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College Basketball
Phil Taylor
November 25, 1991
Hard Lessons
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November 25, 1991

College Basketball

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Maxfield and Mavros summarized their findings in a tongue-in-cheek research paper that concluded: "The most effective distractionary technique utilizes that one entity seldom experienced by opposing players at Cameron: silence."

But first Maxfield and Mavros defined their terms. They labeled and analyzed the five distractions most commonly used by the Dukies: the Hop, in which students behind the basket hop up and down in place; the Whirl, in which students stand with their hands over their heads and whirl their arms in a circular motion while making a woooooo sound; the Lean and Shift, in which students behind the basket first lean in one direction, then shift to the opposite direction just as the shooter is releasing his shot; the "Shhhh...Hey!!" in which students sit silently until the shooter is about to release the ball, at which point they scream; and the Egg-beater, in which students motion with their arms in simulation of a referee's traveling call.

To illustrate the effect of each distraction, the good doctors used "the foul-shooting percentage of ACC players shooting without any distractions...i.e., in a vacuum" as a standard of comparison. In a dig at archrival North Carolina, they chose, as the vacuum, the Tar Heels' Dean Smith Center, where visiting players shot 66% from the foul line last season. Maxfield and Mavros found that in 1990-91, Duke opponents in Cameron shot only 36% (9 of 25) against the "Shhhh...Hey!!" approach, while they shot from 64% to 80% against the other four tactics.

Only hated North Carolina fared better than 50% against the "Shhhh...Hey!!", which Maxfield and Mavros attributed to the fact that "the Tar Heels are accustomed to playing in dead silence."

But they also point out that a distraction isn't always needed to make an opponent miss. Last season in Cameron, Clemson's Dale Davis was shooting a free throw near the end of one of his more difficult games at the line. After pondering which tactic to use on Davis's final attempt, the Duke students turned their backs and chanted, "It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter." They were right. He missed.

Sad Commentary

One of the biggest gaffes of the off-season occurred in Lexington, Ky., when WLEX-TV sports director Alan Cutler made a comment implying that the Kentucky basketball program might be too honest to draw top recruits.

"The bottom line is that everyone cheats," Cutler said during a July telecast. "The question is, To what extent? And if the Cats are going to compete on a big-time level for the best recruits, they're going to have to play the game."

Cutler later said his words were misinterpreted. "The point of the commentary was to let people know cheating was still going on all over the country," he told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "I'm not suggesting that Kentucky goes out and cheats. What I'm saying is, there are players who won't come here because Kentucky won't cheat. There's a big difference between the two."

A month later Cutler's airtime was slightly reduced, a move that WLEX officials said was not a punishment. That's easy to believe. By reducing Cutler's chances to put his foot in his mouth, the station probably did him a favor.

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