An Examination of Timeout Value, Strategy, and Momentum in NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball

Presented by:
Luke Benz (Yale University)

Fans watching a basketball game often believe that they can sense when one team has "momentum". Coaches seem to take timeouts when their team is on a negative scoring run, feeling pressure to stop an opponent’s quick flurry of scoring. This paper examines how timeouts are used in NCAA Division 1 men's basketball and whether there is any truth to the notion that timeouts stop opponent momentum by decreasing the rate of opponent scoring or swinging the rate of scoring in favor of the timeout-calling team. Additionally, this work attempts to quantify the value of a taking a timeout throughout the course of the game. Overall, this work yields an estimate that on average, teams perform between 1.5-2.2 points better in five minute intervals following called timeouts compared to intervals of equal length preceding the timeout.