The Tragedy of Losing at the Line

To begin, there is nothing casual about statistics and I apologize in advance that the below discussion will not provide an analytical look at the prevailing habits of casual lunch documentations. And while I think at some point, if the Hoyas continue to lose, I may relegate myself to charting bar graphs of Joshua Smith’s favorite pies or pie graphs of his favorite bars; I would like to provoke some thoughts on how our Georgetown Hoyas are losing the game at the foul line. This problem was discussed by Dan Danner at RealGM and recognized by JTIII in the Villanova post-game press conference stating “I’m not saying we’re being fouled and they’re not called. I don’t know, but you look at that stat right away and you see, we shot nine foul shots they shoot 28, so we’ve got to figure out how to get fouled.”

To start, the problem is easy to identify. Our conference foes are getting to the line more often than we are. Fining tuning that, it’s a result of our foes getting more shooting foul calls. Now it can be debated whether this is a result of officiating bias or an inability for the team to adapt to rules emphasis. Yet, here we are looking at an endemic problem that extends beyond the Villanova game and is bound to plague the rest of the season. Below is a quick look charting each game’s free throw rates (FTR) and the number of fouls called. The following chart is a different way of viewing the FTR by looking at free throw attempts (FTA) and free throws made (FTM) against the number of fouls called (FTA or FTM/# of Opponent Fouls). Almost the same information as the FTR but it displays the cost of each Georgetown foul. And I’ll note that I limited this graph to conference play in an errant belief that conference officiating is more consistent.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The trend I notice is the disparities of the Creighton Bluejays and Villanova Wildcats games that cost us the game. Against Creighton, each Georgetown foul translated to 0.88 points for Creighton. Conversely, Georgetown only gained 0.60 per foul which ended up being the difference maker. For those wanting to do the math, the FGM were even but Creighton made one more three pointer, so Creighton starts out with +1. Creighton got 0.88 points for Georgetown’s 24 fouls which equals ~21. Georgetown got 0.60 points for Creighton’s 15 fouls equaling 9 points. The net difference is +12 points in favor of Creighton (21-9 = 12), add in the additional point and that’s how we lost by 13. Homerism or ineptitude?

For the Villanova game, despite the Hoyas dropping five more buckets than them, we lost by five due to Villanova getting 0.96 points/foul and a 9 foul differential. If the Hoyas had controlled their fouls, there would have been two “good wins” on the tournament resume. Again is it the defense’s fault or the officiating?

Other interesting notes are the Marquette game, where we all know had the team sunk just one more free throw the game would’ve been won. The Butler game was won despite being at a huge disadvantage from the line. I guess the appeal of Hinkle Fieldhouse was too great for the refs not to call the game evenly. As for the Xavier game, I try to suppress that game to the deep, dark, hopefully forgettable regions of my brain and Providence is no better.

Are there any positives in this? No, but if JTIII is looking to create more fouls, we don’t need Markel Starks barreling down the court like a wrecking ball cause his FTR is only 27 percent. Which is okay since he attempts the most shots, but he’s not getting the calls the team needs. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is probably the better option who leads the team with a FTR of 37% and is second in FGA only to Starks. But if he has a sore rib, I wouldn’t suggest bouncing off of forwards or centers. Frankly, I think Mikael Hopkins is the man for the job but he needs not commit offensive fouls in the process.

Now that I've not-so-casually stated the obvious in a complex and beautiful display of Monday Morning Quarterback blogging, I will anxiously await for JTIII's call asking about how advanced analytics can solve all his problems….and I’ll grow old and fat in my parent’s basement eating Oreos waiting for such a call.

Stay Casual, my friends.

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