The Bottoms Line: Fun with Numbers – Free Throw Rate

We’ve covered a lot of mathematical (read: nerdy) ground over the course of this series, and our journey ends with free throw rate.  The calculation is a simple one, just take free throw attempts and divide by field goal attempts.

Ken Pomeroy says this metric “measures a player’s ability to get to the line relative to how often he attempts to score.”  Ultimately it sheds light on where players tend to take their shots.  Low ratios are indicative of spot-up shooters who are less apt to attack the basket, while high ratios are typically associated with inside players or those who aggressively drive the lane.

Here are the major conference returnees with a free throw rate over 53.0:

Player Team ORtg Usage Rate Shot Percentage FT Rate
Devon Collier Oregon St. 107.3 18.5 15.4 84.4
Festus Ezeli Vanderbilt 112.8 26.9 23.9 84.0
Jarrett Mann Stanford 77.5 18.9 12.4 82.4
Jared Cunningham Oregon St. 107.1 24.6 21.9 79.5
C.J. Harris Wake Forest 93.6 20.3 15.6 79.0
Trevor Mbakwe Minnesota 110.4 23.2 20.3 77.4
J.P. Olukemi Oklahoma St. 106.0 25.1 23.8 75.9
Richard Solomon California 108.3 18.9 17.5 75.0
Junior Cadougan Marquette 94.3 16.4 10.9 73.4
Delvon Roe Michigan St. 107.2 16.0 13.3 70.1
Bernard James Florida St. 107.9 19.5 17.8 65.7
Joshua Smith UCLA 110.2 26.3 24.9 65.1
Jared Sullinger Ohio St. 120.4 27.0 25.2 65.1
Victor Davila Virginia Tech 101.6 13.9 12.2 64.0
Quincy Acy Baylor 108.6 21.6 20.5 63.3
Marcus Capers Washington St. 115.4 11.6 9.5 63.2
Aziz N’Diaye Washington 101.8 15.9 11.7 63.2
Brandon Ubel Nebraska 110.6 16.3 14.5 63.1
Tony Freeland DePaul 91.6 24.2 21.5 63.1
Assane Sene Virginia 98.2 15.5 12.5 62.5
Kourtney Roberson Texas A&M 111.9 22.9 22.7 62.3
Kelsey Barlow Purdue 92.5 18.5 13.5 62.0
Kadeem Batts Providence 107.2 18.0 15.9 61.0
Reggie Moore Washington St. 98.6 17.9 15.2 60.7
Reeves Nelson UCLA 106.6 23.1 22.0 59.9
Lance Goulbourne Vanderbilt 104.8 17.2 15.0 59.6
Ron Anderson South Florida 103.4 19.9 17.4 59.4
Dexter Strickland North Carolina 104.0 15.2 13.2 58.7
Gilvydas Biruta Rutgers 110.5 23.4 21.3 57.8
Jorge Gutierrez California 102.6 25.6 23.8 57.8
Mouphtaou Yarou Villanova 107.0 19.7 18.4 57.2
Thomas Robinson Kansas 108.7 26.7 24.2 57.1
Tyler Zeller North Carolina 120.1 23.0 23.6 54.9
Chris Otule Marquette 101.3 16.0 14.4 54.5
Carl Blair Oklahoma 92.9 21.8 15.8 54.5
Okaro White Florida St. 103.7 21.4 20.5 54.4
Nasir Robinson Pittsburgh 103.5 21.9 20.5 54.3
Lewis Jackson Purdue 110.4 19.4 14.8 54.0
Dwight Powell Stanford 102.2 19.3 18.4 54.0
Peyton Siva Louisville 101.8 23.4 17.9 53.9
Jamar Samuels Kansas St. 101.7 20.6 20.0 53.9
Reggie Johnson Miami FL 115.6 24.1 22.1 53.8
Mike Scott Virginia 110.4 28.1 25.3 53.6
Erving Walker Florida 112.2 23.8 22.3 53.2

A few thoughts:

  • You might look at this list and see 12 guards and think I’m full of it for saying those with high free throw rates are mainly interior players.  However, I included their shot percentages to illustrate that many of them rarely shoot.  That leaves four guards with shot percentages over 16.0: Peyton Siva, Jared Cunningham, Erving Walker, and Jorge Gutierrez.
  • Festus Ezeli was mentioned in other installments of this series, but his numbers here are absurd.  The Vanderbilt big man took 216 free throws compared to 257 field goals.  He’s one of many reasons the Commodores are getting some buzz as a potential Final Four team.
  • One guy I haven’t touched on much so far is Trevor Mbakwe of Minnesota.  In his first season with the Gophers, he was a force on the glass, logging 19 double-doubles and missing three others by just one board.  Mbakwe enjoyed some offseason success as well during his time with Team USA in the World University Games where he averaged 11.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.  The only bad news for Mbakwe is that he shoots nearly as well from the field (58.2 percent) as he does once he gets to the line (62.9 percent).  The Gophers have some question marks heading into this season, but inside play isn’t one of them thanks to Mbakwe.
  • If you’ve been following the entire series (and seriously, why wouldn’t you?!), a number of my potential breakout candidates show up here with Richard Solomon, Josh Smith, Kourtney Roberson, Thomas Robinson, and Dwight Powell all on the list.
  • Virginia has the look of a potential sleeper team in the ACC, and the return of sixth-year senior Mike Scott bolsters that claim.  Through 10 games last year, Scott was on pace to have his best season as a Cavalier with 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.  He’s proven to be an effective rebounder throughout his time at UVA, and he’ll provide plenty of veteran leadership for a relatively young squad.

