Grinnell College Basketball's Rapid Offense Still Astounds

Jaime IrvineCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2009

Remember Grinnell College?

In 2004-2005, through Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine, we learned of the small Division III school with a men’s basketball team that makes Mike D’Antoni’s offense look like a glacier, and stirs fond LMU-in-1990-the-scoreboard-is-on-fire memories.

The rules of sports require us to check in on Grinnell before they potentially fade into oblivion following their moment in the sun. And by the look of the team photo, they could use some more of those moments.

Anyway, it turns out they still score a lot more than you did in college.  Yes, along with the Museum of Dirt, the Corn Palace, and the World’s Largest Ball of Paint, one of the nation’s greatest spectacles still resides in the rural Midwest.

In case you missed it, Grinnell coach David Arseneault employs a scheme known only as “The System.” Sometimes referred to as the anti-Princeton offense, “The System” emphasizes a torrid pace of play where offensive possesions last about 5 seconds and typically end with a three-pointer.

The Grinnell defense is a chaotic, full-court trap that either forces an immediate turnover or degenerates into that 3-on-2, 2-on-1 drill you practice right after you forget how to do the three-man weave.

It’s so chaotic, Arseneault has to use platoons, substituting all five players every 45 seconds to keep legs fresh.

The closest comparison is Nolan Richardson’s 40 Minutes of Hell mixed with a cage full of badgers—in front of a tennis ball machine.

In 2005, ESPN caught wind of the greatest show on wood, and sent a crew to televise a game. Grinnell spent all week Waiting for Guffman, clammed up, couldn’t throw a rock into the ocean, and lost 85-84 in a game that spotlighted awful shooting rather than non-sensical scoring.

Much like Geraldo, they’ve managed to recover from letting down a national TV audience.  ith today’s win over Monmouth, they finish atop the Midwest Conference.

Grinnell by the Numbers

- Averaging 116 points per game
- 65 percent of their field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc, where they shoot 38 percent as a team.
- Guard John Grotberg is averaging 32 points per game in a mere 24 minutes, both team highs.
- Opponents average a .624 field goal percentage and 28 turnovers per game.
- 20 different players have logged minutes for Pioneers.
- Their team bus is probably a clown car.

Grinnell came into this season holding nearly three dozen NCAA scoring-based records including most assists in a single game by one player (34, by Arseneault’s son, David [previous record: 26]), and most three-pointers attempted by one player in a game (52!).

Arseneault’s system (plus a logo apparently stolen from a fire department that likes to skateboard) has translated into 11 NCAA scoring titles, but only three conference championships.

So, much like that drunk ex-girlfriend of yours, it doesn’t always deliver, but man, is it fun to watch.