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Matching last season: free throw shooting

Unguarded from fifteen feet away; how hard could it be?

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Getting to and scoring from the line is a big part of being able to keep an offense going even when things are sputtering in other places. It's also a pretty solid predictor of how well a team is going to play in general; teams that score from the line are generally more like to win going forward than teams that do not. Part of this is reflective of officiating bias and home-court advantage, but part of it is just because points from the line are - or should be - basically automatic.

What did we lose?

Scoring from the line has two facets: being able to get there and being able to convert. Sometimes a player is really good at the first part but not the second (Semaj Christon), other times a player is really good at the second part but not the first (Brad Redford). Matt Stainbrook was really good at both of them, leading the team in free throws made and attempted. His 76.4% mark for the line was in the top 400 in the nation and certainly very respectable for a big man.

Just a shade behind him was Dee Davis. Dee was 75-104 from the stripe, neither drawing fouls nor converting at the rate that Stainbrook did, but still a solidly above-average free throw shooter.

Can we replace it?

Stainbrook led the team in free throw rate and was second in FT%. The two other Muskies nationally ranked in FT rate were Myles Davis (who shot 87.2% from the line) and Trevon Bluiett (who shot 74.6% from the line). Both of those guys and JP Macura (76.2% from the line) and to a lesser degree Remy Abell (71.3% from the line) will be assets to the team from the stripe again, though Abell and Macura didn't get to the line as often.

Having a big man who can convert from the line is a unique asset, and here's another place Stainbrook leaves a gap in the ranks. Jalen Reynolds figures to be option 1A on the post, but he shot a mere 66.3% from the line. Neither James Farr (46.9%) nor Sean O'Mara (47.4% in limited action) have shown that they can be the kind of free throw scorer Stainbrook was. Unless one of them takes a big step up or Jalen's stroke develops from the line, Xavier will take a step back in free throw scoring next season.