Last week, I predicted the only way UConn would beat Missouri would be thanks to free throws.
Unfortunately, I was right. The Huskies shot 32 freebies to the Tigers’ 12.
That is a huge discrepancy for a team who won by seven points.
Mizzou couldn’t shoot from the outside and that didn’t help its cause, but UConn couldn’t make anything from the floor in the second half.
Free throws won the game. But that isn’t unusual.
For the year, the Huskies are 641-of-943 from the line. Opponents are 306-for-438 from the stripe.
There are a couple teams every year who shoot more than their opponents make, but 203 more? I have never seen that before.
To prove my point, I went on
Statsheet.com to look up some teams in the past decade plus who were known for getting calls (North Carolina and Duke, among others). I also looked up every champion during that time and many runners up.
In the Blue Devils’ runner-up year in 1999, they shot an amazing total of 1,135 free throws, making 800. Obviously, that ranked first in both categories.
However, they gave up 730 free throw attempts.
That equals to shooting 70 more free throws than their opponents attempted.
In UNC’s championship year of 2005, it went 724-of-998, both of which led the country.
It gave up 689 attempts, giving it a plus 35 total.
In 1998 with Antwan Jamison and Vince Carter, the Tar Heels went 666-for-937 from the line, with the most made and second most attempted.
They gave up 542 attempts, giving it a plus 122 made over attempts.
UConn’s championship team in 1999 was plus 31.
Arizona in 2001 and Kansas in 2003 were both in the plus 30 category, while last year’s UCLA team was plus 66.
The best I could find was that 1998 UNC team, until I looked up UConn’s total last year.
The Huskies were plus 147, shooting the fourth most amount in the country, while giving up just 509 attempts.
This year’s 943 attempts rank second in the nation, while ranking ninth in makes with 641.
Opponents shoot the third fewest in the country, while they make the second fewest.
That is 26.9 free throw attempts per game, to 12.5 for their opponents.
The Huskies make 10 more free throws a game than their opponents.
Normally when a team gets fouled a lot it is a physical game so the other team gets fouled too.
Dating back to 1997 at least, nobody was even close to being in the top five in both categories, and the only teams I could ever see a very small chance of that happening would be UCLA in the Wooden days and Duke in the early 1990s.
On top of the free throw disparity, UConn commits the fewest fouls per game in the country, by nearly two fouls per game!
That is incredible.
Sure, the Huskies shot-blocking prowess keeps opponents out of the lane a bit, but Mississippi State, who has nearly the same amount of blocks per game, commits four more fouls per game, so there goes that idea.
These numbers are just absurd and while commentators talk about the lack of fouls they commit, nobody brings up the ridiculous disparity.
They have won 11 games by fewer than 10 points over the course of the year. That tells you how dependent UConn is on the referees to win games. Even the Big East Conference stats are absurd.
In 18 games, the Huskies were 278-of-423, while their opponents were 148-of-206. All I can say is Wow!
In their four losses, the Huskies were 61-of-100 from the line, while opponents were 80-of-101.
That shows when UConn doesn’t get the calls, it has a hard time winning.
It can blame poor free-throw shooting in the losses as the attempts were virtually even.
How have the Huskies fared in the NCAA tournament?
Well, UConn is 89-of-128 in four games (that’s 32.5 attempts a game).
Opponents are 31-of-50 (that’s 12.5 free throws a game).
Granted, some of these attempts come during late-situation fouling, but when you win two games by more than 25 points, it isn’t much.
Perhaps the funniest thing I saw was the team who has shot the third most free throws on the year. It is Chattanooga.
It played UConn in the opening game of the tournament. UConn shot 39 freebies to 10 from the Mocs.
During the game, the Mocs only took two more three pointers than their average. One might say the athletic differential led to the disparity.Well, the Mocs opened the year with four straight tournament opponents: Missouri, Tennessee, Memphis and USC.
In those games they shot 95 freebies to their opponents 114. So, they averaged five less attempts per game than their powerhouse opponents. But 29? Come on.
It is amazing to see a team who leads the nation in blocks has such a foul disparity in their favor. Normally when you go for blocks, you commit fouls. Obviously, UConn always gets all ball. Or, the respect from officials.
You can argue with me all you want, but the stats back it up. That leads me to my Final Four picks. UConn is facing Michigan State in one semifinal.
With the Final Four in Detroit, the Spartans will have a home crowd, which should help balance out the fouls a bit. The game will likely be won on the glass.
Both are good rebounding teams, but Michigan State may be the best in the country, getting several second chances. It will be interesting to see how MSU can rebound against 7-foot-3, Hasheem Thabeet.
The Spartans also struggle shooting the ball at times, while UConn has a solid field-goal percentage defense, which makes offensive rebounding even more vital for Sparty.
In the end, I think the Huskies will use their length and the refs to prevail 78-68. The other semifinal features Villanova and North Carolina. The Tar Heels should be solid favorites, but Villanova has been red hot after an early tournament scare from American.
The Wildcats are solid throughout their line-up, but will need Scotty Reynolds to have a big game. As he goes, the team normally goes. North Carolina is back in the Final Four for the second straight year and Tyler
Hansbrough and company want that title. It seems like the Tar Heels are as healthy as they have been since very early in the year.
Villanova will have to contain Ty Lawson if it wants to win. While I think the Wildcat guards can keep UNC in check, there will be no answer for Hansbrough. North Carolina wins, 85-77.
A UConn-UNC final would be a great one.
It is hard to imagine UConn getting all the calls against the Tar Heels, which should make the game fair and compelling.
A couple of great battles feature Lawson against Connecticut guard A.J. Price and Hansbrough against Thabeet.
The challenge will be for the Tar Heels to score on the inside against Thabeet, or get him in foul trouble.
While I originally picket UNC to win it all, I had a change of heart last week and went with UConn heading into the Sweet 16. Well, they are both here, and I am going with UConn.
Coach Jim Calhoun has won two championships in as many Final Four appearances, with both regional titles in Arizona, five years apart. It has been another five years and UConn just won in Arizona.
Give me the Huskies, 77-71, but boy am I rooting against them. It would be funny, though, to watch them win the title and then give it back if the NCAA finds some wrong-doing in its current search.