After I published my essay on teams that oddly had a better point per possession statistic for their half court offense compared with their transition offense, I received the following comment from James Arnold, the head coach of NCAA Division III team Westminster (MO) College.
|Team||Record||Transition PPP||Half Court PPP||Pace rank||Overall PPP Rank||FT rate||FT %|
|Little Rock Trojans||21-11||0.792||0.813||328||131||324||97|
|Boston University Terriers||15-14||0.722||0.783||343||174||265||66|
|CSU Fullerton Titans||14-16||0.755||0.792||215||207||212||244|
|Colorado State Rams||8-22||0.748||0.782||347||284||309||34|
|Grand Canyon Antelopes||7-20||0.680||0.743||311||289||180||346|
|Loyola (MD) Greyhounds||7-24||0.664||0.703||326||316||285||87|
|Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders||23-11||0.877||0.883||349||32||119||165|
|Northern Kentucky Norse||11-18||0.732||0.746||284||255||57||235|
|South Dakota Coyotes||28-6||0.932||0.939||196||14||62||3|
|Virginia Tech Hokies||22-12||0.842||0.913||216||34||92||1|
Unfortunately, I’m not aware of anywhere that breaks FTs down on a comparison of if they come from transition or half court offense. I think Arnold’s question is a really pertinent one, though – if a team is just much better at getting to the free throw line in the half court, that could explain why they have their expected offense performance “flipped.”
The closest thing I could find to the answer for this question is Synergy listing what percentage of a team’s transition & half court points come from the free throw line. However, I don’t see a very easy way to compare this across teams without pulling up the numbers for each DI team. Which, uh, no thanks.
So I did the next best thing and looked up the teams in question’s FT rate & FT % numbers from last year. Unfortunately, neither really provided an answer to the question. Free throw rate is spread out in this group, with some teams getting to the line a lot and some other ones almost being allergic to it. There’s also no apparent link between free throw rate and overall offense within this group; Little Rock had a pretty good O, but they took very few free throws. Meanwhile Northern Kentucky got to the line at a great late but had a poor overall offense.
Free throw percentage was a little closer, but again didn’t offer a clear answer. Grand Canyon was very poor at making freebies. UTSA wasn’t much better, and there were three more teams that I’d generally classify as not great. But it also includes the best & third best teams at making shots from the charity stripe, plus five more teams from the top 100.
It feels like the strongest correlation is between ability to make free throws & these “flipped” offenses, but I don’t think it’s strong enough to make any kind of an actual declaration of a relationship.
The frustrating thing is I’m not any closer to solving this issue. Maybe it’s not a circumstance that actually has an answer. Maybe these 14 teams are just kind of weird in how their offense performed. Maybe it’s actually most meaningful that 11 of the 14 teams had an edge of less than 0.05 points per possession in their half court offense, and that just means it’s within the realm of possibility to have these numbers come out of your offense, and it’s basically just statistical noise.