Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Troubling Statistic

Much has been written about the Badgers' shooting woes. But in fact their field goal shooting percentages (34.9% from three and 48.6% from two) are in line with historical averages. For example, their averages last year were 36.8% and 46.5% from three and two, respectively, and 37.4% and 48.9% the year before. So the threes are down a little, but not dramatically. What is going on?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is free throw shooting. Wisconsin shoots an abysmal 60.8% from the line, and in conference play it is even worse: 51.9%. To make matters worse, the Badgers have a hard time even getting to the line. This year their free throw rate (FGA / FTA) is just 28.2%, which is the worst in the Bo Ryan era. (Compare that rate to the rate in Alando Tucker's heyday with the Badgers: 44.9%.) Some of us remember when a hallmark of Bo's teams was to make more free throws than the other team attempts. Those days are over, and they have been for a while.

Indeed, when you combine the Badgers' terrible free throw shooting with their inability to get to the line, you get a very troubling statistic: the Badgers get just 14.6% of their points from the charity stripe. That's the third-lowest in the country, ahead of only winless Grambling (one of the worst D-1 teams ever) and Mount St. Mary's. And it's a stat that has been going steadily for the Badgers since they peaked at 23.1% in 2006-07.

Of course, it is possible to play good offense without getting to the line much. Michigan does it, for example. But getting to the line and making free throws was part of the Bo Ryan offensive formula, and it's an ingredient that has just gone missing.

1 comment:

  1. Very good post. Things sure have changed offensively for the Badgers. I think the changes in free throw rates are partially personnel related. Fouls are generally created when a team gets the ball in the paint either by dribble drive or by post up. The Badgers don't use the dribble drive a ton, but Jordan Taylor and Trevon Hughes both got to the line enough. This year's badger guards are obviously not very good, and they hardly get to the line at all. That's part of the problem.
    I think the larger trend is with the post players. First, the badgers stopped running the part of the swing where they posted their guards several years ago. The guards still get in the post, but this is mostly to create movement and flow as the guards almost never actually get the ball in the post. Second is again personnel related, as they just haven't had post players. The last year the Badgers made more free throws than their opponents attempted was Butch's last season 07-08. Since then they have featured players in the post who were much more comfortable facing up and shooting jumpers than dipping a shoulder and getting into the opponent, or to the rim. The list includes players like Landry, Leuer, Nankivil, and Evans. I had hoped this trend would change some with Berggren playing the post, but he just doesn't get enough touches to change the trend.
    With Kaminsky and Dekker looking to get most of the forward minutes for the next couple years I'm not sure the trend is going to change.