Mizzou Math: The Chievous Index and measuring our success getting to the line


Not long after taking the reins of the Mizzou basketball program, Kim Anderson stated that a game-by-game goal would be to try to make more free throws than the opponent attempts. In fact, this simple metric (FTM > Opponent's FTA) was cited as one of the measures of success of Coach Anderson's Central Missouri teams (ref 1). I do not know why this particular goal stuck in my head, but it did, probably because it was simple, measurable, and came up on multiple occasions in the pre- and early-season games. However, as the season progressed, one didn't have to scour the box scores to know we were losing the free throw battle.

Last season was a tough one to say the least, and as a result Mizzou Nation finds itself engaged in a myriad of debates - many qualitative or speculative - that only time and patience will sort out. In contrast, I thought - in the spirit of Bill. C's "Study Halls" - it would be useful to do a retrospective study on a focused and quantifiable aspect of the season: our performance getting to the free throw line. We can then weigh our performance not only against Coach Anderson's goals, but also against a historical benchmark established by our very own, legendary Derrick Chievous.

This little slice o' science sheds some light on the 2014-15 season through the lens of simple but revealing metrics, including two new metrics that I will call The Big Kahuna and The Chievous Index. We analyze applicable metrics game-by-game, team-by-team, and player-by-player.


Special Metric 1: Comparing FTA and Searching for the Big Kahuna

These are easy. Game-by-game, we ask two questions: 1) did Mizzou have more free throw attempts (FTA) than the opponent, and 2) did Mizzou have as many (or more) free throws made (FTM) than the opponent had FTA? This second we shall call the "Big Kahuna" because it was important enough to be brought up several times early on (and because it reminds me of Pulp Fiction). Use in a sentence, you say? Okay, "We got the Big Kahuna against Elon because we made as many free throws (24) as they had free throw attempts."

Incidences of FTA advantage and Big Kahunas are counted over all of Mizzou's games (N=32). Our winning percent is recorded for several game subsets, including: games we had the FTA advantage, games we won the Big Kahuna, and games we lost the Big Kahuna.

Special Metric 2: The Chievous Index

Derrick Chievous is a Mizzou basketball legend and recent (2012) inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, inducted the same year as fellow legend and native New Yorker, Willie Smith. Willie was before my time but my dad tells me stories, stories backed up by the simple fact that Willie produced the most successful two-year offensive stint in the history of Mizzou hoops (Willie was a JUCO transfer; two years comprised his Mizzou career). And Chievous? Well, I was blessed to be a high schooler in Columbia during the Chievous era and got to see the man play his way to the all-time Mizzou scoring record of 2580 points and a career average of 19.9 points, two totals that would likely be even higher had the three-point shot been introduced earlier (Chievous played two years with the 3-pointer active in the Big 8).

Now, you might be asking, "What does Derrick Chievous have to do with the topic of this article, namely getting to the free throw line?" If you ask that, then try to dig up some old Mizzou footage. The man could shoot from anywhere, but he had an uncanny ability to draw shooting fouls. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them. And he was nails from the line too, to the tune of a career free throw shooting average of 79.3%.

To honor Derrick Chievous (who, together with his wife Tami, you might find in the lower bowl of Mizzou Arena at many games), I introduce the "Chievous Index" which directly measures the ability of a player to get to the free throw line, normalized to minutes played. The Chievous Index is defined simply as follows:

Chievous Index = Free Throws Attempted / Minutes Played

One can calculate the Chievous Index for an entire team (numerator is the sum of all FTA, denominator the sum of all player minutes) and for an individual, and for any set of game data (single game, set of games, whole season, etc.) In this study, the Chievous Index is analyzed and compared for each SEC team over the whole season and for each Mizzou player over each's season minutes. Season stats were parsed from (ref 2). In order to establish a comparative benchmark, the Chievous Index for Derrick Chievous himself is calculated for each of his four seasons at Mizzou (1984-85 through 1987-88) using statistics retrieved from (ref 3).



