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Syracuse basketball leads ACC in free throw shooting, of all things

Who would’ve thought?

NCAA Basketball: Boston U at Syracuse
 Syracuse Orange forward Taurean Thompson (12) shoots a free throw against the Boston University Terriers during the second half at the Carrier Dome. 
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange basketball has historically struggled from the charity stripe. And now this season — 11-8 overall and 3-3 in ACC play — the Orange are atop the league in that category. somehow.

Since the start of ACC play, Syracuse is shooting 81.2 percent from the free throw line. The next highest is Georgia Tech’s 79.4 percent.

However, the Orange average just 15.6 free throws per game, which ranks 12th in the ACC. Florida State gets to the line the most with 26.6 attempts per game.

As Donna Ditota points out in her piece, the Orange rely heavily on the three-pointer. So it makes sense the Orange don’t get to the line as often as other schools, especially Florida State, which constantly attacks the basket.

NCAA Basketball: Boston U at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard Frank Howard (1) shots a free throw following an intentional foul call against the Boston University Terriers during the second half at the Carrier Dome. The Orange won 99-77.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

SU’s next opponent, Notre Dame, leads the nation in free-throw percentage (82.9 percent). However, in conference play, the Irish have struggled. ND only gets to the line 15 times per game, and is shooting 77.3 percent in league games.

Here is Syracuse’s free-throw percentage in conference play dating back to the 2005-06 season. In parenthesis is where SU ranked in its respective conference.

2005-06: 61.6% (16)

2006-07: 70.3% (7)

2007-08: 67.8% (8)

2008-09: 62.9% (14)

2009-19: 70.5% (8)

2010-11: 66.4% (14)

2011-12: 69.9% (9)

2012-13: 74.3 (2)

2013-14: 71.2% (4)

2014-15: 65.3% (13)

2015-16: 68.2% (12)

As for this season, 81.2 percent is well above SU’s average. Plus, it’s a small sample size. We’re only six games into league play, and the Orange doesn’t get to the charity stripe all that much. I expect this number to drop as the season goes on, but SU is still hitting at a solid rate.

Syracuse’s two worst free throw shooters — Paschal Chukwu and DaJuan Coleman — have not attempted a free throw during league play, as Donna points out. So that certainly helps.

What an ironic stat, though. Of all the Syracuse teams — ones that have gone to Final Fours, Elite Eights and made title runs — this is the best team (so far) from the line in conference play.

It’s funny how truly unpredictable college basketball is.