Back in March, when Witless Chum and Hubert suggested I spend some of the offseason looking at MSU’s historical tempo-free statistical trends, it seemed like a great idea. Since then, though, I’ve realized:
(1) It’s a lot of work compared to other kids of blog posts.
(2) It doesn’t seem to generate a lot of discussion.
I will say it’s provided some good historical context that I think will be helpful in analyzing statistical results during the upcoming season.
Anyway, my plan is to look at the last component of offensive efficiency today (free throw rate), do a wrap-up post on overall offensive efficiency, and maybe give a quick look at overall defensive efficiency–but forego detailed analysis of historical defensive tendencies until (at least) next offseason.
Here’s the data on free throw scoring, starting with the ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts:
- This figure measures how often a team gets to the line relative to its scoring opportunities.
- MSU’s peak year was 2002-03, when five players (Anderson, Davis, Torbert, Hill, and Anagonye) shot at least 2.5 free throw per game.
- The next best year 2006-07, when five players (Netizel, Morgan, Suton, Walton, Gray) shot at least 2.0 free throws per game.
- This figure plummeted from 2006-07 to 2007-08, as only three players (Morgan, Lucas, Neitzel) shot at least 2.0 free throws per game this past season.
- Oddly, this measure actually declined over the course of Paul Davis’ career (the one true low post threat Izzo has had for multiple years).
- Free throw percentage of course measures the team’s efficiency in converting free throw attempts into points.
- The 2001-02 team and then the three teams from 2003-04 to 2005-06 performed extremelyy well in this area, reflecting the free throw shooting prowess of Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert, Maurice Ager, Alan Anderson, Shannon Brown, and Paul Davis.
- This has been a strength of Izzo teams. In the last 10 years, Michigan State has ranked in the top 100 nationally in free throw percentage ever year–and in the top 50 in eight of those ten years.
- The percentage increased slightly in 2007-08 after a substantial decline in 2006-07. Goran Suton showed the biggest improvement, going from 64.6% to 77.6%.
- Free throw rate puts the first two items together, measuring the number of points a team creates through free throws relative to its scoring opportunities.
- This figure peaked in 2002-03, despite the team’s free throw shooting percentage being a little lower than in other years in that period.
- The early Final Four teams were pretty average in scoring from the free throw line, with the national championship team being the best in that era.
- This statistic has declined from the peak in 2002-03, with a big drop from 2006-07 to 2007-08. This was a function of the decline in FT attempts, rather than FT shooting percentage. MSU ranked in the top 100 nationally in free throw rate from 2003-04 to 2006-07, before dropping to 198th this past season. (The kenpom data only goes back five years. Statsheet instead measures the percentage of a team’s points scored from the free throw line; that stat has MSU as average to below average from 1996-97 to 2001-02.)
As was the case with field goal shooting, the later Izzo teams have generally been better at scoring from the free throw line than the earlier teams were–up until 2007-08 at least. My subjective judgement is that the low free throw rate this past season reflected the lack of team identity on offense. Players didn’t have the necessary freedom/confidence to attack the basket. Hopefully that changes this season, with Lucas being the clear point guard on the floor and Morgan regaining his confidence going to the basket.