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As great as Michigan has played in the last five games, they still have one big weakness that kills them in close games: free throw shooting.
The numbers aren’t pretty:
- They ranked 130th in the country in free throw percentage in the regular season at 70.7%
- They’ve been even worse in the tournament, shooting 64.3%
- They were 4/9 on free throws in the final 69 seconds of their near-collapse against Syracuse
- centre Mitch McGary is just 6/16 on free throws in the tournament
That last point is the most important.
McGary didn’t play all the much in the regular season, but he has emerged as Michigan’s second most important player in the tournament. The ball is in his hands a lot, and unfortunately for Michigan, that means there are all sorts of opportunities to put him on the line, where he’s a 44% free-throw shooter.
As Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons mentioned in passing on their podcast last night, it’s only a matter of time before a team resorts to a Hack-A-McGary strategy.
If tonight’s national championship game comes down to the final minutes, Louisville is going to foul McGary and make him beat them from the free-throw line. And if it becomes a free-throw shooting contest, Michigan is at a severe disadvantage.
We’ve already seen Michigan nearly let a game slip through its fingers because of wobbly free throw shooting. On Saturday against Syracuse, Michigan had two different chances to ice the game in the final 48 seconds, but blew them both.
They might not be so lucky tonight.
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