Oregon’s postseason fate may come down to free throw line

If Oregon is looking for a way to get itself back to the NCAA tournament, there’s a rather simple formula for that. Stop fouling so much and get fouled more often.

The Ducks (17-8, 7-5 Pac-12) are one of the top free throw-shooting teams in the country, their 77.7 percent ranking 11 th out of 351 Division I teams. They’re shooting 78.1 percent from the line in conference play, trailing only Arizona (78.2).

But Oregon doesn’t get to the line nearly enough to maximize this asset. It averages 18.8 free throws per game for the season and 17.5 per game in Pac-12 play, and in terms of free throw rate—the number of free throws attempted per field goal attempt—its .318 rate ranks 222 nd nationally.

Oregon’s top six scorers all shoot at least 75 percent from the line, with Elijah Brown making 94.5 percent of his foul shots. But he only attempts 2.2 per game, even fewer in league play.

And the Ducks’ inability to get to the line frequently enough is exacerbated by their propensity to send the opponents to the charity stripe far too often. Oregon yields 21.8 free throws per game, 20.3 in Pac-12 games.

Not surprisingly, Oregon is 2-5 in Pac-12 games when taking fewer free throws that its opponent. When taking more it is 5-0, including last weekend’s home sweep of the Washington schools when it was a combined 27 of 36 from the line compared to 14 of 23 for Washington and Washington State.

This weekend’s trip to the Los Angeles schools could come down to who gets to the line more often. UCLA (17-8, 8-5) has taken more foul shots in Pac-12 play than any other team and averages 4.5 more attempts per game than its opponents, while USC (17-9, 8-5) is the stingiest team in the league in terms of giving up free throws at only 16.5 per game in conference action.

Decreasing the number of free throws allowed comes down to being better at defending without fouling, which involves body control and other factors. Getting to the line more often on offense depends on mindset and shot selection, particularly choosing to get the ball into the paint instead of launching from the perimeter.

Oregon’s three-point attempt rate—the percent of its total shots from deep—is 42.2 percent, which is 67 th in the country. Nearly half the teams with a higher rate currently have a losing record and only a handful are potential NCAA tournament teams.

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