On the flip side, here are all the returnees with free throw rates below 20.0:

Player Team ORtg Usage Rate Shot Percentage FT Rate
Stu Douglass Michigan 97.3 14.8 16.7 5.5
Scott Suggs Washington 116.9 16.4 18.8 9.9
Deividas Dulkys Florida St. 96.0 16.2 20.3 10.6
Ian Miller Florida St. 94.4 21.4 25.9 11.7
Jeremiah Kelly DePaul 101.3 14.0 15.6 11.8
Ahmad Starks Oregon St. 95.3 19.5 25.7 11.9
Scott Christopherson Iowa St. 109.5 17.6 20.9 12.3
Abe Lodwick Washington St. 95.0 10.6 10.5 12.5
Abdul Gaddy Washington 123.7 17.6 18.2 12.5
Kyle Kuric Louisville 129.9 14.7 18.6 13.0
D.J. Richardson Illinois 105.6 16.3 19.3 13.4
Rod Odom Vanderbilt 94.3 15.4 16.0 13.9
Terrence Ross Washington 116.8 19.5 24.2 14.3
C.J. Wilcox Washington 121.7 20.1 25.6 14.4
Evan Smotrycz Michigan 99.8 20.5 23.0 15.1
Matt Derenbecker Louisiana St. 93.5 17.0 20.3 15.2
Faisal Aden Washington St. 95.1 27.2 32.4 15.5
Sammy Zeglinski Virginia 98.3 20.0 22.4 15.8
Jeremy Lamb Connecticut 115.5 19.3 22.6 15.8
Storm Warren Louisiana St. 94.2 21.3 24.6 15.9
William Buford Ohio St. 113.2 23.2 26.8 16.2
C.J. Williams North Carolina St. 100.4 15.6 16.7 16.4
Mike Marra Louisville 96.8 19.2 21.3 16.6
Drew Crawford Northwestern 103.7 22.0 25.1 17.1
Scott Wood North Carolina St. 123.2 12.6 15.7 17.5
Kyle Cain Arizona St. 96.9 16.1 16.5 17.5
Leslie McDonald North Carolina 105.7 20.2 25.3 17.5
Bruce Ellington South Carolina 87.7 27.6 29.6 17.5
Jeremy Jacob Oregon 86.9 26.3 32.2 17.9
Ryne Smith Purdue 133.6 10.6 12.3 18.2
Jordin Mayes Arizona 109.0 17.8 20.9 18.4
Cameron Clark Oklahoma 105.3 15.0 18.4 18.6
Darnell Gant Washington 105.7 15.0 16.4 18.6
Garrett Sim Oregon 109.5 16.0 18.2 19.5
Andre Young Clemson 115.7 17.7 21.4 19.5
Maurice Creek Indiana 98.5 23.5 27.3 19.8

Some observations from this list:

  • Similar to Ezeli, the numbers from Stu Douglass are tough to believe.  TheMichigan guard played 1,065 minutes on the season and shot just 13 free throws.  Not to beat a dead horse on the departure of Darius Morris, but Douglass is one potential option to replace him at the point.  These numbers provide further reason for concern if that turns out to be the case.
  • Somehow Washington placed five players among this list of 36, which is astounding in its own right.  Ross, Wilcox, and Suggs are all guards or small forwards known as long-range gunners.  Even Gant, despite his height, is more of an outside player.  Abdul Gaddy is an interesting case though, as he will be asked to start at the point with Isaiah Thomas gone.  His season was cut short by a knee injury, but it will be important for him to be confident and aggressive in his return.
  • I was surprised to see Jeremy Lamb and William Buford on this list, and it’s worth taking a closer look at both.  Lamb’s late-season heroics were well-publicized as he averaged 15.3 points over five Big East Tournament games and six NCAA Tournament contests.  During that time, his free throw rate was 29.2 percent compared to his 15.8 rate for the season, which ultimately goes to show his evolution as a first-year player.  Without Kemba Walker, Lamb becomes the primary scorer for UConn, and I expect his 2011-12 free throw rate to be even higher than what he posted down the stretch last year.
  • Buford shot 118 free throws in his sophomore year but fell to just 70 last season.  Given his 84.3 percent conversion rate from the stripe, Buford would be well-served to get himself there more often.  With David Lighty gone, I do expect Buford to be more aggressive in his final season in Columbus.

While I don’t have any other Fun with Numbers columns planned, I will be incorporating these metrics into other articles leading up to the season, starting with some profiles of non-BCS conference teams, which are next on my list.

Follow me on Twitter for more thoughts on college hoops and sports in general.

About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms


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