The Whistle Blows: Big Ten Teams See Notable Increase in FTAs and Percentage

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 19th, 2013

It’s been impossible to avoid noticing the difference in foul calls so far this season. The new hand-check rules and officials intent on enforcing every foul has caused free throw attempts to shoot up and games to slow down. Across all of Division I basketball, free throw attempts are up a whopping 22.8 percent (about 4.5  more attempts per game). This amounts to about 24.3 attempts per game, the highest mark since 1971-72 when it was at 25.6 FTA per contest. This has caused some complaints among B1G coaches, most notably Purdue‘s Matt Painter, who called them “excessive” following his Boilermakers’ recent win. While the foul calls and free throws may slightly drop as officials adapt and study film, almost any contact for now causes a whistle to blow. With this in mind, it seemed like a good time to look at the Big Ten team’s free throw shooting so far this season compared to last season’s totals through roughly the same amount of games. You can look at the table below to get a good gauge of exactly what has and is happening with your favorite B1G team and the conference overall.

big ten ft diff

Some notable trends:

  • Overall, the B1G is shooting free throws at an even higher rate than the country with a 28.2 percent increase as it has attempted 232 more total free throws than at this point last season. This equates to more than 19 additional free throw attempts per team so far. Only Michigan State has shot fewer free throws at this same point, and Michigan and Minnesota are near where they were last year at this time. Every other team is up.
  • Could more trips to the line mean more comfort while there? Most teams at this point have experienced a positive change in free throw percentage, with Penn State, Indiana, Ohio State and Nebraska the four teams showing a decrease.

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First Impressions From the Big East Openers

Posted by Todd Keryc on November 12th, 2013

College basketball opened play over the weekend and we got our first glimpse at the 10 Big East teams this season. Now that we’ve seen each team in action, here are some initial takeaways from a few of them.

PROVIDENCE – 100% COTTON

Bryce Cotton (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Bryce Cotton (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Bryce Cotton led all Big East players in scoring last year and he will have an opportunity to repeat the feat this season. But if Providence wants to take the next step into the NCAA Tournament, it will need to find some consistent support for him. In the Friars’ Friday night win against Boston College, Cotton was his usual self, deftly finding his way into the paint and finishing over much bigger defenders, but he struggled from the perimeter. Last year he averaged more than eight three-point attempts per game but limited himself to just four against the Eagles. His ratio of 3FGA to FTA will be a telling statistic this season in his personal development. However, the well-dressed Ed Cooley needs to find his star some help. With Kris Dunn sidelined by a shoulder injury and two freshman wings (Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock) suspended, it was again the Cotton show.  If the Friars want to improve upon their .500 finish in conference play last season, they will need those players back to create a depth that was lacking in their season-opening win.

GEORGETOWN – HEART & SEOUL

Georgetown opened its season practically across the world in South Korea against Oregon and it was UCLA transfer Josh Smith who stole the show in a loss. The big man showed off an array of post moves and had his way in the paint against the smaller Ducks. Georgetown was ice cold from deep and still had chances late against a ranked team, albeit one missing a couple of key players. Assuming the Hoyas shoot better in future big games (and realistically, they could not shoot much worse), Josh Smith’s presence will make an enormous difference and put Georgetown in contention for a Big East title.

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The Free Throw Shooting Liability and Practice Over The Summer

Posted by KCarpenter on October 6th, 2011

Last season, there was no sight that brought a grimace to a North Carolina fan’s face quite like watching John Henson walking to the free throw line. Henson shot 48.2% while attempting the second most free throws on his team. Of course, this figure is somewhat misleading: Up until February 22, Henson shot a miserable 38.9%. After February 22, he shot 66.0%. What happened? It’s hard to say. The question that remains is which of these two free throw shooting rates is the “true” Henson? This may seem like a relatively minor issue, but considering the importance of Henson to the top-ranked Tar Heels, the foul-shooting problem constitutes a potentially serious liability. Fortunately for basketball fans, Ken Pomeroy is on the case, using a very clever method for projecting John Henson’s likely free throw shooting percentage for the coming season. North Carolina fans, though, aren’t going to be thrilled with the results.

Is John Henson's Mid-Season Improvement At the Charity Stripe Real?

It turns out that sudden, drastic improvements in free throw shooting tend to be flukes. Typically, a bad free throw shooter will modestly improve from season-to-season, so Ken Pomeroy suggests that the low to mid-fifties might be a good starting point for predicting John Henson’s season free throw shooting percentage this year.  I tend to agree. Of course, Henson isn’t the only player in the ACC who has a hard time cashing in the freebies. Let’s take a quick look at the worst free throw shooters in the league (who attempted at least 40 free throws last season).

