Believe Your Eyes: The ACC is a Bad Free Throw Shooting ConferencePosted by KCarpenter on February 15th, 2013
Last night, the Clemson Tigers defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 56-53. In the win, the Tigers shot 9-of-17 from the free throw line, good for a not-exactly-world-beating 52.9%. It was a below-average performance for Clemson, but not a massive outlier. On the season, the Tigers are shooting 66.5% from the line, which is the 254th best mark in Division I. Of course, ACC fans know, that for whatever reason, Clemson has been a bad free-throw shooting team for the better part of the past decade. The Tigers’ woes are old news. It’s not just Clemson that’s struggling with free throws this year, though: It’s the whole conference.
It’s strange to hear an entire conference of fans lament that their team is “terrible” at the charity stripe, yet that’s what I’ve heard this year. Of course, people’s observations are prone to all sorts of psychological biases, so maybe it just seems like everyone is bad at shooting free throws? Not really. Considering only conference games, the ACC teams are shooting 66.8% from the charity stripe — good for 30th best among 32 D-I conferences. In recent history, the ACC has been in the better half of free-throw shooting conferences every year since 2003. It’s not just one team dragging the average down, either: 10 of the 12 conference teams are having worse shooting years than they did last year. Only Duke and Florida State are shooting better than last season, due almost entirely to Mason Plumlee‘s significant improvement in the case of Duke and the graduation of Bernard James from Florida State.
Of course, Plumlee’s improvement might not register with fans; the Player of the Year candidate leads the conference in missed free throws, having racked up 63 bricks. Tobacco Road rivalries run strong even in this dubious category. North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo and North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie have both put up 56 misses so far this season as a comparison. As a point of reference, Miami’s leader at the free throw line is Durand Scott. He has made 52 free throws so far this season. If you feel like Plumlee, McAdoo, and Leslie miss a lot of freebies: You aren’t wrong. These three are certainly exceptional when it comes to putting up clunkers, but remember, Plumlee’s 65.8% average is only one percentage point lower than the conference average. It’s not clear what’s caused it, but for some reason, nearly the whole conference is lousy at the line this year. Time to log some more hours at practice, appears.