Closing total: 124.5

UNT 47.5% Field Goal vs. UNT 2020-21 FG percentage: 47.3%

UNT 42.9% 3-point vs. UNT 2020-21 3-point percentage: 37.5%

UNT 86.7% Free Throws vs. UNT 2020-21 FT percentage: 74.5%

Purdue 36.2% Field Goal vs. Purdue 2020-21 FG percentage: 44.7%

Purdue 30.0% 3-point vs. Purdue 2020-21 3-point percentage: 21.5%

Purdue 71.4% Free Throws vs. Purdue 2020-21 FT percentage: 71.1%

Anecdotal takeaway: Other than Purdue’s poor performance shooting FGs, the percentages of both teams in this game were reflective of the regular season. 

So, is shooting a problem at Lucas Oil Stadium?

Before attempting to answer this, gathering a compilation of single statistics as a comparison against a season’s average can be considered a convenience sample.

Nonetheless, the overall statistics for the NCAA tournament games played this year at Lucas Oil Stadium seem to indicate a negative correlation between the venue (and yes, the defense played in that venue) and shooting performance, therefore scoring.

The average field goal percentage for the games played at Lucas Oil Stadium was 42.4%, 2 percent less than the average regular-season field-goal shooting percentage for all the teams. 

When it came to 3-point shooting, the average for the games at Lucas Oil Stadium was 34.7%, a lower percentage than 35.2%, the tournament teams’ average percentage over the course of the regular season.

And when it came to free-throw shooting, during the tournament games it was 72.3%, slightly higher than the 71.4% in the regular season.

Of the 12 tournament games played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the total came in under seven times of the closing line. 

Also of note: The closing total was lower than the opening line for every game, which seems to indicate both the public and sharps have zeroed in on taking unders during Lucas Oil Stadium games. That should indicate that for those looking to play overs, wait until the last possible moment to get the best line. Under players might not see the total they want for much longer, so be active early. 

Opening totals for the Final Four games:

135: No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 2 Houston

145.5: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 UCLA

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