Table 1 summarizes the game-by-game battle for FTA supremacy and the elusive Big Kahuna. In 32 total games, Mizzou had more FTA than the opponent 10 times (31.3%) and achieved the Big Kahuna a subset of five times (15.6%). In each set of these games, Mizzou won 60% of the games (records of 6-4 and 3-2, respectively).

Mizzou's opponents achieved the Big Kahuna against us in almost half the games, a total of 15 times (46.9%) which is 3x (300%) more than Mizzou's Big Kahuna tally. In Mizzou's 13-game losing streak, the opponent hung a Big Kahuna on them in 11 of the 13 games (84.6%).

Table 1. Summary of game-by-game simple metrics of FTA advantage and Big Kahuna.

Number of Games

Mizzou's Record

All Games


9 - 23

Mizzou FTA > Opponent FTA


6 - 4

Mizzou Achieves Big Kahuna*


3 - 2

Opponent Achieves Big Kahuna


1 - 14

* The five Big Kahuna games are obviously a subset of the 10 games in the row above.

Benchmarking the Chievous Index

Table 2. The Chievous Index for the Band-Aid man himself over all four seasons and in total. His maximum for any one season was his senior year where his Chievous Index was 0.277.


Total Minutes


Chievous Index

















*This number = amazing. That's an average of 11 FTA over each 40-minute span.

SEC Team-by-Team

Figure 1

Figure 1. A histogram of Chievous Indices for all SEC teams during the 2014-15 season. Mizzou was 12th of 14 with an index of 0.088. For reference, UK had a Chievous Index of 0.121 for the season (3rd of 14) with Auburn 1st (0.130) and Georgia 2nd (0.125).

Figure 2

Figure 2. A histogram of team FT% for all SEC teams during the 2014-15 season. Mizzou ranked 11th at 66.61% just edging out Auburn at 66.59% . Ole Miss led the SEC with a team FT% of 77.3%.

Mizzou Player-by-Player

Figure 3

Figure 3. A histogram of Chievous Indices over all Mizzou players during the 2014-15 season. The initials of each player and their index are shown in each corresponding box on the plot. J3 had the highest Chievous Index (by a lot) of 0.177 while Teki was a distant 2nd with a value of 0.102.


Welp. The glass half full perspective is that there is a lot of opportunity for Mizzou to improve in this area. I know free throws are not why we only won nine games, but they sure didn't help. I find it especially interesting that during our 13-game skid, our opponent Big Kahuna'd us 11 times, and 15 times over the course of the season (almost half the games, yikes). Letting the opponent make more free throws than you even attempt half your games is going to make life hard no matter who you are. Of course, Mizzou fouled at a high rate and this contributed to the Big Kahuna deficit, but the sub-par Chievous Index for the team indicates there's plenty to improve on the offensive side as far as getting to the free throw line is concerned.

Regarding the team Chievous Index, not only were we near the bottom of the SEC, but our FT% was also low (4th from last) at 66.61%, or as Brian Fantana would say, "67% of the time, we make it every time" (ref 4). Low FTAs are exacerbated by low FT%. In fact, if you calculate an adjusted Chievous Index (FTM/minutes played) then Mizzou drops to 13th of 14 in the SEC. These free throw metrics are more or less in line with our team finish.

Finally, and in the spirit of just pulling this Band-Aid off quickly (pun intended, Mr. Chievous), Jonathan Williams III had far and away the highest Chievous Index of any Mizzou player last season. I guess that's good in that he was responding to Coach Anderson's pleas for him to be more aggressive and drive; but it's bad because, well, you know why.


1. We have lots of room to improve both as a team and individually in order to get to the free throw line more often (hopefully a lot more often) next season. Of course, you don't want to pass up a decent shot to try to drive and draw contact, but on the other hand, a couple 15-foot freebies make pretty darned decent shots themselves.

2. Derrick Chievous was the freakin' man. We may never again see a player with a season Chievous Index of 0.277 or a career average of 19.9 points. (And if we do, the NBA will be tugging at him early.)


  1. Matter, D. "Anderson's Tigers will set tone with defense," St. Louis Post Dispatch, May 1, 2014.
  4. Brian Fantana, Field Reporter, Channel 4 News (San Diego, CA)

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