Sunday, December 29, 2013

Battle of the Sexes: Free Throw Edition

As a UNC basketball fan, this season has definitely been a roller coaster ride.  UNC is 3-0 against top 25 teams, beating #1 Michigan State on the road, #3 Louisville on a neutral court, and #11 Kentucky at home.  UNC has also had some bad loses: UAB, Belmont, and Texas.  Two of the losses were by 3 points, and UNC missed over 20 free throws in both of those games.  Last weekend, I attended the Toledo-Dayton women's basketball game, and there were hardly any missed free throws.  So this got me thinking: are women any better than men at free throw shooting?

When looking at all Division I free throw percentages for both men and women (as of December 27), men are slightly better at making free throws, as shown below. The median free throw percentages (thick black lines) are 69.1% for men and 68.4% for women.  The variability is also much smaller for the men than women.  Note that the UNC men make 61.3% of their free throws, ranking them 333 out of all 345 teams.
Next, I wanted to look the the free throw percentages of the top 25 ranked teams, which is shown below.  For easier comparison, I have also included the distribution for all Division I teams.
For both men and women, teams ranked in the top 25 are on average better at making free throws than compared to all teams.  When restricted to top 25 teams, women have a better free throw percentage than men.

So who is better at making free throws: men or women?  Men are slightly better on average than women, but when restricted to the best 25 teams, women are on average better.  Regardless, I'm hoping that UNC can increase their free throw percentage in the second half of this season.