It's the time of year for charitable contributions, and Michigan basketball has made more than its share. In this instance, it accrues to the Wolverines' own benefit.
The charity stripe has been very good to John Beilein's team. It's scoring there at nearly double the clip of the opposition, going 112-for-152 at the line so far, while foes posted a 62-for-99 mark.
The Wolverines also have a clear home-court advantage at the stripe, hitting 70 of 96 at the free throw line while opponents are 39 of 61.
And don't think they haven't noticed.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became the latest to decry the serious discrepancy at the line in The Crisler Center, amid his post-game comments. Michigan essentially won the game at the line, connecting on 15 of 18 there to the Razorbacks' 3 of 4 effort in U-M's 80-67 triumph.
"My mind is still kind of boggled by the discrepancy in terms of free throws," Anderson said. "We had four free throws, and two were on a technical foul. I find that kind of hard to believe, especially since we are an attacking team. I guess that's life on the road."
That's been life on the road for five out of Michigan's first six opponents. The only exception has been Western Michigan, the Broncos connecting on 13 of 21 free throws during a game in which they were getting destroyed anyway, 73-41. The Wolverines went 7-for-11 in that victory cruise.
Other than that, Slippery Rock went 8-for-14 at the line, and four other home foes have shot less than 10 free throws, including the seriously scrutinized nine by N.C. State and four by Arkansas.
"They're a good basketball team," Anderson said. "You've got Trey [Burke], and [Tim] Hardaway
these guys are a year older. The big kid, Mitch [McGary], he came in and gave them some good minutes. The offensive rebounds were really a difference in this game. He was one of those guys
"[Jordan] Morgan was pretty active. They took to the glass. We made them shoot 40 percent, and they're a team that shoots over 50 percent. I thought our defense was effective, but the finishing part of defense is, you've got to rebound the basketball. We didn't do a good job of it.
"If we clean that up just halfway in this game, then maybe, maybe we get to the free throw line, then the game changes."
The conversation inevitably returned to the stripe, and that's somewhat understandable. Good teams have an advantage in their own building.
Sometimes even ordinary teams hold one as well. In Michigan's other significant free throw deficit of the season, Bradley went 15-for-21 in its own building, while the Wolverines posted an 8-for-12 effort at the line.
Michigan head coach John Beilein isn't convinced it's about the venue.
"I don't think it's based on whether you're home or away," he said. "It's based on what you teach every day in practice. We don't go to the foul line enough. We'd like to get there more. If you remember, our Tennessee NCAA game we didn't shoot a foul shot, and won pretty well.
"It's not as important. It's important if you can get there, but if they're not guarding you a certain way, they're saying, 'You've got to make shots on us. We're not going to foul you.'"
Michigan, he noted, is going to guard in a way that avoids racking up excessive fouls if possible. At the same time, the Wolverines have to defend, and Beilein knows it.
"I hope it's not because we're wimpy," Beilein quipped, regarding the Wolverines' relative dearth of fouls. "We just don't believe in having a lot of stupid fouls. I don't like teams being in the 1-and-1 early. I don't like our guys being in foul trouble.
"A lot of people, you play them and they're averaging 26, 27 free throws a game. That's usually 17 or 18 points. If you can cut that in half, we'll take that.
"At the same time, you've got to play hard and physical. We're not playing wimpy not to foul. We just try not to have stupid ones."
The bigger tests are ahead, of course. Fans at Indiana's Assembly Hall start calling fouls as opponents emerge from the locker room. The mini-martinet in East Lansing will be full meltdown every time Wolverine breath brushes a Spartan arm, while waxing apoplectic at every foul call involving his team (literally) disarming an opponent.
So, the final tally remains to be seen. Opponents shot and made more free throws than Michigan a year ago. But this team is longer, stronger and better than the Big Ten champs of 2011-12. How much approach, reputation and venue factor in will continue to be debated as warm-up games move into the Big Ten blast furnace.
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