Top teams' free-throw shooting, nationwide notes, my AP ballot (cont.)
FT percentage: 64.8 (252)
FT rate: 41.4 (117)
FT distribution: 21.9 (154)
Inside the numbers: The Orange are actually ranked 292nd in three-point percentage, so by comparison they're decent from the stripe. My advice to Jim Boeheim is he should stop asking Derrick Coleman to work with Rick Jackson. Jackson is a monster rebounder, but he is only making 54.5 percent from the line.
San Diego State
FT percentage: 64.6 (257)
FT rate: 31.2 (291)
FT distribution: 15.3 (327)
Inside the numbers: It's astounding to think that 6-foot-8 forward Billy White could be the Aztecs' second-leading scorer, yet through San Diego State's first nine games he attempted a total of 11 free throws. Then again, maybe that's not such a bad thing, considering he only made six of them.
FT percentage: 66.7 (209)
FT rate: 38.9 (161)
FT distribution: 19.4 (244)
Inside the numbers: The Panthers are like a lot of other teams in that their guards sink a high percentage while their big men lay bricks. They needed more than better free-throw shooting to beat Tennessee, but going 25-for-42 (59.5 percent) from the line sure didn't help.
FT percentage: 63.9 (269)
FT rate: 40.7 (131)
FT distribution: 17.2 (303)
Inside the numbers: Imagine how much worse the Jayhawks' percentage would be if Tyrel Reed didn't go 16-for-16 in his first eight games. It's a real problem when your best player and most prolific free-throw shooter is only making 58.5 percent. I'm talking about you, Marcus Morris.
FT percentage: 62.3 (292)
FT rate: 40.8 (128)
FT distribution: 18.8 (258)
Inside the numbers: Tom Izzo called his team a bunch of pretty boys after the loss to Syracuse, but these are some pretty ugly numbers. Durrell Summers' 60.7 percent clip is nothing to brag about, but the real problem lies in the frontcourt. Check out these digits: Draymond Green, 58.3 percent; Garrick Sherman, 28.6; Adreian Payne, 41.2; Derrick Nix, 30.8. In a word: Oy.
FT percentage: 62.0 (296)
FT rate: 29.4 (316)
FT distribution: 13.7 (341)
Inside the numbers: The Cougars aren't as bad a free-throw-shooting team as the percentage would indicate (big men Brock Motum and DeAngelo Casto are weighing them down), but it's a problem that through their first eight games their opponents have attempted three more than they have.
FT percentage: 62.0 (298)
FT rate: 32.4 (271)
FT distribution: 14.5 (337)
Inside the numbers: It doesn't make much sense that the team that is leading the country in three-point percentage would be ranked so low in foul shooting. Two players, Matt Bryan-Amaning (59.5 percent) and Aziz N'Diaye (41.9), share the bulk of the blame, but there's no way that leading scorer (and 36 percent three-point shooter) Isaiah Thomas should be making 67.3 percent of his foul shots. (Although it's a hopeful sign he went 8-for-8 in the Huskies' loss at Texas A&M on Saturday.)
FT percentage: 61.8 (301)
FT rate: 35.8 (217)
FT distribution: 18.3 (276)
Inside the numbers: I don't care that Trey Thompkins only shoots 56.3 percent from the foul line, there's no way he should only be taking 3.1 attempts per game. On the flip side, the perimeter trio of Jeremy Price, Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie are all making 77 percent or better.
FT percentage: 60.8 (315)
FT rate: 40.2 (137)
FT distribution: 19.7 (225)
Inside the numbers: Rut roh. Only two of the Monarchs' top eight players are shooting 75 percent or better. It's probably not a good thing their rate percentage is as good as it is.
FT percentage: 60.2 (321)
FT rate: 33.3 (256)
FT distribution: 14.6 (336)
Inside the numbers: This is another team that runs the Princeton offense, so it's not surprising the Spiders don't shoot a lot of free throws. Their percentage, however, is surprising considering how good they are from three-point land. It's a real head scratcher that Kevin Anderson can make 45.9 percent from behind the arc but only 67.4 percent from the foul line. Dan Geriot's numbers (43.8 percent from three, 54.5 from the foul line) are even more perplexing.
FT percentage: 54.0 (344)
FT rate: 40.3 (136)
FT distribution: 17.7 (292)
Inside the numbers: The Wildcats put the foul in foul shooting. Alabama State is the only team in America that makes a lower percentage than Kansas State. Jacob Pullen takes the most foul shots and he's making a respectable 69.8 percent, but even that's far lower than it should be.
I'm guessing many people saw Michigan State's one-point win over Oakland as evidence that the Spartans are on the skids, but I only saw a quality win by a tired basketball team. Tom Izzo shook up his lineup, starting freshman guard Keith Appling in place of junior forward Delvon Roe, but it's worth remembering that nobody kills his guys early in the season like Izzo does. Despite their November and December struggles, the Spartans always seem to end up in the Final Four.
Lots of teams have depth, but few have as much depth and balance as Louisville. Ten players are averaging at least 11 minutes per game (with no one playing more than 26), and six players are averaging between eight and 13 points (with no one scoring more than that). It's almost like the Cards aren't sure game-to-game where their points are coming from. In their impressive home win over UNLV on Saturday, their reserves actually scored more points (42) than their starters (35). How often do you see that?
It's time to starting talking more about BYU guard Jimmer Fredette as a national player of the year candidate. All he did in the Cougars' thrashing of Arizona was put up 33 points, nine rebounds and three assists. That's still 16 fewer points than he scored against the Wildcats last year.
Notre Dame unnecessarily frittered away a big lead in its win over Gonzaga by becoming too conservative on offense. As a general rule, I think coaches are way too inclined to slow things up with a big lead. It robs their team of the aggressiveness that got them there in the first place. I don't care about the score or the circumstances, a team shouldn't even think about working time off the clock before the two-minute mark. My CBS colleague Clark Kellogg calls it driving with the parking break on. Doesn't work.
We won't know for another week or two whether Duke's Kyrie Irving will play again this season. From what I'm hearing, Irving's toe healed better than expected over the last couple of days, but while that might mean his recovery time will be shorter than originally thought, it is not likely to have much bearing on whether he will recover by season's end.
Incidentally, if you're thinking Nolan Smith can simply slide over to the point and take up Irving's responsibilities, keep in mind that Mike Krzyzewski tried to play Smith at the point two years ago, and it was a disaster. That's what prompted the switch to Jon Scheyer at the point. The Blue Devils are going to have to man that position by committee, and I suspect freshman Tyler Thornton will be more of a help than you think.
There's a very real possibility that Cincinnati could be undefeated when it plays Xavier in the annual Crosstown Shootout on Jan. 6. Wouldn't that be a hoot! The Bearcats are 8-0 but have played nobody. Their toughest games between now and then are against Oklahoma on a neutral court and against Seton Hall at home on New Year's Eve.
We're also just a few days away from finding out whether undefeated Cleveland State is for real. The Vikings play at West Virginia on Saturday.
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