How Different Would the 2017-18 Hoosiers season be if They Made Their Free Throws?
Written By: Ben Malcomson 10/20/2018
The first year of the Archie Miller Era at IU started off with a bang, a nightmarish 90-69 drubbing on our home court at the hands of the Indiana State Sycamores. The Hoosiers would improve during periods of the season, showing fans flashes of what this team could be with the pieces they had. Indiana would go on to finish the 2017-18 campaign with an overall record of 16-15 (.516) with a 9-9 Big Ten conference campaign. Let us not forget the opening conference tournament loss to Rutgers, am I right? We had our share of wanting-to-forget moments.
I would say that most IU fans didn’t expect a national championship in season one for this Archie Miller-led team, but we realistically had hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament in some way, shape, or form. This was due in large part to hoping a guy like Juwan Morgan was going to lead them to fulfilling those expectations. In the end, if it wasn’t for Morgan, IU would not have finished as well as they did. The biggest question that racked my brain all season long and well after it was this:
Where would the Hoosiers be if they could hit their free throws at a much higher efficiency?
The Hoosiers would go 423-644 (.657) from the free throw line. That percentage was good for 330th in the nation. YIKES! Not to single out one guy, but even Juwan Morgan himself shot poorly from the line. To me, it is the most important to note since he had the most average per game attempts (5.4) and only shot around 63% from the line.
You win and lose basketball games as a team. From the free throw line category, it was a team effort in falling short of expectations. In my opinion, the expectations of ANY college basketball fan and program no matter what level is that you realistically expect the team to shoot a solid percentage from the charity stripe. When you do not, it really becomes a mind-numbing, frustrating experience. Is it the player’s general ability the issue? Is it more of the mental side of things that hinder the shooter during free throws?
Either way, I cannot help but wonder where IU would have finished in the games that they fell in defeat if they would have knocked down all free throw opportunities. Let us look:
Given, we have some variables at play. Two games (Duke and Purdue) being forced into overtime became of it and one game (Ohio State) that went to a double overtime anyways so the free throws are stretched. This is all in good fun, so let us see how IU finishes if they win out:
******NOTE****** AFTAM stands for Actual Free Throws Attempted Made
After applying AFTAM, you get a respectable season for the 2017-18 Indiana Hoosiers. Not only do they finish in the Top Five of the Big Ten, but they also receive an NCAA tournament berth without even having to win the conference tournament.
I know it is unfair to jump on board the perfection train, but it would be nice to imagine how different things could have been and just how important those free throws are to a team’s success. Some games it just minimizes the margin of defeat. For others, it was the difference maker.
Who is to say IU would have still lost those other games? What if a free throw here and a free throw there was the difference between ending momentum for our opponent or sustaining momentum for the Hoosiers at the time? We will never know.
Here is to hope this talented and deep 2018-19 IU squad can play as a team in all facets of the game. Even from the free throw line.