Poor free throws may not affect outcomes

Photo by John Nakano

Although The Tech men’s basketball team is having a winning season at 14-11, the team has certainly struggled offensively. Tech ranks near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference in just about every scoring statistic there is. For many fans, the most concerning stat may be that Tech is only converting on 63.9 percent of their free throw attempts, which ranks last in the ACC.
It is not uncommon to hear a basketball coach say, “free throws win games.” For many Tech fans, this may be why Tech’s low free throw percentage is such a big concern.

You can hear the crowd in McCamish Pavilion moan every time a Tech player steps up to the free throw line because they know it is going to be an adventure. After starting 0-6 from the line in the first half against North Carolina on Tuesday night, which appeared as though it may be a close game, the crowd erupted after junior forward Kammeon Holsey finally knocked down a free throw early in the second half.

Had they just been a little better Tech probably would have only won one more game.

With Tech losing so many close conference games, it would make sense to believe if Tech was just a little better at shooting free throws they may have won those games. Let’s take a look at four of Tech’s close ACC losses and see how they might have turned out differently if Tech was shooting at the ACC free throw average in every game, 68.2 percent.

Georgia Tech’s first close conference loss came against Virginia Tech on Jan. 21. Georgia Tech lost in overtime by five points, and made 13 of 21 free throws, 61.9 percent. Since none of the misses came in overtime, had Georgia Tech been able to shoot 68.2 percent from the line they would have made one more free throw and presumably would have won the game.

The second close loss for Georgia Tech was when they played at Clemson on Jan. 29. Tech lost 63-60, and only made 10 out of 17 free throws, 58.8 percent. Had Tech shot they ACC average they would have only made one more free throw and most likely still would have lost.

On Feb. 25, Tech hosted Florida State and the Seminoles won 56-54 on a buzzer beater. Tech made 9 out of 15 free throws, 60 percent. Once again had Tech shot the ACC average they would have only made one more basket, which would not have been enough to overcome the two point deficit.

Tech hosted Clemson on Feb. 24 and the Tigers won 56-53. In this game Tech made 12 out of 17 free throws, 70.6 percent. If Tech had shot the ACC average in this game they would have scored less points than they actually did.

Tech could definitely improve on their free throws, but it does not appear that the misses are hurting them as badly as perceived. Even had they shot just a bit better from the line, Tech probably would have only won one more game and would only be 4-8 in the ACC. Making more free throws could have definitely changed the scenarios in some of the games though. For instance, had Tech made one more free throw against Clemson they would not have had to go for a three pointer on the last possession of the game, and the outcome may have changed. As far as the measurable statistics, it does not appear that the lackluster free throw shooting has actually had much of an impact on Tech’s season thus far.