With March Madness upon us and millions of fans having frenziedly filled out their NCAA tournament brackets, the University of Kansas has just published a 7-year-long study that reveals the secrets of success on the basketball court.
It’s fitting that the University of Kansas published this study because you can argue that the school is the undisputed Mecca of basketball.
First, there’s the fact that James Naismith, the man who invented the game, was not only the University’s first basketball coach (1898-1907) but he is buried just off campus. There is also the fact that the Kansas Jayhawks are the winningest team in the history of collegiate basketball, with 2,357 wins.
The Kansas Jayhawks have also won four NCAA championships (the most recent in 2022) and three before the founding of the NCAA, for a total of seven.
Then there is Allen Fieldhouse which IS college basketball’s MECCA. In fact, it’s basketball’s Vatican, its Kaaba, its Temple Mount. Experiencing a basketball game in 16,300-seat Allen Fieldhouse should be on every college basketball fan’s bucket list. For basketball fanatics, it’s almost a religious experience.
I’ve seen several games in Allen Fieldhouse because I was once the sports editor and then editor of the University Daily Kansan Newspaper.
Ahem. Journalism–even at the collegiate level–does have its privileges.
But I won’t belabor those points. Let’s look at that study, which was done by researchers from the Jayhawk Athletic Performance Laboratory.
Here are some key findings:
- Eating breakfast can improve a basketball player’s shooting performance, sometimes by significant margins.
- Lower body strength and power are highly related to a greater level of play.
- There is a lack of ties between upper body strength and free-throw, two-point, and three-point shooting performance.
Researchers at KU tested a group of 17 experienced shooters with more than nine years of basketball playing experience who had previously competed at the high school and/or college level. The strongest among the 10 men and 7 women did not necessarily have the highest level of shooting accuracy when compared to the other fellow participants.
The study required participants to perform maximal upper-body and lower-body strength testing (bench press and back squat) during the first laboratory visit, then free-throw, two-point, and three-point shooting accuracy testing during the second visit.
Each participant attempted 225 shots, combining a total of 3,825 shots. The average shooting accuracy in each of these three categories for men was 74.5%, 68.4%, and 53.3%, and for women, 79.2%, 65.5%, and 51.2%, respectively.
And what about breakfast? The researchers recruited 18 young players with high-level basketball ability, some having played professionally, some in the collegiate ranks, and all with at least nine years of experience.
Two groups were formed, one of which had breakfast before taking part in shooting drills, while another did not have an early meal before the same drills. After one week, the groups switched, and the tests were repeated. Results showed a statistically significant improvement in free throw shooting percentage and specific improvement in others.
So there you have it. When it comes to filling out those brackets, you might want to make sure the members of the team you are picking to be the last one standing out of 68 tournament teams eat a good breakfast and have significant lower body strength.
Beyond that, you can keep your fingers crossed. I know I am.
Rock Chalk Jayhawk!