Pittsburgh’s Free-Throw Shooting Did Not Cost Them The Game

It’s currently halftime of the Michigan State-Louisville game, and I just wanted to make a quick counter-argument to something color-commentator Len Elmore said in the first half. Regarding last night’s epic Villanova-Pittsburgh game:

“If Pitt hits their free throws, they win that game.”

Technically, Elmore is right. The Panthers lost by two points, and shot 21 of 29 from the line. If they made all 29 of their free throws, they would have won by six points. So, yes, if Pitt hit their free throws, they would won that game.

But I think Elmore – a very bright guy and an exceptional analyst – is misinterpreting the numbers a bit here. During the regular season, Pittsburgh hit 67.6% of their free throws. Last night, they made them 72.4% of the time. The Panthers did hit their free throws. Elmore is right to be looking at free-throw shooting as a deciding factor in the game – he’s just looking at the wrong team. Villanova shot 75.3% from the line during the regular season. They hit 22 of 23 last night, good for a 95.7% success rate. That’s the noteworthy part of the free-throw shooting story. Pittsburgh’s shooting from the line didn’t cost them the game. Villanova’s success from the line won it.

By the way, does anyone have any idea if “free throws” is hyphenated or not? 1,000 fictional Fan Interference Points if you can clue me in. I will edit accordingly.

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