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Far more trips to the line in the Pac-12 this season

From Pullman — In today's Spokesman-Review I had an article about the impact recent NCAA rules changes regarding hand checking and offensive charges have had on undersized posts. Tighter hand-checking rules drive offensive players toward the basket, and the new charge rules make it tougher for a defensive player to get in position. As such, teams are likely to emphasize height even more when recruiting post players because the ability to block or alter shots is more valuable than ever.

Oversized yet under-skilled forwards aren't the only players benefitting from the rule changes however. Players who can attack the basket and get to the foul line are finding that the new rules have made their lives easier. Follow the jump to see just how many more free throws are being attempted this season.

Guards who can drive to the basket are reaping the benefits of hand-checking rules that force defensive players to either give them more space or send them to the free throw line. Washington State's Que Johnson is a good example. After using the first half of the season to establish his jump shot and force defenders to play him tight, Johnson has begun to attack the basket more of late.

While still inconsistent — excusable for a freshman — Johnson has flashed the ability to get to the free throw line. He went 10 of 13 in WSU's 49-46 win over Utah, and 8 of 9 at California last week.

“(The rules changes) have benefitted me more,” Johnson said. “A lot of times it's more likely to be a foul from the hand-checking rule, so I've been getting to the free throw line more often this year.”

That ability to get to the free throw line can help team's primary scorers contribute when their shot isn't falling. In WSU's 71-70 overtime loss to Colorado the Buffaloes won in large part thanks to 18 points from Askia Booker. While Colorado's quick guard only made 2 of 12 field goal attempts, he went 13 of 14 from the foul line.

Free throws are up across the board in conference play. There is a caveat because there were some early, outlier games with an inordinate number of free throws. Still, it's obvious that attempts from the foul line are up dramatically across the conference.

2012-13 Pac-12 FTA/g Leaders:

1. Colorado — 22.18 2. Oregon — 21.86 3. Oregon State — 21.47 4. Arizona — 20.63 5. UCLA — 20.17 6. Arizona State — 20.13 7. Stanford — 19.65 8. Washington — 19.20 9. Washington State — 17.94 10. California — 17.73 11. USC — 17.10 12. Utah — 16.58

2013-14 Pac-12 FTA/g Leaders (Through 01/23):

1. Colorado — 29.47 2. Oregon — 28.06 3. Oregon State — 27.17 4. USC — 24.63 5. Arizona — 24.44 6. Stanford — 23.82 7. Washington 23.47 8. California — 22.95 9. UCLA — 22.78 10. Arizona State — 22.33 11. Utah — 22.22 12. Washington State — 16.84

As you can see, while the order of the teams remains pretty similar, free throw attempts are up by about 5-7 per game for most teams. WSU is the only team that is taking fewer free throws this season, indicating just how much the Cougars are struggling offensively. Also of note, USC jumped from No. 11 to No. 4 in the first year under Andy Enfield.

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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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John Blanchette (@SRjblanchette) John Blanchette is a freelance writer who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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