Those who follow the NCAA have probably heard the factoid that only North Carolina is in the AP Top 25 and among the top 25 teams in Division I (which has 343 teams) in free-throw percentage. It is a similar story in Canada; only one Final 8 team was among the top eight in free-throw percentage. That's just a bit of a cheat, since No. 3 seed UBC is ninth and No. 8 St. Francis Xavier is 10th.
- Carleton: 6th (.728).
- Calgary: 15th (70.1%). Only one team in the country has attempted 600 foul shots in a season over the past three years and it's been the Dinos every time (609 this year, 678 in '07-08, 677 in '06-07).
- UBC: 9th (.716).
- Western: 29th (.665).
- Ottawa: 14th (.701).
- Dalhousie: 23rd (.669)
- Concordia: 34th (.643)
- St. FX: 10th (.709).
Cape Breton (.637) was second-last in the AUS and 37th nationally, despite the fact guard Mark McGarrigle was the country's only 90% shooter at .909 (he only got to the line 55 times in 19 games). The Capers made just 31-of-56 foul shots in their final two games, a double-OT loss to St. FX in the final regular-season game and a one-pointer to Dal in the AUS semi-final.
UVic (.621), nationally ranked for much of the season (and they represented well in RPI), were last in Canada West. Only RMC was worse nationally.
Windsor (.658) was 13th in the OUA and 33rd nationally.
There's a lot in that Times piece, how namely free-throw shooting has never improved over time.
"Ray Stefani, a professor emeritus at California State University, Long Beach, is an expert in the statistical analysis of sports. Widespread improvement over time in any sport, he said, depends on a combination of four factors: physiology (the size and fitness of athletes, perhaps aided by performance-enhancing drugs), technology or innovation (things like the advent of rowing machines to train rowers, and the Fosbury Flop in high jumping), coaching (changes in strategy) and equipment (like the clap skate in speedskating or fiberglass poles in pole vaulting).It also noted that the WNBA has recorded a higher free-throw percentage than the NBA in two of the past three seasons. Wouldn't you know it, a cursory glance (there isn't time to add it all up) would suggest that female players in the CIS are more proficient than their male counterparts.
" 'There are not a lot of those four things that would help in free-throw shooting,' Stefani said."
Four women's teams, Concordia (.761), Laval (.757), Winnipeg (.753) and Windsor (.753) hit the 75% threshold, ahead of the most accurate men's team, Ryerson (.748). The most accurate free-throw shooter of either gender was the U of T's Alaine Hutton at .927. More women's teams (17) shot 70% than men's teams (15).
Now, this is curious, but it's likely one of those weird statheaded logical absurdities. I mentioned that Cape Breton and Windsor just missed the Final 8, but their female counterparts were each in the top 10 nationally from the line and those Capers and Lancers were in the Final 8. (For anyone wondering, which is probably just Rob and myself at this point, Cape Breton was a 67% team if you completely factor out CIS scoring champ Kelsey Hodgson's 90.4%.)
Four of the top nine free-throw shooting women's teams (and six of the top 12) made it to Regina last weekend, a slightly higher rate than for the men. Still, Simon Fraser, 17th in the country at just more than 70%, were the ones cutting down the nets last night in Regina.
Again, it's just some food for thought. We'll never know the answers to this stuff. It is funny how the best teams aren't always the best ones at a simple act.
You probably remember that Windsor Lancers lost in November to Laurentian, the fourth-best free-throw shooting team at 73.6%, but an also-ran otherwise in the OUA. The game must have turned on that, eh? Nope. Laurentian was 15-of-20 that night. Windsor was 15-of-21.
For Free Throws, 50 Years of Practice Is No Help (John Branch, The New York Times, March 5)
The Cost of Throwing Away Free Throws (The Wages of Wins Journal)