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.