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Grinnell’s formula not a success for hoops

GRINNELL (MCT) — Within the walls of Darby Gymnasium it’s called “The Formulas for Success.” Sunday, the home of the Grinnell College men’s basketball exposed the formula to the world. Media ranging from the World Wide Leader in ESPN to the Boston Globe trekked to the alleged mecca of offensive basketball to witness David Arseneault’s creation.

It’s simple enough: 94 shots + 49 3-pointers + rebounding 33% of your missed shots + 25 more shots than your opponent + 32 forced turnovers = a win.

Disciples of the system include Steve Diekmann, who set the NCAA Division III scoring record with 37.1 points per game in the 1994-95 season; Jeff Clement, who averaged 8.4 3-pointers a game in the 98-99 campaign — the most in any level of college basketball; and Griffin Lentsch, current Grinnell senior, who scored 89 points in a single game last year.

They all took a back seat to Jack Taylor, who scored 138 points Nov. 21. The total marked a new scoring record in any level of college basketball. The world now knew the location of Grinnell College, consider the formula a success.

That’s exactly where it’s most successful too — off the court.

The formula got ESPN to Grinnell, Iowa. The formula made Jack Taylor into an international star. It even had the NBA talking about the program.

Sunday when all eyes turned to Grinnell, this time to see an encore presentation of formula, they saw the true answer to the equation: It’s a gimmick.

Hundreds of thousands of players on the planet played some level of NCAA basketball, and none scored more points in a game than Jack Taylor. So naturally, Taylor began his night against William Penn on the bench. His only start of the season came against Faith Baptist Bible, when he broke the record.

Even for starters, it’s not uncommon to have every player see fewer than 25 minutes of play. One way to execute the formula is to rotate players every 30 seconds to a minute. Taylor played 33 minutes against Faith Baptist. Sunday, Lentsch saw the most minutes with 22.

The 33 minutes came against a NCCAA school. Yes, that’s right, there are two ‘Cs’ there. The Faith Eagles play in the National Christian College Athletic Association. Not the NCAA, not even the NAIA, but the NCCAA.

Watch the game and the school with an enrollment of less than 400 students can’t even break a press that most 4A bench players could decipher. When Faith Baptist executed a successful press break, Taylor oftentimes didn’t cross half court.

In the park or at the YMCA, he’d be called a cherry-picker, not a record breaker.

The Y may even show more defense. The defense played in the record-setting game would make Big 12 football schools blush. The same held true Sunday. Of the 50 made field goals by William Penn, 43 were dunks or layups.

That’s 86 points alone. Add 25 made free throws and William Penn has 111 of the easiest points in college basketball history (an unofficial record of course). Grinnell finished with 116 total points.

How about that formula?

But this isn’t a knock on Taylor or what he accomplished. The sophomore possessed the skills needed to score the record total. He just acted as a pawn for the signal caller Arseneault.

The same person who cried wolf after his team achieved every aspect of the formula against William Penn, but saw no success only a 131-116 loss. Arseneault walked out of the locker room and talked about his emotionally drained team.

But is that not the formula at work? Did he not think having a player shoot 108 times – 71 from beyond the arc – and score 138 wouldn’t bring attention? With ‘success’ comes attention.

“In my mind it’s worth it,” Arseneault said. “I hope in his eyes it is. It is what it is. He was a little tired.”

Then don’t complain about the attention. That’s all I ask. The formula against Faith Baptist was to break a record. It wasn’t a secret. The school’s play by play announcer addressed the feat numerous times throughout the broadcast.

The formula against William Penn was the same labeled on Arseneault’s production web site, which sells footage of how to play his system, offensively and defensively. For $25, you can get four hours of footage showing you how to play Grinnell defense, the same defense that allowed 131 against William Penn. The same defense Arseneault called “a pretty good effort.”

He blamed the lack of offensive production for the loss, which dropped Grinnell to 3-1 on the season. One of the three wins came in Taylor’s memorable performance. The game was originally listed as an exhibition. On the Faith Baptist website it still is.

It still counts for a win, and stands as one of three for Arseneault this season.

The biggest victory won’t appear in the standings though. It comes in having the world believe his gimmicky offense is the answer to success.

And that is a terrible loss for basketball.

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