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Toeing The Line

Guess who led the ACC in points scored on free throws last season?

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Syracuse
Feb 1, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) shoots a free throw Syracuse Orange during the first half at the Carrier Dome. 
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

He spoke often of the importance of rebounding, but “the key statistic,” a fellow from Kansas named Dean Smith once said, “is still to get to the foul line.” Another Hall of Fame coach from the ACC, Maryland’s Gary Williams, was likewise open about stressing scoring opportunities via free throw, a pursuit at which his Terrapins excelled.

They were only two among many.

A third was the 2020 ACC coach who was ultimately fired, Danny Manning, a former All-American and all-pro forward. The last of Manning’s six Wake Forest clubs made more free throws than any other program in the league and earned a higher portion of its scoring from the line than anyone else by a 2.71-point margin.

Helping the Deacs cash in, they also were more efficient converting foul shots than all but the league’s Florida representatives. It was the fourth-straight season Wake made at least 72 percent of its free throws.

Miami’s league-leading foul shooting accuracy in 2020 was the best at the school (.759) since 2002 under Perry Clark, the former Georgia Tech assistant. The man Clark succeeded at Coral Gables, Leonard Hamilton, led Florida State to its best free throw accuracy since 2008 (.750).

Mike Krzyzewski, yet another Hall of Fame devotee of line production, saw the percent of Duke’s points via free throw (19.59) escalate in 2020 compared to recent years. This was in keeping with his view that last season’s team would present a more old-fashioned profile. Only Wake made more free throws per game than the Blue Devils (16.1 average).

Prospering by foul shot was long a strength of Krzyzewski’s program. But over the past three years the Devils earned a smaller portion of their points from three throws than at any juncture since 1995. (During the 2019 season Duke got only 17.53 percent of its points via free throw, and 18.00 in 2018).

The ’95 Devils finished at the bottom of the ACC standings and achieved 17.14 percent of their points via the foul line. That was the lowest ebb ever under Krzyzewski.

Percent Of Team's Points Via Free Throw, 2020
%PtsFT FTM-FTA All Pts. School FTM/G FT%
23.81 542-726 2276 Wake Forest 17.48 .747
21.10 467-655 2152 Pittsburgh 14.15 .713
20.73 493-666 2378 Syracuse 15.41 .740
19.74 470689 2381 North Carolina 14.24 .682
19.59 501-696 2558 Duke 16.16 .720
18.96 403-595 2126 Georgia Tech 13.0 .677
18.34 421-576 2296 Louisville 13.58 .731
17.94 396-522 2207 Miami 12.77 .759
17.89 418-557 2336 Florida State 13.48 .750
17.08 353-536 2067 Boston College 11.03 .659
16.89 289-403 1711 Virginia 9.63 .717
16.58 396-558 2388 NC State 12.38 .710
16.54 341-497 2062 Clemson 11.0 .686
15.40 366-498 2376 Notre Dame 11.44 .735
13.90 305-429 2194 Virginia Tech 9.53 .711