Are the Seeds of the Georgia Basketball Team’s Downfall Planted?


With the weak link in the Georgia basketball strategy now apparent, can the chain be repaired?

The plan is diabolical.

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Attack the basket with physical strength and overwhelming force. Create opposition fouls, sending your team to shoot unguarded 13 feet from the basket while organizing the defense and eliminating the opponent’s fast break. At the same time, encumber the opposition with fouls – disrupting rehearsed personnel groupings.

Only three Division 1 teams shoot more than Georgia’s 27.9 free throws per game. For Mark Fox and the Georgia the basketball team, the plan proceeds.

But, is this diabolical plan running headlong into the reality of execution?

While only 11 teams make more free throws per game, Georgia is shooting only 65.6% on free throw attempts, better than only 26% of all Division 1 teams.

Despite the poor free throw shooting, the plan appears effective.

Georgia is shooting 46.6% on all field goals, better than 81% of all Division 1 schools. Even with that success, the value of a free throw attempt is high if a team makes only 65% on its free throw tries. Here’s why.

Of Georgia’s field goal attempts, 61% are 2-point shots of which the Dawgs make 53%, and 39% are three-point shots of which the Dawgs make 30%. As a result the Dawgs earn 1.35 points per shot from the field. Georgia makes .65 points per shot from the free throw line and Dawn of the Dawg predicts Georgia earns 1.2 points per each visit to the foul line.

When combined with the disruption from encumbering the opposition with fouls and the opportunity to reset the defense, the math is fine, so far. But, a look inside the numbers reveals what could be the seeds of this team’s downfall.

Charles Mann has shot 75 free throws and Marcus Thornton 50, all other Bulldogs 154. Of Georgia’s 279 free throws, 44% were shot by Mann and by Thornton.

Mann is shooting 61.3% from the stripe, making a trip to the free throw line predicted by DOTD to be worth 1 point. Thornton is shooting 56% from the stripe, making a trip to the free throw line worth .9 points.

Small differences matter when competing at high levels. If Thornton continues shooting free throws at a five per game rate and Mann at a 7.5 per game rate, the poor execution is enough to lose a two-point or three-point game. Last year Georgia won a 1-point game, lost a 2-point game, won two 2-point games, and won two overtime games. Georgia also lost a 5-point game.

Still, it is amazing what these numbers reveal about the advantage of dominating the foul column. Even with poor foul shooting, many points are gathered when players repeatedly shoot unguarded 13 feet from the basket. Coupled with the disruptive impact of fouls assigned to opposition players, the free throw strategy is indeed diabolical.

Nov 18, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs guard Kenny Gaines (12) shoots a free throw against the Stony Brook Seawolves during the second half at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia defeated Stony Brook 80-70. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

However, beware Georgia fans. If not executed to its ultimate completion at the foul line, the plan will cost these Dawgs a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Can these free throw ills be repaired in the new year? For Charles Mann, probably. The junior is shooting under his career average of 68%. If Mann can approach that number, the Dawgs are fine. For Thornton, there is probably no relief in sight. Thornton is shooting at about his career average. However, he did shoot 64% last year, so there is some hope.

Thornton has done everything called for him to do. He just needs to do this one thing more – make at the foul line.

Next: Mid-Term Grades for UGA Men's Basketball