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Caitlin Clark’s triple-double tendency is, to understate it, most uncommon
Iowa junior has 8 triple-doubles in her career, topped by just 2 others in women’s college basketball history
Triple-doubles are rarefied air in college basketball.
Games are eight minutes shorter than in the NBA, where triple-doubles are commonplace. Through Monday, there were 66 this season, 14 by Nikola Jokic alone.
Russell Westbrook has 198 in his career. He averaged a triple-double in four different seasons, and did so while scoring 31.6 points per game in one of them.
Those eight minutes make a difference, and so does playing 82 games a season. Plus, Westbrook in his prime was what you would call a phenomenon.
Caitlin Clark of Iowa notched her eighth career triple-double Monday in the Hawkeyes’ 83-72 win at No. 2 and formerly unbeaten Ohio State, getting 28 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. She is what you would call a phenomenon.
Clark's four triple-doubles with 25 points or more are the most in Division I history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
How rare is a college career with eight career triple-doubles? Very. The Division I men’s all-time leader is Kyle Collinsworth of BYU, with 12. Shaquille O’Neal of LSU is tied for third with six, with each coming from double-digit blocked shots to go with the same in points and rebounds.
Clark and Marquette’s Dwyane Wade are the only D1 players to get a triple-double against a top-two team since 1999-2000. Wade had 29 points in his triple-double to lead Marquette over No. 1 Kentucky in an NCAA regional final.
As a junior, Clark is third all-time among D1 women in triple-doubles, needing one more to tie for second. The leader is Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu who had 26 from 2016-2020. That’s right, 26.
Last July, Ionescu became the first WNBA player to have a 30-point triple-double, tying her for the league’s career mark in triple-doubles with three. The 2022 WNBA season was 36 games per team.
Ionescu is the lone player in NCAA women’s or men’s history with 2,000 career points (2,562), 1,000 career rebounds (1,040) and 1,000 career assists (1,091). She played in 141 games, one in the 2019 Final Four.
Statistically, Clark’s career averages rival Ionescu and the rest of the best ever. Leading the nation in scoring and assists averages last season as a sophomore put an exclamation point on that. She has played in 82 games and has 2,198 points, 586 rebounds and 625 assists.
Thirteen D1 women’s players have topped the 3,000-point mark, with Washington’s Kelsey Plum the leader at 3,527 (25.4 points per game) over 139 games.
Clark’s career scoring average is 26.8 points. If she averages 26.6 over 50 more games, the NCAA scoring record is hers.
The trick is to play 50 more games. Eleven more (nine regular-season, one Big Ten tourney, one NCAA tourney) are guaranteed this season, and Iowa could tack on several more if it goes deep in its postseason events. Then there’s next season, assuming Clark returns to Iowa for it.
One might strongly advise her to do just that given the attention she would garner and what could go with that. Look at how often she and her team have already been on national television this season.
Back to triple-doubles. The D1 men’s leaders this season entering Tuesday’s play were 19 different players with one apiece. Included are Coleman Hawkins of Illinois, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana and Jalen Pickett of Penn State.
Clark and Duquesne’s Megan McDonnell have two this season to top all women. McDonnell comes from quite a basketball family, including a brother who plays in the NBA, a father who has coached eight high school state champions, and an aunt who is a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
The aunt, Suzie McConnell-Serio, had seven triple-doubles at Penn State from 1985-88.
By the way, men’s triple-double official statistics are skewed because the NCAA didn’t recognize men’s assists leaders before 1982-83 or rebounding leaders before 1950-51.
So, Oscar Robertson’s 10 triple-doubles at Cincinnati and Johnson’s eight aren’t on the NCAA’s all-time list behind Collinsworth.
I’m counting them. So, Johnson’s eight helps gives Michigan State 14. That’s 14 more than Iowa.
That’s right. According to Iowa’s media guide, none of its men’s players have recorded one. John Johnson averaged 28 points and 10.1 rebounds in 1969-70, but no assists totals are available. That team averaged 98.7 points, 102.9 in the Big Ten, so maybe Johnson or Glenn “The Stick” Vidnovic had one.
Filip Rebraca had 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists against Southeast Missouri State last month, the closest a male Hawkeye has come this season or most seasons.
To summarize: Caitlin Clark is quite good.