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Wisconsin is last in the Big Ten in free throw percentage.
How can a team that shoots 61.9 percent from the free throw line take down the two best teams in the Big Ten? What’s more, how can the Badgers be 8-3 in conference play and in the thick of the Big Ten title race with such an unreliable mark from the charity stripe?
It’s not as if the Badgers are used to blowing teams out, either. In Saturday's upset win over Michigan, the Badgers shot just 5-of-10 from the line.
Wisconsin’s success is a tribute to coach Bo Ryan, who graduated former All-American Jordan Taylor last season, lost backup G Josh Gasser to a torn ACL in the preseason and is winning with a backcourt by committee.
The Badgers’ atrocious free throw percentage ranks 332nd out of 347 teams, according to Ken Pomeroy. Last year, when Wisconsin lost in the Sweet 16, it shot 74 percent on the season.
Even quirkier for the typically sound basketball team is that in the loss to Ohio State on Jan. 29, the Badgers managed to not garner a single free throw attempt—the first time that’s happened in Bo Ryan’s 12 years as coach, via ESPN. One game later, the Badgers shot 42 attempts against Illinois, the second-highest total of any Big Ten team this season, according to BigTen.org.
The biggest culprit has been F Ryan Evans (46-of-111), who has taken by far the most attempts. As active as Evans is on the glass, Ryan has yanked him late in the second half of games due to his shooting woes. Rarely, if ever, does Wisconsin win by a comfortable margin, meaning free throws could ultimately decide this team’s fate.