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free throw, or is it?

March 18, 2009


As I was filling out my bracket earlier today, my buddy Marc mentioned that I should write a post about how vital free throws are during the NCAA tournament.  Last year, heading into the tournament, Memphis was one of the favorites to make a run at a national championship.  The one achilles heal that plagued the Tigers was free throw shooting.  Coach John Calipari was sick of talking about his team’s woes at the foul line.  Well it ended up coming back to haunt them on the biggest stage.  Memphis advanced to the finals without free throws being an issue.  Up by 9 to Kansas with 2:12 left in the game, the Tigers went on to miss 4 out of 5 free throws, and allow Mario Chalmers to drain a 3 at the buzzer of regulation to send the game into overtime.  The rest is history, Kansas dominated overtime and won Bill Self his first national championship.  

           I don’t understand why free throw shooting isn’t as hot of a topic.  Sure, analysts discuss the teams that are good and bad at free throw shooting.  Last year, the media made a big deal about Memphis and their free throw problems way before they lost the national championship.  However, when breaking it down, how many teams lose games in tournaments because of a couple missed free throws?  Memphis is the best example to use, because everybody and their mother was tuned into that game last year.  I did some research, and looked at some statistics, and to my surprise, free throw shooting is not as big of a deal as I originally thought.  Looking at last year, only one final four team ranked in the top 50 in all of D-1 basketball in regards to free throw percentage.  North Carolina was number 13.  2007 consisted of no teams that ranked in the top 50 in that category. In 2006, National Champion Florida was the only school that made that list.  Looking back over the past decade, only 1 out of 4 final four teams on average is in the top 50 in free throw percentage every year.  Saying this, hit those free throws because points are hard to come by, especially in championship games.  You can’t tell me that John Calipari still doesn’t have nightmares about last year’s debacle on the free throw line.  



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