Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

“Running to Win!” in Iowa

Grinnell logoThe Grinnell College men’s basketball team once scored 149 points in a game…and lost.

Last night, however, with the temperature in Grinnell, IA (pop. ~10,000), well below zero, the team’s nearly unique playing style heated up the crowd as the Pioneers trounced the Knox College (IL) Prairie Fire 100-80, bringing their record to 15-7. John Grotberg, Grinnell’s leading scorer, had 37 points, giving him a career total of 2,014, and his junior year isn’t over yet. (I watched the game live on a streaming internet feed.)

Coach Dave Arseneault‘s unusual Running to Win! systemArseneault book asks the players to take at least 100 shots per game (with half being 3-pointers), press the opponents constantly (he wants at least 32 turnovers per game, charge the offensive boards and grab one-third of the rebounds, and take at least 30 more shots than the opponents. Coach A also platoons his team, swapping players every 90 seconds. Even his top players are on the court only 22 minutes a game.

Arseneault built his system out of necessity. Grinnell had been a league patsy, suffering through 30-straight losing seasons. He wanted his players to score a lot of points and have fun doing it. Now Grinnell draws crowds when it plays, and is often the must-see game for opposing fans when Grinnell comes to town.

Until University of Redlands (CA) adopted a similar system a few years ago, Grinnell consistently led the nation in scoring. This year Grinnell’s average is down somewhat; they’re only averaging 108 points a game. In 22 contests this season, Grinnell has shot over 1,200 3-pointers; their opponents less than 150! In December, Coach A’s point guard son David broke the NCAA’s single-game assist record against Minnesota’s North Central University in a 151-112 victory. The previous record was 26; David N had 34! Grinnell stats here.

Soon NCAA March Madness will fill the sports pages. Sweet 16…Elite 8…Final 4. Grinnell, a Division III school with only 1,500 students, won’t be there, but what a hoot if a Division I team ever shook things up with an Arseneault-type system.

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