Northwestern shows the power of effective field goal percentage


Thompson shoots a three-pointer

Northwestern's win over Iowa last night gives us a lovely little teaching point in the power of advanced statistics. You see, field goal percentage really doesn't tell you much about a game. For instance, in last night's 90-71 victory over the Hawkeyes the Wildcats shot 53.2 percent from the floor. Iowa shot 52 percent. 

What was the real difference? Two things: Northwestern shot 14-28 from three-point range (compared to 7-17 for Iowa) and the Wildcats attempted 12 more shots (but those extra shots aren't from what you think).
Let's look at effective field goal percentage first. Here's the formula: (made field goals + .5*made threes) / (field goal attempted). All it does is add one more variable compared to the standard shooting percentage formula. Oh, but what a helpful variable it is.
Northwestern's effective field goal percentage last night was 64.5 percent. Iowa's was 59 percent. Now it's starting to look like a big deal. (Also note that both teams were helped out a lot by their successful three-point shooting.) 
The bigger difference though were those 12 extra shots. Northwestern had one fewer turnover and three more offensive rebounds, which is nice, but most of those extra shots came from the fact that Iowa attempted 22 free throws and Northwestern only had 13. Despite that advantage, Northwestern only was outscored by two points at the free throw line (12-10).
So thank Iowa's poor free throw shooting for the win and get ready for Saturday in Lansing, MI.

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Tags: Northwestern, statistics

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