Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Practicing the Basics

Kansas defeated Memphis last night for the NCAA National Championship in men's basketball. It was a most entertaining game.

And the overwhelmingly obvious fact is this: Memphis choked at the free-throw line in the waning moments of the second half. Everyone will likely remember the clutch 3-point shot made with 2.1 seconds to go, forcing overtime; but will they remember that Memphis missed four of the last five free throws in the last 90 seconds of regulation? Will they remember that Memphis ranked 339th out of 341 Division I teams in free-throw percentage on the season, at a mere 59%? (I honestly believe that with a couple hours practice, I could make more than 59%.) On the game, Memphis made 12 of 19; Kansas made a fantastic 14 of 15.

I suppose it is possible that Memphis, flush with talent and full of momentum entering the game, downplayed the significance of practicing that most basic (and generally certain) of basketball skills: The fifteen-foot charity stripe shot. There is no excuse for a team of scholarship athletes not to be able to top 60% for the entire season in free-throw shooting. And I really suspect that when the game was on the line, able to be put away in the final seconds, that those players knew deep in the back of their minds that they weren't ready.

On the upside, basketball coaches everywhere have an example to point to when players gripe about "why do I have to practice free throws...again?"

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