clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Virginia’s Not Being Cavalier About Free Throws

It’s another strength for Tony Bennett’s latest team

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Georgia Tech
Jan 18, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard De’Andre Hunter (12) attempts a free throw during the second half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at McCamish Pavilion. 
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of attention is paid to Virginia’s defense, and rightly so. The Cavaliers pace the ACC in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense, their offensive suppression among the most effective in conference history.

UVa also enjoys the second-best scoring margin in the ACC at +15.0 points per game, trailing only Duke, despite averaging a modest 67.7 points through mid-February.

A key to that offensive output is .769 free throw accuracy, ninth-best in league history. That’s better than three of every four free throws converted, yielding 10 points per game for the Cavaliers through 26 outings.

Those 10 points are actually the smallest portion for any team in the ACC. Even Miami, the league’s worst foul shooting team, derives 12 points per game at the line. But when your scoring is low, as is Virginia’s (13th in the ACC), stats revealing offensive production can be misleading.

Interestingly, for all the talk about contemporary players being weak on fundamentals and indifferent to practicing skills, Virginia is the third team in the last 11 seasons that stands among the ACC’s top 10 historically in free throw percentage.

Half of the top 10 team performances at the line since 1954 have come in the past 16 years. Last season Notre Dame not only led the nation in foul shooting acumen, but had the best conversion rate in ACC history.

Four of the top nine squads in free throw percentage prior to this year reached the ACC Tournament final – Duke in 1978, North Carolina in 1984, NC State in 2003 and Notre Dame in 2017. Only the Blue Devils became league champs – and went on to the NCAA championship game.

Duke teams also dumped the other three ace foul-shooting units in the ACC final.

(2018 Games Through Feb. 17)
FT% Team Year FTM-FTA Record FTM/G
.800 Notre Dame 2017 489-611 26-10 13.6
.799 NC State 2004 481-602 21-10 15.5
.791 Duke 1978 665-841 27-7 19.6
.785 Duke 1973 496-632 12-14 19.1
.783 No. Carolina 1984 551-704 28-3 17.8
.773 Florida State 2008 529-684 19-15 15.6
.771 Wake Forest 1969 642-833 18-9 23.8
.770 NC State 2003 488-634 18-13 15.7
.769 Virginia 2018 259-337 24-2 10.0
.768 Wake Forest 1970 542-706 14-13 20.1

If you're going to shop Amazon, please start here and help DBR and while you're there check out Barry’s book Across The Line
Check out our October '17 t-shirt! | Drop us a line