For all the analysis of North Carolina's predictable on-court problems this season, one crucial weakness has been widely overlooked.
Quite simply, this is the worst foul shooting team at Chapel Hill since the first year of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The '54 Tar Heels hit 62.9 percent.
In case you've lost track, that's 59 seasons ago.
Through the loss at Duke on Feb. 13, the Heels made 286 of 444 free throws, a 64.4 percent conversion rate. They've been improving, more or less, as the season wears on, but still trail all but one UNC squad during the ACC era.
The third-worst Carolina team from the line since 1954, interestingly enough, was Roy Williams' 2010 unit (.653). That group finished tied for ninth in the ACC, and went to the NIT.
No ACC team this year has achieved a smaller portion of its points at the foul line than UNC at 15.3 percent. That also is the lowest scoring production via free throw of any squad coached by Williams at Chapel Hill, five percent lower than any of his previous units.
Part of the problem is that the Heels have a single player who tried more than 72 foul shots in their first 24 games. That's sophomore James Michael McAdoo, converting 131 attempts at a .573 clip.
At Duke McAdoo demonstrated as much emotion and energy as he has all season. But he was 1-5 from the line. Included were three straight misses during a two-minute span in the second half when the Blue Devils took control.
UNC was four of six on free throws in building a 33-29 halftime edge at Cameron Indoor Stadium. But the visitors were 2-11 in the second half, missing six of seven during a crucial stretch.
Duke, meanwhile, was 13 of 14 at the line in the final 17:03.
There's usually a psychological component to team free throw failures. Confidence is fragile; losing confidence can be contagious, too, as stock markets and foul shooting attest.
"We're not a good free throw shooting team - in games," Williams said after the Duke defeat. "You guys would be amazed if you look at the numbers and the percentages that we make in practiceâ¦
"Psychologically is the biggest problem. Desmond (Hubert), who's got a terrible free throw percentage (.214, 3-14), he makes over 70 percent in practice. It's not very good in games. Every one of our guys makes a good percentage in practice."
|PRACTICE DOESN'T MAKE PROFICIENT
North Carolina Free Throw Production Under
Roy Williams, Through Games Of Feb. 13, 2013