Disclaimer: I really wanted to go back several years with stats, but of all the sites I examined, only one had the tools I needed, and they only had them available for this season and last season.
Scoring is up this year, and not by a little bit. So far, with over 3000 games in the books, teams are scoring 73.8 points per game. Last year, that number was 67.5. The reason that scoring is up is really based on two things, but both have the same root cause.
The first is free throws. Teams are getting three more points per game from free throws this year over last year.
The second is two point field goals, with schools getting about 3.5 more PPG inside the arc this year. Three point field goals are down exactly half a point.
Why are the two related? Because of the completely crazy situation that we’re in with fouls. To the first point, it’s no secret that fouls are up this year – 19.9 vs. 17.7. And it isn’t just foul calls themselves, it’s also trips to the line. Free throw attempts per foul are up, from 1.1 to 1.2, and while this seems like a small difference, it means a lot when projected over a game. Teams are getting to the line more often and it’s giving them more chances to score in that way.
But it’s also the how and where with these fouls that are impacting things.
Charges are almost nonexistent this year. Guards have more liberty to run right into an opposing forward freely and get a basket in a play that might have been a charge last year. Sometimes, they’ll get the opportunity for the and-one in a situation where the basket may not have even counted last year.
The increase in fouls also means that teams are getting more opportunities when in the bonus and the double bonus.
The statistics underline the importance for the Dukes to get back on track from the free throw line this year. They also show that taking a run at the interior may be a good bet, too. The trouble is that we’re frequently pairing two guards who are under 6 feet tall, making that a difficult proposition.
The foul situation is frustrating and I don’t envy the players and coaches for having to deal with it. Across the entirety of Division I, there’s no consistency game to game. Sometimes, every little incidental contact is called as a foul; other times, it is like the rules haven’t changed at all. And sometimes we swing from these extremes within the span of ten minutes.
Regardless, fouling is up, and it’s not going away. The Dukes need to make their attempts. Take out Soko and they were shooting 45% from the line against Penn State. They also need to be flexible and understand that even though it’s frustrating, someone mundane is going to be a foul one moment, and something extreme is not the next. Such frustration bleeds into gameplay, and I think we’ve seen a little bit of that at times.
My father was telling me of Serra Catholic’s old basketball coach – was rather well regarded, I understand – who wanted Serra’s fans to make a lot of noise for their players’ shooting but keep it completely silent for the other’s fans. The feeling was that the silence offers a stranger situation than crowd noise. Maybe someone should run this by Ferry?