College Basketball Betting Trends to Know: Impact of Free Throws on O/U

Eric Dixon about to shoot a free throw | college basketball betting trends

Do good free throw shooting teams tend to play to the over? Do poor free throw shooting teams play to the under? Let’s go throw the numbers, dig into the data, and see if there are any college basketball betting trends to follow when it comes to O/U totals and free throw shooting.

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College Basketball Betting Trends to Know: Impact of Free Throws on O/U

Let’s take a look at the top free throw shooting teams in the country, and compare their results against game totals against their free throw percentage.

You can find the full data at this link.

Villanova Wildcats

81.7% free throw percentage, 11-14 O/U

Villanova is the best free throw shooting team in the country. The Wildcats have five players who log more than 20 minutes and hit over 80% of their free throws. The only player that plays over 20 minutes per game and isn’t hitting free throws at a 75% clip is forward Tyler Burton. Burton is shooting 73.0% from the charity stripe.

However, the Wildcats tend to play to the under. Why? Because when they go over, they really go over. Seven out of their 11 overs cleared the total by double digits. When they go under, they’re within 1-to-3 possessions about half the time.

What keeps Villanova on the under is their defense. They’re ranked 34th in scoring defense and only allow 66.0 points per game, and they are one of the slowest-paced teams in the country.

Villanova can sink their free throws, but it doesn’t really help them hit their overs.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

79.9% free throw percentage, 14-10 O/U

Wake Forest is essentially middle of the pack when it comes to defense and pace of play, and they make their free throws.

The starters on the Demon Deacons tend to log heavy minutes. All four regulars who average over 30 minutes per game are shooting better than 70.0% from the line. However, they don’t really shoot enough to make it count.

Wake Forest only averages 19.1 free throw attempts per game. They make almost 80%, but that’s not really enough attempts to move the needle for hitting game total overs.

The Demon Deacons go over because they ranked 38th in shooting percentage from the field. They make their shots and their free throws, but they don’t shoot nearly as many free throws as they do from the field.

Montana Grizzlies

79.8% free throw percentage, 11-11 O/U

The Montana Grizzlies are a sports book’s dream. Their over/under is split 50/50. There isn’t a trend that bettors can take advantage of, and books tend to make out well in situations like this.

Senior guard Aanen Moody is one of the best free throw shooters in the country and leads the Grizzlies with a 93.0% free throw percentage. He also averaged 32.7 minutes per game. Moody is the last guy anyone wants to foul at the end of a game.

The issue with the Grizzlies is that they also don’t shoot enough from the line to really have an impact on the game total. They only average 17.1 free throw attempts per game.

Montana is similar to Wake Forest in that they shoot well, are in the middle when it comes to pace of play, and aren’t great defensively. Free throw shooting may help them head over, but it’s not going to play as big a role as their ability to make shots.

Princeton Tigers

79.6% free throw percentage, 8-10-1

Princeton tends to play to the under, but they shoot well from the field and shoot very well from the charity stripe. They are stapled to the floor and play at one of the slowest paces in the country, but do they shoot enough from the line to really make a difference? Again, sadly, no. The Tigers only average 16.3 free throw attempts per game and aren’t really known to hurl themselves at the basket looking for contact.

If the Tigers could attempt 25 free throws per game, they might start to see an impact on their totals.

The data point that matters here is that the Tigers are 5-2-1 to the over when they have a game total under 140 points.

Alabama Crimson Tide

79.5% free throw percentage, 17-7 O/U

Alabama plays at a ridiculous pace and shoots very well. They also average 22.9 free throw attempts per game and make almost 80% of them.

Latrell Wrightsell, Jr. is shooting 100% from the line and averages 24.0 minutes per game. He only averages 1.1 attempts per game, but he has never missed this year.

This is a case where free throw shooting actually supports totals going over. The Crimson Tide are 5-2 to the over in games decided by four possessions or fewer. This is dwarfed by their record against the over/under, but there is some impact by the frequency they make it to the line and their ability to make free throws.

Let’s dig through the five worst free throw shooting teams in the country.

Army Black Knights

60.3% free throw percentage, 9-15 O/U

Army plays at a snail’s pace and doesn’t shoot very well. They’re also the worst team in the country at the free throw line. They only make it to the line 14.7 times per game on average. So, they don’t take very many attempts from the line, but they only make just over half.

The Black Knights have so few attempts that every one of them matters. This goes for the attempts they make from the charity stripe, too. This is a case where free throw shooting, and shooting overall, definitely has an impact on the outcome.

Taking Army unders is essentially a system play because they’re so offensively challenged. The good news is they won’t hit their free throws if they have to play the foul game in the final minute. That should make playing the under a little less sweaty.

Western Michigan Broncos

61.6% free throw percentage, 11-12 O/U

Western Michigan’s struggles at the free throw line definitely impact their ability to go over. The Broncos aren’t embarrassing from the field and they actually play at a brisk pace.

The issue appears to be that most of their big men are really limited at the line. Super senior forward Anthony Crump averages three trips to the line every game but is only shooting 24.7% from the charity stripe. It’s a surprise that he doesn’t get dog piled every time he touches the ball.

Western Michigan is 5-7 to the under in games decided by three or fewer possessions. Free throws at the end of the game have definitely played a role in a few of those unders. This may be a playable advantage come conference tournament season.

Western Illinois Leathernecks

61.9% free throw percentage, 5-17 O/U

If you’re not playing Western Illinois unders this year, what are you doing with your life?

The Leathernecks play at a slow pace but aren’t terrible from the field. As a team, they shoot 42.5% away from the free throw line. Western Illinois makes it to the line 18.9 times per game on average, and are missing almost 40% of their attempts.

The Leathernecks are 1-10 to the under in games decided by three or fewer possessions. In that many close games, free throws have definitely had an impact in crunch time. This is another system play worth keeping an eye on for the rest of the year.

St. Francis (PA) Red Flash

62.1% free throw percentage, 10-13 O/U

St. Francis (PA) plays slowly and doesn’t shoot well from the field, so it’s no wonder that they play to the under. However, the Red Flash also struggle from the line, but it hasn’t shown as big of an impact on the results in crunch time.

St. Francis is 6-6 O/U in games decided by three or fewer possessions. They don’t win outright very often, but the Red Flash have been able to keep games close. They’re not nearly as bankable as Army or Western Illinois, but the offensive struggles make fading the over a more favorable play.

Wofford Terriers

62.4% free throw percentage, 16-7 O/U

The Wofford Terriers are poor at the free throw line, but they have been a bankable play to the over.

Wofford is about middle of the pack when it comes to pace of play, but they are 72nd in the country when it comes to shooting from the field. They also only make it to the line 17.0 times per game. That’s vastly outweighed by the amount of attempts they take from the field.

The Terriers also have a big man issue. Starting center Kyler Filewich is shooting 31.3% from the line and gets there 3.1 times per game.

Wofford is 10-4 to the over in games decided by three or fewer possessions. Apparently, their opponents haven’t noticed how rough the Terriers are from the free throw line.


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