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Virginia’s Foul Disparity: Real or Imagined?

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Are the Hoos really giving up that many more free throws than their opponents? What’s going on here?

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

More than halfway through the ACC schedule, Virginia Cavaliers fans are beginning to hear and feel a narrative that doesn’t particularly bode well as they start looking towards March. Officials are seemingly calling more fouls on Virginia than they are on Virginia’s opponents. The Hoos are simply getting fewer chances at the charity stripe than their opponents.

It’s more than just a nagging feeling. Taking a look at the last four games, for example, UVA is drawing fewer fouls and attempting fewer free throws than their opponents, especially on the road.

Virginia’s Foul Disparity Over Last Four Games

Opponent Site UVA Free Throws Opponent Free Throws UVA Fouls Opponent Fouls
Opponent Site UVA Free Throws Opponent Free Throws UVA Fouls Opponent Fouls
Villanova Away 3 24 18 8
Virginia Tech Home 21 20 19 19
Syracuse Away 5 20 15 9
Louisville Home 20 15 14 15

Overall on the season, the Hoos go to the line an average of 13.7 times a game, compared to 16.1 for their opponents, for a difference of 2.3 attempts. In ACC play, that difference is 5.4 attempts, and in the last four games it is 7.6.

This has to do with an increasing disparity in fouls as well. Overall, Virginia averages one more foul called against them than their opponents per game, but 2.5 more in ACC play, and 4 more in their last four games. UVA is the only ranked team with a negative foul disparity of one foul or more a game.

Virginia’s free throw rate ranks 343rd out of 351 D1 teams. The Cavaliers do play a more deliberate style of offense that relies more on getting open shots due to ball movement, instead of driving to the hoop and drawing fouls. Still, though, this does not explain why there is such a stark difference on the road though.

Since ACC play started, during road games, UVA’s opponents have been called for 5 fewer fouls per game resulting in a difference of 6 more free throws per game. Meanwhile the Hoos average 17 fouls per game, regardless of where they play.

It’s easy to see how teams get more calls going their way at home rather than on the road: they probably play better at home, and there’s a good chance that refs are being swayed by the crowd. However, nationally, this results in a difference of just 1.5 fouls per game. For Virginia, though, that difference is double the national average on the season, at three fewer per game, five fewer in the ACC, and eight fewer in their past four games. Only nine teams out of the 75 major conference schools have a larger disparity on the road, and none of those are ranked.

What is the cause of this disparity? Are UVA players more aggressive to the lane at home or is there a nefarious plot to undermine Virginia? Luckily the Cavaliers only have three road games left on the schedule, so hopefully the disparity will balance out.