Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Foul or Defend?

For all the strong opinions out there about fouling when up three late, there's remarkably little data on the subject. Here comes Ken Pomeroy.  He examined every game since the 2009-10 season to see whether fouling actually works. The conclusion: not really. He found that the teams that chose to defend won 94% of the time and the teams that fouled on purpose won 92.7% of the time. (This assumes that each team had a 50/50 chance of winning if the game was forced to overtime. Actual results were 93.4% to 92.3%) In sum:
The fact is, chances of losing are close to remote in either case, but execution errors, an inflated offensive rebounding percentage, poor three-point shooting, and the chance of an extra possession are enough to counteract what might otherwise be the advantage of forcing a team to shoot free throws. In cases where the opponent has multiple good three-point shooters and you have confidence in rebounding a missed free throw, fouling may be the better option. But it appears the default decision should be to not foul.
So depending on the situation, there may be a slight advantage to fouling, or a slight advantage to defending. But, overall, the evidence is clear: it just doesn't matter very much either way. That sportswriters and sports-talkers spend so much time blathering about this issue just shows that: (a) they have too much time on their hands, and (b) they aren't as smart as they think they are.

1 comment:

  1. As you know, I have long complained that they aren't as smart as they think they are, and they certainly have too much time on their hands.
    Dakich doesn't get a pass, as post game interviews are limited in time and there are all kinds of other things to talk about when you only get 3 questions before coach leaves. I feel cheated out of a good Bo Ryan quote I could have heard instead of Dakich's foolish bickering.