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Getting Real About The ACC’s Best Free Throw Shooters

If you look closely, you’ll see a different picture

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Wake Forest
Feb 25, 2020; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) shoots a free throw during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

They may not be noted for superior athletic feats. They may not start a majority of their team’s games. Their prowess may be virtually invisible among all but the most astute followers of ACC basketball.

But a small corps of players, including half of whom return this season, were quite good at making free throws last year. That trait could easily secure a win or two in 2021-22 if the ball is placed in their hands at the right moments.

Making free throws is a skill reflecting both persistent practice and the ability to concentrate under sometimes stressful, isolating circumstances.

Keep in mind that, due to the limitations of official NCAA qualifying (2.5 free throws made per game played), the best foul shooters often don’t show up in readily available stats because they simply don’t command sufficient floor time.

To isolate and elevate their work, our frame of reference is more granular —one free throw made per game played by those who appear for at least 300 minutes across the season, an average of about 10 minutes per outing in a normal year.

Don’t count on getting inclusive free throw information during a televised game. Or much of any free throw information, for that matter. Even if a telecast shares a player’s efficiency at the line, no matter how much or how loudly you importune the TV gods it’s unlikely the stat will be shared in a season- or career-encompassing context.

Here’s what we found: Five of the six top foul shooting regulars played for Virginia or Syracuse last season. Not surprisingly, given that their teams each set school records for free throw accuracy in 2021, in UVa’s case a new ACC standard. Of that elite cadre, only the Orange’s Buddy Boeheim, on many national of this year’s All-American lists, returns in 2021-22.

Boeheim failed to qualify among the league’s official 2021 foul shooting aces; the cited leader was teammate Marek Dolezaj. By our reckoning the forward from Slovakia was fifth-best, his accuracy sandwiched between that of Notre Dame’s Dane Goodwin and Boeheim.

Goodwin is the only top-five holdover from ’21. He returns after two straight years among the ACC free throw leaders, along with Duke’s Wendell Moore.

Top 2021 Free Throw Accuracy Among ACC Regulars
(Minimum 300 Minutes Played, One Conversion Per Appearance)
FT% FT-FTA Player, School Games
.927 38-41 Trey Murphy, III, V 25
.8966 52-58 Alan Griffin, SU 28
.8958 43-48 Sam Hauser, V 25
.862 50-58 Dane Goodwin, ND* 26
.853# 87-102 Marek Dolezaj, SU 28
.8491 45-53 Buddy Boeheim, SU* 25
.83784 31-37 Malik Osborne, FS* 24
.84783 39-46 RayQuan Evans, FS* 24
.84783 39-46 Wendell Moore Jr., D* 24
.8375# 67-80 Jose Alvarado, GT 26
* Returning in 2021-2022.
# Qualified among official ‘21 leaders at 2.5 FTM per game.