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Morning Five: 12.14.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2010

  1. You know it’s coming every week, and yet you still get excited when you see the words:  Seth DavisHoop Thoughts.  In this week’s edition, Davis breaks down 26 of the nation’s teams from the perspective of whether they can make foul shots, and he comes up with some interesting conclusions by looking at contenders through that prism.  He also has some insider information on page two of his piece about Kyrie Irving’s toe injury that you’re going to want to read, especially if you’re a Duke fan interested in reading tea leaves.
  2. Clemson guard Demontez Stitt had arthroscopic surgery on Monday to clean out his left knee and will miss several weeks as he rehabilitates it.  The senior guard is having a productive season, hitting for 14/3 in nearly 31 minutes per game for the Tigers.  The schedule lightens up for his 5-4 squad during the time he is projected to be out of the lineup, with only a troublesome game at College of Charleston as a potential pitfall.  Brad Brownell hopes to have him back in action for their second ACC game against Miami (FL) on January 8.
  3. It’s no secret that Xavier’s 6-2 start to the 2010-11 season represents a little bit of fool’s gold because the Musketeers have already escaped with two overtime wins over IUPUI and Wofford (3OT) and dropped early contests to ODU and Miami (Ohio).  Paul Daugherty writes that XU’s struggles in the pre-conference season are a result of identity searching for a team who lost some very good players in the form of Jordan Crawford and Jason Love.  Still, who among us is willing to bet against the Musketeers figuring out their strengths and causing major problems for the A-10 and the rest of the country by March?
  4. It’s not often that you hear of a school offering to forfeit games that they’ve already won, but Arkansas State is proposing that very thing to the NCAA in its summary disposition report to the NCAA Infractions Committee.  As a result of inadvertently using several ineligible players who were not making satisfactory progress toward their degrees a few years ago, the Red Wolves program is offering to cut a basketball scholarship for the upcoming two years and give back 27 wins that they earned in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.  Could you imagine Kentucky or Connecticut doing something like that?
  5. There’s very little else going now, so presumably we’re going to talk about the long-awaited debut of point guard Josh Selby for Kansas all week.  Mike DeCourcy notes that Bill Self said in his teleconference on Monday that Selby is unlikely to start in KU’s weekend game versus USC, and that he will probably play off the ball for most of his first game as a Jayhawk.  Even though much has been written in the weeks leading up to his debut about his Rivals #1 ranking, it’s peculiar that two other scouting services rated Selby as low as #12 in the Class of 2010 rankings.  We’re sure he’s going to be a great Jayhawk in time, but maybe we also shouldn’t get too caught up in the hype machine this week until, you know, we’ve actually seen the kid play.
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Maybe John Calipari Was Right. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on March 5th, 2009

You may remember that one of the big stories from last year was Memphis and its inability to hit free throws. John Calipari was routinely questioned about it and shrugged it off essentially saying that his team was winning so it didn’t bother him that much. And with the national title game winding down they were in a position to bring Memphis its first title by knocking off Kansas. Then the unthinkable happened. Following the game Calipari was roundly mocked for his bold proclamations leading up to the game that free throws didn’t matter. You could definitely count us among those who made plenty of jokes at Calipari’s expense. Well it turns out that we may have been wrong. . .

Following up John Branch’s article on the remarkably constant free throw percentages over the past 50 years, Jack Styczynski decided to look deeper into free throw percentages. Styczynski, who was perturbed by Branch’s statement that ““there is little correlation between free-throw percentages and winning percentages”  looked through the NCAA’s basketball database and compared the team free throw percentages to the teams that made the Final 4 since 2000. Here is a summary of his findings:

  • In 2005 and 2007, none of the teams in the Final 4 were in the top 50 in team free throw percentage.
  • Last year, UNC (#13) was the only team in the Final 4 that ranked in the top 50 in Division I in free throw percentage.
  • In 2006, national champion Florida (#34) was the only team in the top 50. Apparently Billy Donovan decided to stop working on free throws the next year (and it didn’t matter).
  • Michigan State was the only other national champion to finish in the top 50 (#27 in 2000) during this period.
Rumeal Robinson hit some of the biggest FTs in NCAA history
Rumeal Robinson hit some of the biggest FTs in NCAA history

While all that historical information is nice, we at Rush the Court like to look to the future (namely this March and April) so I broke down the free throw percentages of the top 25 teams in the nation through the games that ended on March 3, 2009. I used the ESPN/USA Today rankings, which are slightly different than the AP rankings, but they have the same teams so we’re looking at the same sample either way. Using the NCAA’s statistics for games through March 1, 2009, the 50th best free throw shooting team (Seton Hall) was shooting 72.6% so I’m using that as the cut-off for this analysis. I have listed the free throw percentages and color-coded the teams into groups: red (<70%), yellow (70-72%), and green (>72%) .

fts-as-of-03-03-09The narrow range of the yellow group (2%) indicates how closely bunched together some teams are, but there are standouts for better or worse. UNC is by far the best free throw shooting team at 2.5% higher than Villanova (76.5% vs. 74.0%), which is the next best FT shooting team in the top 25. Syracuse is on the other end of the spectrum having the worst FT shooting (64.4%) of any team in the top 25, which has to worry Jim Boeheim a little bit. The primary cause of Syracuse’s poor free throw percentage is Arinze Onuaku, who shoots a horrific 31.1% (last in Division I for a player shooting over 100 FTs). The rest of Syracuse’s team isn’t that bad at the line (70% from the FT line). In any case, you can assume that you won’t be seeing much of Onuaku if Syracuse needs to seal a game from the free throw line. If anything, Rick Pitino should be more concerned as Louisville only shoots 64.7% and they lack someone like Onuaku who can be hidden on the bench late in games. For some perspective on these percentages, last year’s much-maligned Memphis team shot 61.4% from the free throw line.

