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Free-Throw Performance Under Pressure in Collegiate Basketball

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The current investigation explored performance under pressure focusing on free throw shots (FTS) in collegiate basketball. FTS are unique in this game since the shots are launched from the same distance and the shooters are not guarded. Pressure was assumed since we only studied FTS in close games (3 or less points differential between the competing teams) towards the end of the game. Using archival data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association from the 2007-2008 through 2019-2020 seasons, we found a relationship between time and frequency of FTS showing that trailing teams fouled more towards the end of the game, with the intention of quickly regaining possession to overturn the score (Navarro et al., 2009). Secondly, FTS shooter season averages were compared with performance in high pressure situations, demonstrating that overall good FTS shooters performed similarly well under pressure times. Lastly, we investigated the outcome of 48,109 FTS in high pressure situations that occurred in the last 60 seconds of the game. We found that FTS performance was better when the shooting team was ahead rather than trailing or tied. These findings suggest that shooters who are ahead may enjoy a “psychological cushion” since the outcome of the game does not depend solely on their success.

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Free-Throw Performance Under Pressure in Collegiate Basketball

The current investigation explored performance under pressure focusing on free throw shots (FTS) in collegiate basketball. FTS are unique in this game since the shots are launched from the same distance and the shooters are not guarded. Pressure was assumed since we only studied FTS in close games (3 or less points differential between the competing teams) towards the end of the game. Using archival data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association from the 2007-2008 through 2019-2020 seasons, we found a relationship between time and frequency of FTS showing that trailing teams fouled more towards the end of the game, with the intention of quickly regaining possession to overturn the score (Navarro et al., 2009). Secondly, FTS shooter season averages were compared with performance in high pressure situations, demonstrating that overall good FTS shooters performed similarly well under pressure times. Lastly, we investigated the outcome of 48,109 FTS in high pressure situations that occurred in the last 60 seconds of the game. We found that FTS performance was better when the shooting team was ahead rather than trailing or tied. These findings suggest that shooters who are ahead may enjoy a “psychological cushion” since the outcome of the game does not depend solely on their success.