Honors Economics Thesis

TIME’S UP: AN ANALYSIS OF TWO STRATEGIC DECISIONS IN BASKETBALL

Abstract: This paper examines two strategic decisions made in the end of a basketball quarter and game: going two-for-one and intentionally fouling when up three. The paper attempts to build two simple models to analyze these situations. The data shows that going two-for-one is the correct decision. Going two-for-one is worth about .5 more net points than not going two-for-one. The paper also shows that intentionally fouling when up three might be the correct strategic decision, but cannot conclude with certainty. In the data set there are only 8 times I can identify when teams intentionally foul as opposed to 600 times when they do not foul. As such I can make no conclusions about fouls. In that small sample, teams that fouled never lost. The paper uses a unique event-by-event database from STATS Inc. The paper begins by briefly summarizing a history of sports analytics. A relevant literature review follows.