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Beating a dead horse: George Mason's free throw struggles

George Mason Basketball: Beating a dead horse: George Mason's free throw struggles

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Beating a dead horse: George Mason's free throw struggles

Seems as if this topic comes up after every loss, George Mason's dreadful free throw shooting. It was painful to watch this season, so much so I had to look into it a little deeper. It may come to no shock to you that historically Larranaga's teams have never been great free throw shooters. See the chart going all the way back to his first year at Mason:

During Larranaga's tenure at George Mason, his teams have averaged 66.6% from the free throw line.

You might already think it's bad but really the impact it had on the team this season is more than you think. The Patriots were ranked 304th in the nation this season in free throw shooting percentage and 11th in the CAA. As a team they went to the free throw line more than anyone else in the CAA this season, leading the conference in attempts. And normally you'd think that would be an advantage in the number of close games they had, but sadly it was pretty much a disadvantage. Look at the team's last three losses, total combined margin: 7 points. In their last win, at Delaware, they went 53% from the line and nearly lost to the CAA's last place team because of their inability to increase they lead late in the game.
I'm not using these stats as an excuse because there are other areas the Patriots could have done better in to close out these games, but this particular area seems to be the most recurring element. You can't blame a loss on free throw shooting but it certainly doesn't make things any easier if your only making half your attempts, especially in late February. People have been emailing me all season basically saying "do they not practice free throws or something!?!" and I can tell you the issue isn't fundamentals. It could be a confidence thing this season as most of the players on the floor don't have much experience in dealing with the pressures of 6,000+ fans watching them try to put their team up with 2.2 seconds remaining.

So after taking a more in-depth look at it, am I making too big a deal of this or was it an area that held the team back all season?


Blogger Robert W said...

The numbers don't lie! I knew it was bad but that certainly puts the futility in perspective. I didn't realize we had more attempts than anybody else in the conference. This is team is full of (positive) surprises, maybe they have room for one more with a potential rematch against VCU??

6:52 PM  
Blogger Essay said...

No you're not over thinking this my friend. We all saw the team's inability to make free throws. This should be fundamental for the players. I know there's pressure but not all of them are being asked to make free throws at the death to tie the contest. They have plenty of chances during the course of the game to forge ahead. If they took every free throw like it was a make or break situation I'm sure they would compose themselves and follow through. I have a feeling the other teams know how badly we struggle and foul us a lot sometimes. Call me paranoid but that's not a bad strategy if you know the facts. I even wanted to e-mail coach L one day and rant about this but I respect him and it would have probably ended in the junk folder anyway lol

7:18 PM  
Blogger What Not said...

Thanks for the numbers. Good data.

I'm willing to bet it correlates to how they shoot overall. They simply are not a team of pure shooters. They are talented but streaky.

That said, free throws are more about composure, poise,and a basic repeatable stroke. This young (last time I'll use that excuse) team doesn't have it yet. Their heads are too much in the stands, they're too self conscious, they feel too much pressure.

Hancock hits his first of a one and one against NU and he makes this grand gesture of relief to the crowd, like "one finally dropped." As though he was cursed. It's about his form, not some conspiracy by the gods to keep the ball out. Work on it!

Pearson has very good form and can be a very good foul shooter when he bends his knees and follows through- like anyone else, even the frat boys from the stands during timeouts playing deal or no deal.

I mean, this is what it takes and they're either going to do it or not. Maturity and practice.

The whole team presses and they feel the cameras on them. They need to learn to focus and work and just play. In many ways the 2006 run and their notoriety that gets them on ESPN 2 works against them.

Last week I watched Gonzaga High School play DeMatha, number 1 and 2 in the metro area and these kids shot 80% from the line. In a big game. It can be done. It really isn't that hard. If you want it.

My amateur opinion.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Brian O said...

I wish I understood basketball better. But having played most other sports, I just can't see why. The basket doesn't move, the ball doesn't get any bigger, can't this shot be mastered after years and years of taking it?
This team is streaky in so many ways. But in 2006, we had some bad streaks. Lost to Hoftsra in the CAA Semi round, but we had enormous talent waiting to be un-bottled then. And Jai Lewis clogging up the inside game like no player before him. I hate to labor that season to those who probably also lived it, but unless Cam Long becomes Lamar Butler, like real fast, we will end early in Richmond :-(

10:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Every keeps posting, emailing me, and tweeting to me the comparisons to the 2006 team. I really just can't get on board with that. That 2006 team didn't look as bad as this team did during conference play. They were led by seniors and other guys who knew their roles, this current team is very far from that.

I do agree with the situation of being an underdog in the CAA tournament and that they can still surprise people as they have done in the past.

8:38 AM  

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