Final Four: The Raised Courts and Big Stadium is Not Having An Impact on Shooters

Mar 31, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; A general view of Gonzaga Bulldogs practice for the 2017 Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; A general view of Gonzaga Bulldogs practice for the 2017 Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

After getting to shoot on the raised Final Four court at University of Phoenix stadium for the second time Friday, teams say that it isn’t affecting them.

When one first steps on the raised court it’s an odd feeling, there is the knowledge of being higher up then everyone and everything else, but it’s still a basketball court.

The only time it may be a problem is on a loose ball down the sideline; there is only about six or seven feet of court after the sideline. It shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s just an extra thing that players will be thinking about before trying to save it.

The other problem the stadium presents is just its sheer size. Throughout the tournament, teams have played in mostly NBA or NHL arenas, but nothing with a capacity of more than 20,000.

“You play in the Sprint Center, you see bleachers right behind the backboard,” North Carolina sophomore guard Kenny Williams said, “And now it’s like so much space before you get to the bleachers.”

More from Devils in Detail

On Saturday they will be playing in front of a University of Phoenix Stadium record crowd of 76,033.

It can throw off a shooters depth perception because the ceiling is so high and the walls are so far back, it throws off how far away the basket looks.

It’s very different from a college or NBA stadium because the fans are pushed back from the court, creating more empty space.

After the each team shot on the court for the first time Thursday, they noticed a few early air balls. “I think they only came from freshmen,” North Carolina senior point guard Nate Britt said.

“I don’t know if were all the way adjusted yet, but we got out there yesterday and it felt good,” Oregon freshman foreword Keith Smith said, “we shot it pretty well, so I think today (Friday) will be another good day to get used to it.”

Most players said they didn’t even notice a difference, and if they did, it didn’t affect their shot because it was just another basketball court with the same dimensions.

If any team is prepared for it, it would be North Carolina, who was able to play in a football stadium (NRG Stadium) in last years final four.

“We played on the raised court last year, so for the guys returning,” Britt said, “they were kind of used to it, they had done it before.”

Some people put a lot of weight on teams playing on these courts. It could be because it is so uncommon, but there are fans that think the court can alter a game. Some like to bet the under of the first half because they think teams are adjusted.

Last year in the two Final Four semifinals, the combined first half total for game one was 70, and 67 for game two, no noticeable drop off in overall scoring.

Teams get to practice on it twice, plus their gameday shoot around, they will take hundreds of shots on it before they play a game, and will be adjusted before Saturday.

The raised court or big stadium will not be a factor in any of this weekend’s games.

My Experience

After Friday’s College All Star Game, I went on to the court and took a few shot to see if it was different. I had always thought that the big stadium really threw off your shot and made it hard to keep the ball on target.

It’s an odd thing to see a small basketball court plopped into a huge football stadium, it’s weird, but after you’re up there for 10 minutes it feels normal.

From afar the court looks small, but there is so much room behind the baskets, and so much press seating that when you’re playing, you don’t think of the court being raised up.

It is difficult at first because it’s tough to focus on the basket with so many empty space around it, but after a few shots you start to focus on the rim and sink a few.

The depth perception is tricky, when standing at the three-point line the hoop looks so close; my first shot ended in an air ball, but you learn how much you need to put on it and you get the distance down.

If I were playing, I would take multiple shots from tons of different spots on the court to really get the distance down from everywhere.

Next: What Hosting the Final Four Means for ASU

When you start playing and going up and down, none of that is in your mind and it really feels like any other court you’ve played on.