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During Georgetown’s game against Providence this week, at 7:24 in the second half, Austin Freeman was called for a foul, leaping out against a three-point shot by Vincent Council. And, on the television broadcast, the announcer Len Elmore—normally very good—did a little of sports announcers’ usual shtick on “bailout fouls” and “gimmes” and how players should never foul three-point shooters.

The whole thing reminded me that I’d gotten tired of that standard line from announcers, who never give any evidence for the claim. Are those fouls, in fact, so much worse than fouls against two-point shooters?

Turns out, as far as I can figure, that the answer is yes. Too bad. One always wants the annoyingly endless repetition of conventional wisdom by talking heads to be mistaken, if only so they’d shut up about it.

Take (from Ken Pom’s valuable website ) the median college teams (at the 173rd place in national ranking) for shooting percentages: for three-pointers, Mercer at 33.7%; for two-pointers, San Jose State at 47.8%; and for free throws, Texas Arlington at 68.8%. Roll them together and assume that, 80% of the time, a foul eliminates any possibility of making a basket (and the rest of the time the basket gets made at the team’s normal shooting percentage for that kind of shot).

A mythical team that is, magically, at the median for shooting in all three categories then has the following average rates:

a normal two-point shot averages out to 0.956 points
a fouled two-point shot averages out to 1.501 points

a normal three-point shot averages out to 1.011 points
a fouled three-point shot averages out to 2.173 points

Foul a two-point shooter, and you’re adding, on average, around half a point to the outcome (0.545). Foul a three-point shooter, and you’re adding, on average, well over a point to the outcome (1.162)—a 0.617-point difference.

In other words, don’t foul the three-point shooter in college basketball; it’s a bail-out.

Oh, well. As the headline would read: Stats Vindicate Common Sense, or, Dog Bites Man.

What has this to do with what we do here at First Thoughts about First Things , you ask?

Not much—but, then, neither do the recent posts on vampires , really. Except, maybe, this: Think about Bram Stoker and the appearance of Dracula in the years shortly after the Decadents, from Oscar Wilde and Joris-Karl Huysmans on, had all been drawn to Catholic images and Gothic ruins.

And add this thought: Have you every noticed that vampires live in a very Catholic world, without exactly being Catholics themselves—what with the whole undead, creature-of-darkness thing they’ve got going on?

Kind of like Georgetown University, when you stop to consider it.

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