Getting to the foul line

It’s called the charity stripe for a reason. A team that gets fouled in the act of shooting or over and over again in a game, gets to shoot free throws.

The more free throws a team attempts, the better opportunity it has to score and win games.

This is measured through a team’s free throw rate.

FTRate = FTA / FGA

The amount of free throw attempts divided by the amount of field goal attempts.

For example, Kentucky attempted 930 free throws and 2115 shots over 37 games in the 2017-2018 season.

The Lobos’ free throw rate was 44.0, the fourth best amongst all Division-I teams over the course of the season.

FTRate = 930 / 2115 = 0.4397 * 100

Defensive Free Throw Rate

A team’s ability to prevent their opponent from getting to the foul line is equally important.

If the opposition attempts fewer free throws, it decreases their opportunity to score and increases a team’s chance to win.

For example, Purdue’s defensive free throw rate was the eighth best in the country in the 2017-2018 season.

The Boilermakers’ opponents attempted 531 free throws and 2197 field goals in 36 games in 2017-2018.

Purdue’s Free Throw Rate was 24.2.

FTRate = 531 / 2197 = 0.2417 * 100

What about made free throws?

Free throw rate puts more value on getting to the foul line. Not making foul shots.

Volume is more important in this stat. If a team can attempt more free throws, it has a better chance to score and win.

The assumption is a team that attempts more free throws is better than a team that makes more free throws over time.

In the 2018 NCAA Tournament First Round game between Alabama and Virginia Tech, Alabama missed 9 free throws (18-27).

Virginia Tech missed 6 free throws, but attempted 7 fewer free throws (14-20) and lost the game by 3 points.

The logic here is the more attempts, the more opportunity to make foul shots.

Measuring Makes

Another way to measure a team’s ability to get to the foul line is to include a team’s ability to make foul shots, not just attempt them.

This calculation takes free throw makes and divides them by the total number of field goal attempts.

Using the same Kentucky example above, the Wildcats made 649 free throws over 37 games in the 2017-2018 season.

Using this calculation, Kentucky’s free throw rate was 30.7.

FTRate = 649 / 2115 = 0.3069 * 100

Important: This calculation (makes) is significantly lower than using attempts, 44.0 versus 30.7 in the Kentucky example.