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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Cats Not Doing Much Better From the Foul Line

Despite the fact that UK is undefeated, ranked #1, and has not played a game within 10 points, the Cats shooting woes, especially from the perimeter have been a hot topic on the radio show and message boards for several weeks now.  I am not sure it’s that big of a deal because the Cats do such a good job of offensive rebounding, but the shooting struggles have not just applied to the 3-point line.  Once again, UK is struggling to knock down free throws on a consistent basis.

You may remember that Cal’s history with free throw shooting used to be a common slam against him.  His teams were said to be undisciplined and have poor fundamentals.  The foul shots were key to losing a national title in 2008.  And then Calipari’s first team was poor from the line most of the year, doesn’t make the Final Four, and suddenly this becomes a defining characteristic of Calipari teams.  But then his 2nd and 3rd teams were very good from the line, both shooting over 70% on the season.  And it seemed that stereotype of Calipari teams disappeared, even though the ’13 and ’14 teams were not good from the line.

2009-10: 66.8%, 237th nationally

2010-11: 71.0%, 110th nationally

2011-12: 72.3%, 65th nationally

2012-13: 64.2%, 313th nationally

2013-14: 68.2%, 232nd nationally

2014-15: 66.3%, 233rd nationally

And now this year.  Once again, the Cats ranked outside the Top 200 in the nation in foul shooting.  Of the players who have attempted 20 or more free throws this year, only Karl Towns and Andrew Harrison are over 70%.  Dakari Johnson has improved his foul shooting this year, but still sits at just 57% despite the fact he has shot 29 more free throws than anybody else on the team.

Here is the truth of the situation: IT MIGHT NOT MATTER.  During a normal season, if a team is shooting foul shots like this UK team does, it will likely cost them 1-2 games.  But like any other wart you might want to find with this team, their strengths are so strong that it might not matter.  It does concern me a little that UK has yet to really shoot a pressure free throw under 2 minutes this year.  But hell, that might be the case all year.


Article written by Bryan the Intern

16 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Cats Not Doing Much Better From the Foul Line

  1. ReverendBlue
    9:12 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

    What is the reason for us being in the bottom tier of free throw shooting teams in the country year in and year out? We are supposed to be recruiting the best of the best. Is it because the type of player we are going after is the super-athletic, high flying, slashing scorer-type (example: John Wall) and not necessarily the old-school classic traditional player? (example: Kyle Wiltjer) Or is it something that this coaching staff (for all the wonderful things they are doing right) is either doing or not doing in their coaching approach?

    • bouzoukiman
      9:49 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

      Good question that I’ve racked my brain with also. I wish I had the answer so I could sell it to Cal. 🙂

    • ukjaybrat
      10:41 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

      Cal has said many times that free throw shooting is not in his top 10 things he looks at for a player. Free throws CAN lose games, but if you put together teams like he’s putting together, the scores won’t be close enough where the free throw game comes into play. This year and in 11-12, that has absolutely been the case.
      Also, our bigs are REALLY bad. dakari should just sit in a gym for 2 hours shooting free throws every day. He’s improved, but is still really really bad

    • cracka
      11:26 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

      who generally shoots better free throws?

      underclassmen or upperclassmen?
      taller players or shorter players?
      athletic players or fundamental players?

      our roster is always going to follow the left side of that list. if you want long, athletic players who are chasing down guys and pinning their ish against the backboard, that’s what you get. if you want short, slow guys with great fundamentals trying to draw charges because they can’t jump, go watch harvard.

  2. Casper
    9:24 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

    Too many big guys with big hands means poor free throw shooting. I will take dunks over free throws.

    • bouzoukiman
      9:47 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

      I only agree to a point. There is a reason they are called FREE throws and I think they are important. I realize it may not matter this year since we’re so strong defensively, but we can’t be this good every year on defense.

      We make free throws on April 7 this year, we’re sitting on #9. If Memphis makes them in 2008 (I think it was 2008), Cal has 3 nattys (although I guess the Memphis one would be vacated).

  3. Dubowski
    9:44 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

    “Dakari Johnson has improved his foul shooting this year, but still sits at just 57% despite the fact he has shot 29 more free throws than anybody else on the team.”

    How exactly does having more attempts, increase FT %?

  4. cats paw
    9:50 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

    Excellent article and very “on point”! Cal recruits such great athletes that they can overcome most “warts”. I would just like to see at least one Kyle Wilter on the team each year to give us a legitimate and reliable offensive weapon other than a put back or lob dunk.

    • Catsby80
      10:46 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

      you must be joking… i suppose booker’s 41% 3 point percentage is not good enough for you then? you’re one of those fans that just finds something to gripe about. at the end of the day, if we win the games and we win the national championship, are you going to be the one who says, “yeah we won, but we only shot 59% from the free throw line. we could’ve beaten (insert whatever team you’d like here) ________ by 20 instead of 9”?


    • CATandMONKEY
      11:02 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

      I liked and continue to like Wiltjer but he was not automatic from anywhere during his last season at UK. Plus that whole thing of him being deceptively slow…

  5. TSmithPage
    11:07 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

    As long as the bigs convert while they are being fouled under the basket, it’s no big deal. Where it might really kill us is when we miss out on the scoring opportunities from inside and then we lose the points altogether when the bigs miss their free throws. It could certainly change the end of game calculus in a close game at the end of the season if some of these guys don’t up their FT percentages. I hope we thrash every opponent by double digits all season, but I think back to that season Pitino coached where we blasted our first 3 or 4 NCAA tournament opponents by 20 or 30 points then things tightened up considerably in the last couple of games.

  6. BTownUKFan
    11:38 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Kids coming into a D1 basketball program should already know how to shoot free throws. Because of the turn over at Kentucky, the coaches spend much of their time teaching the offensive plays and defensive schemes. If you lose on free throws then we lose. I’m not going to fret over it.

  7. ukbradstith
    11:51 am December 18, 2014 Permalink

    It’s been said, but it’s the types of players.

  8. ReverendBlue
    12:27 pm December 18, 2014 Permalink

    I, too, would rather have long, athletic players who can get to the rim, rebound, and finish than I would less athletic players who were excellent free throw shooters. However, I would have a “finishing platoon” for the last minute and a half of a game where we have the lead and you know the other team is going to be fouling us. I would have the Harrisons on the floor with Booker, Lyles, and Towns. WCS and Darkari need to be on the bench in those situations.

  9. Leuther
    3:01 pm December 18, 2014 Permalink

    Effective free throw shooting involves endless correct repetitions, rhythm, and confidence…

  10. rockatao
    3:24 pm December 18, 2014 Permalink

    The only player for whom I cringe at the thought of free throws is Marcus Lee. His shot is so bad it has little chance of ever going in. But, geez guys, Willie has improved from 37% to 48% to 61% over his three years; Dakari has improved from 45% last year to 57% this year. Aaron and Trey are better shooters than their FT% suggests. We’re gonna be alright!!