Utah Utes basketball power rankings.[embed:11286266]
Is potential Lottery Pick center Jakob Poeltl on his way to becoming an passable—as opposed to problematic—free-throw shooter? The Austrian 7-footer shot 43.3% from the stripe as a freshman, but through two games (and 21 attempts) as a sophomore, he's up to 61.9%. The sample is far too small to be significant, but Poeltl has made some noticeable changes to his free-throw routine. In his first game as a freshman, on Nov. 14, 2014, Poeltl shot free throws with his right toe near the stripe, and finished with a slight forward lean:
Back then, Poeltl was taking five right-handed dribbles, followed by a ball-spin, a knee bend, and then a pause during which he'd slightly flex his knees three or four times before shooting:
By Feb. 15, 2015, Poeltl had cut his routine down to four dribbles, with his feet moving during each one, and then he'd move his left foot back as he spun the ball. He was also finishing more straight-up than he did in November:
By Feb. 22, in the second half of a game at Oregon, Poeltl was experimenting with shooting from a half-step behind the line, and he kept doing this through the NCAA tournament:
Next up is a GIF of Poeltl from Monday's win over San Diego State. You'll notice that he walks into the pass from the ref, takes a deep breath, doesn't dribble at all, spins the ball into his knee-bend, cuts way down on his foot movement, finishes in a vertical posture, and shoots with slightly more arc:
Did I go overboard by digging through 100-plus video clips of Poeltl free throws to ID small routine changes? Maybe. I wouldn't mind having that hour back. But as mundane as this might be, Poeltl has drawn 9.2 fouls per 40 minutes thus far, and his free-throw accuracy will have a noticeable impact on Utah's offensive efficiency.
(Sources: Pac-12 Network, CBS, ESPN)