Devil in the details: Free Throws

Collinsworth is one of the many Cougars struggling from the line. - Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

With a number of surprising losses, the BYU Cougars are looking for improvement in a number of areas. In the first installment of a short series, the Cougars free throw shooting will be examined.

The Brigham Young Cougars have been an underwhelming basketball team this season with a record of 13-8 and surprising losses to Utah, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, and Portland. Just as there was no single reason for the fall of Rome, there is also no single reason for the lack of consistency by the Cougars. This article is the first in a short series looking at some of the key statistics that have led to inconsistencies up to this point in the season. After all, the devil is in the details.

As a team, BYU ranks 202 out of 351 teams in NCAA Division I basketball in free throw shooting percentage. The Cougars have only made 448 out of 651, or 68.8 percent, free throws on this season. The below table displays the opponent, free throws made, attempted, and the win/loss of the game for the Cougars. BYU is anything but consistent from the free throw line this year with a season high percentage of 79 percent in a loss to Massachusetts and in a win over Loyola Marymount compared to a season low of 55 percent in a loss to traditional rival Utah.

OPPONENT

FREE THROWS MADE

FREE THROWS ATTEMPTED

FREE THROW PERCENTAGE

WIN/LOSS

Weber State

14

20

70%

Win

Stanford

28

43

65%

Win

Mountain St. Mary's

18

30

60%

Win

Colorado Mesa

31

43

72%

Win

Iowa State

12

20

60%

Loss

Texas

20

28

71%

Win

Wichita State

21

30

70%

Loss

Utah State

19

27

70%

Win

North Texas

17

24

71%

Win

Massachusetts

26

33

79%

Loss

Prairie View A&M

20

29

69%

Win

Utah

17

31

55%

Loss

Oregon

22

36

61%

Loss

Loyola Marymount

17

26

65%

Loss

Pepperdine

19

29

66%

Loss

San Diego

17

24

71%

Win

Pepperdine

23

31

74%

Win

Loyola Marymount

30

38

79%

Win

San Francisco

28

37

76%

Win

Santa Clara

20

29

69%

Win

Portland

29

43

67%

Loss

TOTAL

448

651

68.8%

13-7

Although a high percentage from the charity stripe does not guarantee a win (Massachusetts), BYU tends to be more efficient in their free throws with an average of 70 percent free throw shooting in a victory compared to the 65 percent free throw shooting in a loss.

INDIVIDUALLY

The highlights for the Cougars from the free throw line come Tyler Haws, who is ranked 26th in the country in free throw percentage, and Skyler Halford. From there however, there is a major drop off from Haws' 87.4 percent and Halford's 84.1 percent, to Carlino's 69.2 percent. In a worrisome trend, Carlino's individual free throw percentages continue to decline. In a postgame interview after the loss at Portland, one of Haws laments was that he was unable to get to the free throw line a few more times. Certainly his reliability there would have helped to get a win in Portland. This table includes the free throws made, attempted, and percentage of each player on the team who has shot at least ten free throws so far this season.

PLAYER

FREE THROWS MADE

FREE THROWS ATTEMPTED

FREE THROW PERCENTAGE

1

Tyler Haws

132

151

87.4%

2

Skyler Halford

37

44

84.1%

3

Matt Carlino

63

91

69.2%

4

Anson Winder

17

26

65.4%

5

Josh Sharp

11

18

61.1%

6

Kyle Collinsworth

82

136

60.3%

7

Nate Austin

18

30

60.0%

8

Eric Mika

59

99

59.6%

9

Frank Bartley IV

26

46

56.5%

10

Luke Worthington

2

8

25.0%

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

In six of BYU's eight losses this season, the Cougars have shot less than 70 percent from the free throw line. Last season BYU averaged 72.8 percent from the free throw line. This final table displays a "what-if" scenario: What if the Cougars had shot last season's average from the line in each of their losses this season? The "ADJUSTED FREE THROWS MADE" column shows how many free throws would have been made on the night had the Cougars shot at or near their season average from last year. The "DIFFERENCE IN POINTS" column is color coded to help illustrate the effect on the game: Green denotes a victory in that game (Iowa State and Oregon). Yellow denotes a possible victory, meaning that the game would have been in single digits and BYU would have had an outside chance of winning the game (think second overtime against Portland, Loyola Marymount, and Pepperdine). Red denotes that the Cougars still would have lost by double digits and therefor would have lost the game regardless (Wichita State, Utah, and Massachusetts, which would have lost two points for the Cougars).

LAST YEAR'S AVERAGE FREE THROW PERCENTAGE COMPARED TO LOSSES THIS YEAR

OPPONENT

ADJUSTED FREE THROWS MADE

FREE THROWS ATTEMPTED

AT OR NEAR LAST YEARS PERCENTAGE

DIFFERENCE IN POINTS

Iowa State

14.5

20

72.5%

2.5

Wichita State

21.8

30

72.7%

0.8

Massachusetts

24

33

72.7%

-2

Utah

22.5

31

72.6%

5.5

Oregon

26.2

36

72.8%

4.2

Loyola Marymount

18.9

26

72.7%

1.9

Pepperdine

21.1

29

72.8%

2.1

Portland

31.3

43

72.8%

2.3


CONCLUSION

BYU's free throw woes have negatively affected the team. Wild swings in efficiency (55-79 percent) have made it hard to know what the team will do from night to night. During a week in which many bracketologists had put the Cougars back in the field of 68 for the NCAA tournament, the loss against Portland is especially damaging. Had BYU made even just one more free throw, the outcome of the game could have been much more positive for the Cougars.

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