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How to Win

Deciding to Be Great

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” — Abraham Lincoln 

This year’s tournament season has already produced an instant classic.

It will be hard for any game to top the UConn-Syracuse contest, which went six overtimes.

But strip away the dramatics, and the game came down to one statistic — free throw shooting.

Syracuse shot 51 free throws and made 40, a success rate of 78 percent. UConn shot 42 free throws, and made only 24, which is a success rate of only 57 percent.

Why is this important? (And many thanks to coach extraordinaire Jeff Robbins for pointing this out)

Free throws are a closed skill. All the factors remain constant: the size and weight of the ball, the distance from the line to the basket, and the diameter and height of the basket, never change.

Furthermore, it doesn’t take a group in order to practice; a motivated player can spend hours doing it.

So, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, players can get as good at free throws as they make up their minds to. You can decide to be great, and then make it happen.

But, as pointed out in a recent New York Times article, the success rate of free throws has remained constant for nearly half a century.

For UConn, making even one more free throw on Thursday night would mave made all the difference.

Coach Tully’s Extra Point: The top NBA free throw shooter of all time is Mark Price, who made more than 90 percent of his attempts.


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