Foul Shooting: A Prevalent Difficulty in College Basketball

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IINovember 19, 2009

It's called the charity stripe for a reason.

Obviously, the points are not handed out—as charity might imply—at the foul line, but the concept is that hitting an unobstructed shot from 15 feet away should be a "gimme" for anyone. However, every college basketball fan knows foul shooting is simply not as easy as it should be for way too many players.

Syracuse's Arinze Onuaku has a better chance of not hitting water when he falls out of a boat than of draining a foul shot. Onuaku, who connected on 29.8 percent of his free throws in 2008-09, is the archetype of a terrible foul shooter, but teammate Rick Jackson (48.1), Delvon Roe (45.5), and Dallas Lauderdale (45.8) are not many steps behind.

Forget the game's worst, though. Instead, examine last year's top 100 foul shooters on and you'll notice that only 91 Division I basketball players converted more than 70 percent of their foul shots.

Do the math: 347 teams multiplied by eight (the average number of players used in the typical college rotation) equals 2,776 players.

Yes, there is probably a minimum amount of free throw attempts required to crack the top 100 list on, but, regardless, good foul shooters in Division I are about as scarce as loyal fans of N.J.I.T. in America.

Miserable foul shooting has been the bane of many teams.

The college basketball world witnessed Memphis inexplicably squander a nine-point lead with 2:12 remaining in the thrilling 2008 NCAA Championship after only nailing three of its seven foul shots down the stretch.

Today, No. 6 Villanova reached the stripe 39 times. Meagerly, the Wildcats only totaled 23 conversions. The result, a one-point win over a rebuilding George Mason squad.

A week ago, Saint Peter's held a one point lead with three seconds remaining in a sloppy contest against Seton Hall. But, Eugene Harvey nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to doom the Peacocks, who shot an abysmal 4-of-10 from the line. Not only would Saint Peter's have reached 70 percent had it hit three more foul shots, but it also would have left the Prudential Center with an upset victory.

There are, of course, multitudes of other examples, begging the question: why do so many players struggle with something that should be so easy?

The most obvious answer is that too many players lack a productive work ethic—taking 100 foul shots a day is time consuming and boring, so many players don't take their time at the line seriously.

However, devoting a significant portion of practice to foul shooting is 100 percent necessary because it facilitates the process of muscle memory. The more one repeats a certain activity in a certain style or form, the easier it is for one's muscles to remember how to reproduce the action.

By that method, the more a player practices a specific form at the line, the more successful he will be. The more successful he will be, the more successful his team will be.

It's called the charity stripe for a reason, and it's time for players to take advantage.