The Vanderbilt Commodores earned two very important victories last week. As for foul disparity in the Vandy - Middle Tennessee State game, there was a clear strategy by MTSU to foul Festus, and Vanderbilt certainly obliged. That said, I think it would be important for the very small percentage of Blue Raider fans that are whining about the foul differential to take note:
According to Ken Pomeroy: Vanderbilt's
adjusted offensive free throw rate (FTA/FGA) is 37.8, which is 143rd in the country. Of course, almost half of Vandy's games have been played without Festus Ezeli, who has an enormous impact on that figure. I'd say that number is trending upwards (it is 41.8 in SEC play only). In all reality it's probably going to approach the 45.2 (27th in the country) that the team averaged last season. Vanderbilt's defense has been allowing opponents an adjusted free throw rate of 28.7, 30th in the country.
adjusted offensive free throw rate is 48.0, 7th in the country. That is an impressive figure. Defensively, Middle Tennessee allows opponents an adjusted free throw rate of 40.9, 259th in the country.
In summation, Vanderbilt gets to the line, but they don't send teams to the line. Middle Tennessee gets to the line, but they also send teams to the line.
In this game, Vanderbilt's free throw rate was 55.6%. That is certainly higher than their average, but, again, Middle Tennessee's gameplan was to attack Festus Ezeli in the paint when he received the ball. So it's not surprising to see the number a bit higher. Middle Tennessee's free throw rate was 46.8%, slightly below their season average.
Take into account what the defensive numbers were: Vanderbilt's 55.6% was 14.7% above MTSU's defensive average. Middle Tennessee's 46.8% was 18.1% above Vanderbilt's defensive average, and was the third highest Vanderbilt had allowed this season.
This was strategy, not "homecooking." MTSU fans have a great team on their hands. The Blue Raiders played the part of the tough, aggressive team that the Commodores have drawn in recent NCAA Tournaments: 1) they play tough defense (90.8 effective average, according to KenPom), 2) they shot it from outside WELL above their season average (53.8% in the game vs. ~28% entering the game on the season), and 3) they turn teams over fairly well. MTSU was ready to play. Vanderbilt showed they are finally ready to take on their demons and proved they can win against this kind of team. They won with rebounding. They won by taking care of the ball, despite the pressure. And they won by taking it to the rim, through contact, and generating trips to the free throw line. This is an important recipe for success for the Commodores, especially when they aren't shooting it that well from outside.
Periscope prediction (UT-only): "Vanderbilt wins all four categories." Result: 3/4. I think looking back at the statistics that you would find that UT was able to largely control the glass once the outcome of the game was absolutely certain.
*** Each game, AOG's army of statistics monkeys laboriously pore over the box score and play-by-play to calculate the mysterious plus/minus game statistics. These are those statistics. Please share your observations via the comments. Note: these are only the stats from the last five games. Click here to view the entire 2012 season.***
Plus/Minus Adjusted Per 40 Minutes