You can easily find field goal percentages and raw statistics on box scores, but they can’t always be used to compare two teams, thanks to major differences in tempo. That’s where tempo-free statistics come in. Each week, we’ll take a look at some of the key advanced statistics to compare performances across the league. All these numbers are provided by kenpom.com, unless otherwise noted. Need a primer? Check out this easy to read explanation of the most-used tempo-free stats.
Now that we’re about to enter the third week of the season, statistics are starting to provide us a numerical profile of the teams in the OVC. Since most teams still have 80% or more of their season ahead of them, these numbers are still rather in flux, and the numbers could still be skewed by one out of character performance.
That warning being out there, the early part of this season has been dominated by talk about new rules that, while meant to increase scoring, appear to have devolved the game into free-throw contests, at least according to the common narrative. The early numbers do show a similar story, but it’s neither as profound as some might lead you to believe, nor is it an absolute, even across the conference.
This first statistic is looking at “Free Throw Rate,” which is an indicator at how often each teams gets to the free-throw line, with higher numbers meaning a team is getting to the free-throw line more often.
Those numbers may not mean much without context, so I’ll attempt to provide some. First, those numbers really represent just one half of the formula: only offense, not defense. I’ll get to those numbers in a bit. FTR, as determined by Kenpom, is (FTA / FGA) *100. So, that +9.3 overall average means per every 100 shots from the field, OVC teams are taking nine more free-throws a game. Assuming a little fewer than 2 free-throw attempts per trip to the line (taking “and 1’s” into account) it’s about five more trips to the line per 100 shot attempts.
An average team will take between 50-60 shots from the field on a given night. So, in an average game, OVC teams this year are earning about…two-three extra trips to the free-throw line. That’s it. It’s noteworthy, sure. But game-breaking? I’m not so sure about that.
Here are the same numbers, from a defensive-point of view, meaning how often a team’s opponents are getting to the free-throw line.
There are a few things that are clear at a first glance. First, whereas 8 OVC teams had increased their free-throw production from a year ago, all 12 OVC teams have seen their opponents production increase, including Morehead State, who was last in the nation in this department last season. The OVC’s average change is greater on defense as well, showing that other teams appear to be adjusting to the new rules slightly better, or at least getting to the free-throw line more often, than the OVC is as a whole.
Let’s also head back to the first table for a moment, offensive free-throw rate. If you sort by 2013-14 alone, you’ll find that five teams are getting to the foul line above the OVC average rate. They’re also the top five improved teams from a year ago. Every one of those teams has a .500 or better record. Of the seven teams below that number for this season, five have a losing record. In other words, the teams that seems to have adjusted their offense to take advantage of the new rules are having the most early success.
When you look at the defensive numbers, the same holds true, at least when you compare to a year ago. Jacksonville State and Tennessee State are allowing teams to get to the line at a much higher rate than a season ago, and both are winless. Austin Peay, Southeast Missouri, Morehead State, and Eastern Kentucky aren’t, and three of the four currently have winning records.
Of course, it’s pretty apparent when you just compare the free-throw rate for given team.
|Off. FT Rate||Def. FT Rate||+/-|
Sure, making your free-throws are important. But you have to first get to the free-throw line. It’s a big reason free-throw rate is one of the “four factors,” the four statistics that are considered the best indicators of a team’s success.