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The Sun’s Arizin: Villanova Basketball’s Historic Free Throw Percentage

This year’s Wildcats could go down as the best free throw shooting team ever.

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Happy Friday Nova Nation! We’re taking a second to step away from more serious topics like Big East Championships and highly ranked opponents. Instead, let’s focus on why everyone tunes in to watch college basketball: free throws.

Free throws are supposed to go in, it’s why they’re called free. Even the worst free throw shooters in the country usually make more than half of their attempts. Free throws are only exciting in that there’s a chance they don’t go in, especially late in games. It’s also late in games when free throws can be the most annoying, as some of our friends at Marquette pointed out Wednesday night.

But here’s the thing about free throws: Villanova is really good at them. Over the last eight seasons, Villanova’s average rank has been in the Top 30, including three Top 15 finishes. In fact the 2017 team that finished the season ranked 2nd in the country shot 79% as a team.

The 2022 team is shooting 82.5%.

That’s insane. How insane? Well for starters the Wildcats have never finished a season shooting over 80%. That 79% is the standing school record for Free Throw % in a single season, so we’re already in unprecedented waters. On the national scene, only one team in the last 20 years has shot over 82%, and that was Oral Roberts last year at 82.2%. They were technically a few decimal points worse than the all time D1 record holder of Harvard, who went 535 of 651 for 82.2% in 1984.

So do the Wildcats have a chance of breaking the all time record? Yeah, they really do. As a team Villanova has shot over 80% from the charity stripe in their last eight games, and over 85% in five of the last eight.

The team’s percentage is truly a team effort, but there are three standouts: Collin Gillespie, Eric Dixon, and Brandon Slater. Gillespie is tied with Samuels for most free throws on the season, and he’s currently 59-65 for 90.8%, ranking 22nd nationally. That’s right, he’s missed six free throws all season. More shocking, he’s only missed two of those in Big East play, where he’s shooting a conference best 94.6%.

Maybe surprising, Brandon Slater isn’t all that far behind. On the season he’s 50-59 for 84.7%. Also impressive is big man Eric Dixon, who’s 43-51 for 84.3%.

And in the honorable mention category, we have the secret weapons off the bench. For the “expand the rotation” group out there, here’s more fuel for the fire. Jordan Longino is 8-8 for 100%, and Bryan Antoine is 4-4 for 100%.

Villanova’s opponent this weekend, the #17 UConn Huskies, should provide plenty more opportunities for trips to the free throw line. They currently rank 273rd in defensive FTRate, which means they send a lot of people to the line.

So for our Friday poll, we’re asking if you think Villanova will actually break the record.


How will Villanova finish the season from the Free Throw line?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    See ya Harvard! Villanova breaks the D1 Record
    (96 votes)
  • 55%
    Can’t quite hold onto the overall record, but they set a new school record
    (128 votes)
  • 3%
    No records, no fun, everything is awful
    (8 votes)
232 votes total Vote Now

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