Fouling up Three
In recent years the argument of whether or not you should foul up three has been a hot argument. The theory is that if you are fouling up three at the end of the game the trailing team can only score two free throws. However, we saw North Carolina foul up three this past weekend, and it did not work out so well for them.
Duke vs North Carolina
With 4 seconds left in the game North Carolina lead Duke 84 to 81. Andrew Platek of North Carolina fouled Trey Jones of Duke sending him to the free-throw line. Jones made the first free throw taking the lead down to 2 points. In this situation, the free throw shooting team will almost always intentionally miss the free throw. Trey Jones executed this to perfection with one of the most beautiful missed free throws in recent history.
Inject this end of game sequence by both teams in my veins:— Tristan Winkelman (@tristan_wink) February 9, 2020
🔥UNC does a great job of fouling up 3 instead of giving up a 3 point attempt without fouling in the act of shooting.
🔥Duke does an amazing job of missing the 2nd free throw and getting a shot off to tie it (1/2). pic.twitter.com/zRWnmdP8a6
The reason this miss was successful is because of the quick movement of Trey Jones. He was able to throw the ball at the rim perfectly so that only he could rebound it. He then had to sink the buzzer-beater to send them to overtime, which he did. While North Carolina didn’t foul up three in over time, the game once again came down to free throws.
Even though North Carolina lost the game, it took some insane luck for Duke to win this game. I think that fouling up three in that situation is the right move, but what really is more successful.
When it comes to College Basketball analytics Ken Pomeroy is one of the most respected personalities. Over the years he has done quite a bit research on fouling up three. In a study from 2013, he found that team that teams who fouled up three won 92.0% of the time, while teams that don’t foul won 93.5%. This would mean that there is a slight advantage to not fouling, but does it really matter?
Whether or not you should be fouling up three comes down largely to your team personnel. Since the defending team is expecting you to shoot the three the odds of a miss go up. This would suggest if you are a bad three-point defending team your best option would be to foul. This leads into whether or not your team can rebound the ball off of the missed free throw. At the end of the day, the main factor comes down to the players on your team.
Random moments in not fouling up three— Dadgum Box Scores (@dadgumboxscores) January 15, 2020
2016 Villanova: Marcus Paige circus three
2014 Texas: Marcus Paige misses three
2012 UNC: UVA misses corner three
2004 UNC: UConn/Ben Gordon misses three
Easy to play the outcome/result
But that ignores spectrum of possibile outcomes pic.twitter.com/AaoabGAho8
My main takeaway is that whether or not you foul up three or defend the shot, who have virtually the same chance of winning. If I had to choose one to do every time, I would foul up three simply because there is more that has to go wrong to lose the game. However, my official take is there is no one way to handle the end of a game. Depending on the time remaining and the players on the court the results will be different. This is why it is so important to know the strength of your players.