I’m a simple guy.
For the most part, I like simple things. Whoever was the first person to say “Keep it simple, stupid”, was truly speaking to me. What does this have to do with Texas Tech basketball? It’s simple, free throws.
Free throws are my kryptonite when it comes to basketball. Specifically, the inability to convert on free throws is my kryptonite. Unfortunately, this seems to be an issue with Tech. It was an issue last year and continued to be an issue against Angelo State in the first exhibition game of the season.
Let’s take a closer look at why this really bothers me. Last year, Tech roared into February with a record of 15 wins against six losses and appeared poised for a middle seed in the NCAA tournament. They finished 18-14 on the year and missed out on a tournament berth. No invite to the NCAA or NIT tournaments.
Now, the argument can certainly be made as to whether or not Tech received the proverbial shaft for being left off of the selection lists. The argument can also be made that if one very simple thing would have been better taken care of then they would have certainly been in the NIT, if not the NCAA. What is that very simple thing? Free throws.
Stay with me a little bit while we dig into some numbers. Tech shot 73 percent from the free throw line last year converting on 282 of 390 attempts. Coincidentally, the returning players bring a combined free throw percentage of 73 percent with them into this year. Tech lost 8 of 11 down the stretch last year. Of those eight losses one was by four points, one by two points, and two were by one point. In these four games specifically, Tech shot a combined 68 percent from the free throw line. If they just shoot 80 percent from the line in those games, Tech wins three of the four and finishes with a record of 21-11.
Now, maybe 80 percent from the line is a little much to ask. The top free throw shooting team in the country last year, Notre Dame, converted on 79.9 percent of their attempts. However, 49 teams converted on at least 75 percent of their free throw attempts. If Tech shoots 75 percent from the line they win two of the four and finish with a record of 20-12 and are almost assuredly in the NCAA tournament. The difference between 73 percent and 75 percent seems minuscule, but in the case of basketball, in the case of free throws, it’s vital.
Tech coach Chris Beard has said that increasing the free throw percentage is going to be a focus this year. It appears that increasing the number of attempts will also be a focus during the year. This is a team that has the potential to finish in the top of the Big 12 Conference. A simple way to be competitive in the Big 12 Conference is to increase the productivity from the free throw line. Execute the simple stuff.
Texas Tech will play New Mexico State in an exhibition contest on Sunday to benefit the Greater Houston Community Foundation for Hurricane Relief. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. from the Chaparral Center in Midland. All tickets for the event are $10 and can be purchased through the Texas Tech Athletics Ticket Office.
New Mexico State is a member of the Western Athletic Conference. They are led by first-year coach Chris Jans and return seven players from the squad that finished 28-6 overall and tied for second in the conference.