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January 31, 2013, 12:33 PM ET
Badgers prove that free throws really do matter

by John Gasaway

Wisconsin is just average on offense this season, which is curious because, as always, Bo Ryan’s team is outstanding in terms of taking care of the ball. Customarily teams with low turnover percentages have very good offenses. What’s the problem?

Reality is usually too messy to cough up one definitive answer, but this time we really do have one definitive answer. The problem is Wisconsin’s dreadful free throw shooting. Everything else is the same as last season:

Lost in translation
Conference games only — 2013 through games of January 30
PPP: points per possession eFG%: effective FG percentage
TO%: turnover percentage OR%: offensive rebound percentage

       PPP     eFG%     TO%     OR%
2013   0.98    46.5    15.4    31.3
2012   1.03    46.7    15.6    29.2

In other words Wisconsin’s shooting from the field and their performance in terms of hanging on to the rock are both virtually identical to what they were last season. Meanwhile the offensive rebounding is actually a hair better. Ordinarily the offense that results from all of the above would be the same as what you saw the year before.

But not with this team. Last season Wisconsin hit an excellent 77 percent of their free throws in Big Ten play. This season the Badgers have connected on just 52 percent of their attempts from the line in-conference.

Even with normal free throw shooting Ryan’s offense isn’t going to look like Michigan or Indiana anytime soon. But when you’re speaking of a team that plays outstanding defense (second only to Ohio State in conference play) there’s a lot to be gained from an improved offense. And right now free throws are killing Wisconsin.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

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