Take a look at the most recent NCAA Tournament games– the Elite Eight and Sweet 16– and you’ll find that those who go to the line more often tend to come out on top. That is, if they can convert. Teams that have lost or high seeds that have found themselves in trouble have been plagued by a poor shooting percentage at the penalty stripe and/or sending their opponent to toss free throws all too often.
The Georgetown Hoyas almost lost to the Vanderbilt Commodores partly due to foul trouble. Along with hitting only 57% of their foul shots, Georgetown had 6 fewer opportunities at the line. Vandy hit 70% for 14 points. The Commodores were +6 at the line and when you figure in opportunities, they were +9.4. The Hoyas had to battle back to win the game on a last second shot by Jeff Green.
Pittsâ€™ recent loss to UCLA saw a major discrepancy from the field and the free throw area but the differential in point production, not just in completion percentages, came at the foul line. Pittsburgh had 18 trips and sank 8 (57%), while UCLA had 26 tries and put in 23 (89%). Simply put, the Bruins were +15 or +22.8 when comparing via a combination of stats related to free throw attempts and percentages made by both clubs. UCLA defeated the Panthers 64-55.
So, the bottom lineâ€”consider the free throws percentage and how many times a team tends to send their opponents to the line when trying to figure out the next winner.