What does all this mean? According to Branch’s article and tournament performance since 2000 it doesn’t mean much, but I do know that John Calipari would like to spend a little extra time in practice at the free throw line if he could go back to last year.

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The Day After. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 7th, 2008

In the interest of full disclosure, I had a draft for this ready with a little over a minute left in the game congratulating Memphis for winning the game and making their FTs when it mattered since they had made their last 4 when Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped to the line. . .

After 2 blowouts in the semifinals, we finally got a close game. After a first half that lacked any real flow to it with both teams playing well offensively in spurts but never at the same time, the game took on the character we all expected with up-and-down end-to-end action. As we expected, Kansas dominated inside while Memphis won the perimeter battle. The shot charts for Kansas was particularly astounding as for most of the game Kansas scored nearly 70% of its points in the paint with most being lay-ups.

A couple of observations:
1) Billy Packer was right. As much as we hate to say it, he was dead-on when he said John Calipari should stop setting up picks for Derrick Rose since the Jayhawk big men showed absolutely no interest in staying on the guy setting the pick. This essentially put Rose up against a double-team every time without the pick man rolling to the basket hard. Bill Self almost cost Kansas the title when he switched to the box-and-one to help slow down CDR, who was destroying Brandon Rush at that point. The box created enough separation that the Tigers’ screens were useless so they stopped setting them, which freed up Rose to go by his man. I don’t understand why Calipari would even set the picks for Rose, who can blow by anybody at this level by himself. Picks can make it easier, but not when the opposition doubles the ball and the pick man doesn’t create a good passing angle. Fortunately for Memphis, Self made it easy for Calipari by switching to the box-and-one. Rose took over the game almost from the moment that Kansas switched to the box-and-one.

2) Rose should be the #1 pick in the draft. I love Michael Beasley’s game (and his “We’ll beat them [Kansas] in Africa” quote), but I just think Rose will be a much more valuable commodity at the next level as there are a lot more good PFs than PGs in the NBA. When Rose gets a full head of steam, he’s unguardable. He may struggle his rookie year adjusting to life in the NBA (the $106 per diem will buy a lot of Gummy Bears) due to his tendency to be a little bit out of control at times and the fact that he will finally play against guys who are on the same level as him. However, I can only think of two guards (Deron Williams and Chris Paul) that I would take over Rose for the next 5-10 years and that’s only because they are proven commodities while Rose still has to prove that he can handle himself at the next level. That said, as ridiculous as Chris Paul has been this year, Rose has a higher ceiling than either of them. While Rose was unable to close the deal, I don’t hold it against him (look to CDR for that) as he showed me more than enough during the tournament to make me a believer.

3) The Kansas inside game disappeared late in the 2nd half. For the first 30 minutes of the game, it seemed like I was going to be writing the Tigers 2007-2008 obituary by talking about how they got destroyed in the paint. It was probably a combination of Kansas not working hard enough to get the ball inside and Memphis packing it in late in the 2nd half. Either way, this (along with Self’s bizarre decision to go box-and-one) almost cost the Jayhawks the title. After Mario Chalmers hit his miracle 3 to force OT, Kansas reestablished itself inside and cruised to victory.

4) Heart attacks sky rocket in Lawrence and Memphis tonight. Ok. I was trying to write this paragraph during the last 2 minutes of the game to post before going to bed. Originally it was “Memphis hits the FTs when it mattered” (4/4 at that point) then it was “Rose = $$$” when he stepped to the line. This observation obviously didn’t want to be written so I’ll move onto #5.

5) FTs killed Memphis. This should have been the #1 point and it will be the headline of this game as long as people talk about it. It’s sort of humorous that the media finally stopped hounding Calipari about the Tigers’ FT shooting coming into this game and they laid an egg in the biggest moment. The last minute-plus was basically the anti-Rumeal Robinson as CDR was the guy that Memphis fans wanted to be in that position. After going 11/14 before the last minute-plus, Memphis finished 1/5 giving Chalmers the chance to hit a 3 that will only grow in legend in Lawrence, Kansas.

6) Holy $&!% I can’t even begin to come up with a word to describe how big that 3 by Chalmers was. The only other thing I can compare it to is Keith Smart’s shot in 1987 to help Indiana beat Syracuse. While this didn’t officially win the game, for all intents and purposes Chalmers shot won the game. There was no way Memphis was going to come back after they choked away the game at the line and Chalmers hit that shot. I would criticize Calipari for not taking the foul at that point, but it appears they Rose tried to commit a foul but it wasn’t called. After the shot, the game like this post-mortem was over.

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