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When Free Throws Bedevil Duke

This season Duke has struggled from the line.

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Duke v North Carolina State
RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 06: Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue Devils concentrates at the free throw line against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at PNC Arena on January 6, 2018 in Raleigh, North Carolina. NC State won 96-85.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

At least one good thing came out of Duke’s surprising deflation at N.C. State. The Blue Devils made their free throws, 20 of 23. That upped their season accuracy from a punkish .693 to a respectable .705.

Duke teams under Mike Krzyzewski have been proficient at the line, with 27 of his first 37 squads hitting at a .700 clip or better. Teams converting at that rate are generally considered good foul shooters. The farther under 70 percent a squad slips, the more apt it is to drown in lost opportunities.

Krzyzewski’s first two Duke squads – 1981 and 1982 -- shot .679 or lower from the line. After that only eight of 35 Blue Devil teams, fewer than one-quarter, dipped below 70 percent. The lowest proficiency occurred in 1995 (.670) when Krzyzewski was sidelined for the second half of the season.

Based on limited information we might conclude there’s a direct relationship between lower free throw efficiency and more freshmen in the lineup. In that regard 2018 much resembles 2015, and that earlier squad did win the national championship.

This season Duke’s FT acuity has been largely dependent on the shooting of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, Jr. Bagley has taken 100 foul shots in 15 games, with Carter second on the squad at 60. The team has attempted 352. To date the towering tandem have combined to make 103 free throws, a 64.4 percent effort bolstered by 14 of 16 against the Wolfpack.

Surprisingly, 15 games into his freshman year point guard Trevon Duval is a .630 foul shooter, worse than either Bagley or Carter.

Lowest Free Throw Pct. By Duke Teams
Under Mike Krzyzewski, 1981-Present
(Through Jan. 7, 2018)
FT% Year
.670 1995
.675 1989
.677 1981
.679 1982
.689 2007
.690 2002
.693 1985
.696 2001
.697 2008
.699 2015
.700 1997
.701 2012
.703 1996
.705 1999
.705 2018
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