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Free Throw Woes Could Throw A Monkey Wrench In Duke’s Ambitions

Free throws can make or break any team and especially in a tight post-season game.

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NCAA Basketball: San Diego State at Duke
Nov 19, 2018; Lahaina, HI, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) shoots a free throw against the San Diego Aztecs during the second half during round 1 of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. 
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Without being too presumptuous, the current Duke squad is a legitimate contender to reach the Final Four. But, for all its great promise, the 2018-19 unit will need to improve considerably on its .679 free throw shooting through 12 games to fit statistically with its dozen most illustrious predecessors under Mike Krzyzewski.

The worst a Krzyzewski Final Four squad shot free throws came in 1989, when the Blue Devils made 67.5 percent of 953 attempts. All but three of his dozen Final Four entrants made at least 70.5 percent of their foul shots.

Of course, just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean this year’s squad can’t make it to the final weekend without becoming ace shooters at the line. The path would be much smoother, however, if its bumped up its accuracy considerably, and soon.

Presuming at least two dozen more games left in the season, to reach a 70 percent conversion rate would require about two more makes per outing.

Free Throw Profile of Duke Final Four Teams Under Mike Krzyzewski
FT% FTM-FTA FT-FTM/G Year Advance
.762 888-1165 23.4-30.7 1990 Title game
.759 682-899 17.1-22.5 2010 Title
.748 780-1043 21.7-29.0 1992 Title
.736 655-890 17.7-24.1 2004 Final Four
.726 791-1089 20.3-27.9 1991 Title
.719 628-874 17.9-25.0 1988 Final Four
.716 704-983 17.6-24.6 1986 Title game
.711 567-797 16.7-23.4 1994 Title game
.705 800-1135 20.5-29.1 1999 Title game
.699 610-873 15.6-22.3 2015 Title
.696 697-1002 17.9-25.7 2001 Title
.675 643-953 17.9-26.5 1989 Final Four

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