Mythbustin' Part 2: KU Can't Play Without Big 12 Refs

Immediately following the game on Saturday, I received two text messages from different people reminding me that Big 12 officials can't save the Jayhawks in tournament games.  As pissed as I was at the time, I didn't pay any attention to the comments and went on with the mourning.  Then later in the week as I was chatting with our editor, he brought up the exact same question.  My response was something along the lines of "I don't even want to think about that because what happens if it's true?"  So, you can imagine the kind of excitement I had in researching this post in my effort come up with a "BUSTED" conclusion. 

In searching for some type of answer to this question, I gathered up data from 2003 to the present.  The numbers I looked at include conference play only for each year and tournament games from each year.  Stats used to see if Big 12 officials might help Kansas included fouls on KU's opponents, KU's team fouls, KU free-throw attempts, and KU's free throw rate.  Before I get to the numbers, I do want to add two big disclaimers to everything that follows:

  1. Small sample sizes for the tournament games but it's all the available data relevant to Kansas.  I'm not going through all Big 12 teams to see if the same effect happens to them.
  2. Without going through play by play data it's tough to know how fouls at the end of the game can skew the numbers.  For example, KU had 3 fouls in the last 30 seconds against Northern Iowa.  Not sure how big of effect this might be.

The Numbers

 04-05 05-06
B12 Opponent Fouls 19 19.22 19.79 18.95 19.42 18.9 20.3
Tourney Opp Fouls 21.75 21 17 18.5 16.8 20 16
B12 KU Fouls 19.9 20.22 18.11 19.63 18.05 18.8 18.4
Tourney KU Fouls 19.25 15 25 20.5 19 15 18.5
B12 FTA 20.37 20.44 21.74 21.58 22.89 22 24.8
Tourney FTA 31 27 19 19.7 16.1 18.3 14
B12 FT Rate 35.09 38.48 39.74 36.87 41.29 42.8 44.5
Tourney FT Rate 61.3 58.6 32.7 35.8 30.5 32.4 23.9


  • Free throw attempts do go down in tournament play for the last four years.  This is somewhat intuitive because less fouls have been called in the tournament. 
  • This year looks like a huge difference but Kansas only shot 10 free throws against Lehigh and 18 against Northern Iowa (remember the disclaimer).
  • In the National Championship year, the Jayhawks shot about 6 fewer free throws a game in the tournament than they did in Big 12 play.
  • Free throw rate drops a fair amount in tournament play compared to Big 12 play. 
  • Pretty sure my numbers are correct but I still find it hard to believe that KU actually fouled more than their opponents in 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2006-07.  Different from what you might hear from other fans, the greatest difference in fouls per game between Kansas and their opponents in any of these years is only 1.9 fouls and that was this year.

Myth- busted or confirmed? 

I'm tired of this game, too.  Denver's got the football content coming!

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