Mike Strange: If the 3-pointer strikes during March Madness, you may be out

Mike Strange
New Mexico players react on the bench as they were losing to Harvard in the second half during a second round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Salt Lake City Thursday, March 21, 2013. Harvard beat New Mexico 68-62. (AP Photo/George Frey)

New Mexico players react on the bench as they were losing to Harvard in the second half during a second round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Salt Lake City Thursday, March 21, 2013. Harvard beat New Mexico 68-62. (AP Photo/George Frey)

Two basketball teams meet in a strange gym on short notice. The stakes are all or nothing. It’s called March Madness.

The madness of it is trying to project which team will survive and advance and which will go home.

There are more factors to consider than there are newcomers on the Florida Gulf Coast bandwagon. For today’s lesson, I submit 3-point shooting as a worthy one.

Shooting the long ball is high reward, but also high risk, even in December. NCAA tournament games are played in an unfamiliar arena under white-knuckle pressure.

From a shooter’s perspective, the rims are new and so is the background. Talk about an X factor.

Charting the 32 games played Thursday and Friday, the teams with the better 3-point shooting percentage went 23-9.

The details reveal more. The nine who advanced with a lesser 3-point figure included all four No. 1 seeds, a 2 (Duke) and a 3 (Marquette).

In short, in a mismatch, talent will prevail. Louisville was going to run North Carolina A&T out of town no matter how many 3s it made.

Kansas was going to beat Western Kentucky even if didn’t make a 3-pointer.

In fact, it didn’t. Kansas went 0-for-6 beyond the arc and won anyway.

But 3-point success weighs heavier in the closely seeded matches. Example: 8-seed North Carolina (52.4 percent) beating 9-seed Villanova (19 percent).

In the 32 opening-round games, Ole Miss was the only lower seed to pull an upset (over Wisconsin) despite shooting worse beyond the arc.

The biggest beneficiary was No. 14 seed Harvard (44.4 percent) knocking off No. 3 seed New Mexico (21.4).

Belmont, an 11 seed, had to light it up from long range to have a chance against Arizona. Alas, the Bruins were beaten at their own game, 53 percent to 29.

Moving to the round of 32 and fewer mismatches, 3-point accuracy was the golden rule.

Fifteen of 16 winners won the 3-point percentage duel. The exception was Marquette beating Butler.

La Salle’s 3-point superiority was crucial in a thriller against Ole Miss. Wichita State’s 14-of-28 barrage doomed Gonzaga. Oregon shot 72.7 percent (8-of-11) to overwhelm a good, but ice-cold, Saint Louis (14.3 percent) team.

When Iowa State got hot (48 percent, 12-of-25), Ohio State got hotter. Aaron Craft’s game-winner at the buzzer made it 50 percent from outside for the Buckeyes.

Now we reset for the Sweet 16.

Keep an eye on Los Angeles on Thursday night. After two rounds, Ohio State is hitting 48.5 percent of its treys, but will be challenged Arizona’s jaw-dropping 56.3 percent.

Oregon (48.5), which faces Louisville, and Miami (44.7) against Marquette are the other hot hands to watch.

As for Cinderella — aka Florida Gulf Coast — it was dunks more than treys that vanquished Georgetown and San Diego State. Still, the Eagles check in at a respectable 39 percent, right on par with its next opponent Florida (40 percent).

At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas is struggling at 25 percent. Michigan could be smelling an upset Friday.

Indiana-Syracuse will be interesting Thursday night. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense held Montana and California to a combined 15 percent beyond the arc.

In other words, the Hoosiers better be really rocking inside the 3-point line.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 6

CoverOrange writes:

This explains so much. Want to get in the dance and make some noise? Shoot the three. Want to win it, recruit great players. Explains Pitino. Explains Bruce Pearl or at least the direction Pearl was going.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

This explains so much. Want to get in the dance and make some noise? Shoot the three. Want to win it, recruit great players. Explains Pitino. Explains Bruce Pearl or at least the direction Pearl was going.

I would be interested to know how those NCAA percentages matched up with each team's regular-season percentages. It would be nice to know which of those teams have been exceptionally hot and/or cold compared to how they usually shot them. I agree that the hot team from 3-point range on a given night has an edge, I just wonder how typical those hot nights are. The few examples cited don't completely cover that angle.

cheetah-vol writes:

Your "wondering" got me to wondering, too. I went to ESPN.com and cbssports.com to look at the statistics they provide on 3 pt. percentages. ESPN gave both regular and post season stats. Cbssports.com gave NCAA tourney stats only. They both gave the same stats on postseason. That said, Mike's article probably gives a good insight on what I found based on the teams and games he referenced. But, here's a few teams that answers who's hot, who's not now compared to regular season from 3 pt. land.

Looking at the Sweet 16 teams only from regular season to now, Arizona is the hottest being up from 36% to 56%. Next is Oregon up from 32% to 50%. Then Ohio St. up from 36% to 49%. Miami, FL from 35% to 45%, and Syracuse up from 33% to 43%. Then, maybe, LaSalle up from 37% to 44%. The rest are up a few percentage points or are close to their season average. The interesting one for SEC fans is that FL is up from 38% to 42% and FGCU is up from 34% to 39%. Should be a good game.

Those teams in the Sweet 16 who've dropped off some are Kansas who shot 37% down to 25%. They're the biggest drop-off. Interestingly, both Indiana and Duke have dropped from from 41% to 36%. Not huge, but they both were among the national leaders in 3 pt. percentage during the regular season.

A few teams not in the Sweet 16 who were cold from 3 pt land are Creighton (regular season leader) down from 42% to 27%; Ole Miss down from 33% to 20%; and Georgetown down from 36% to 26%. And, just as an fyi: The Vols dropped from 32% to 29% in our little NIT game.

So, yeah. I had a little time today and felt as curious about this as you did. I think some stats are worth checking out from time to time. Now, I have to get back to my regular life. Enjoy the stats.

murrayvol writes:

On an unrelated note Louisville is the popular pick (#1 overall seed) to win it all. Anyone remember the last time a "94 foot team" actually won it all. I'll wait.

For those who don't remember: Arkansas' "40 minutes of Hell" in 1994.

We'll soon know.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to cheetah-vol:

Your "wondering" got me to wondering, too. I went to ESPN.com and cbssports.com to look at the statistics they provide on 3 pt. percentages. ESPN gave both regular and post season stats. Cbssports.com gave NCAA tourney stats only. They both gave the same stats on postseason. That said, Mike's article probably gives a good insight on what I found based on the teams and games he referenced. But, here's a few teams that answers who's hot, who's not now compared to regular season from 3 pt. land.

Looking at the Sweet 16 teams only from regular season to now, Arizona is the hottest being up from 36% to 56%. Next is Oregon up from 32% to 50%. Then Ohio St. up from 36% to 49%. Miami, FL from 35% to 45%, and Syracuse up from 33% to 43%. Then, maybe, LaSalle up from 37% to 44%. The rest are up a few percentage points or are close to their season average. The interesting one for SEC fans is that FL is up from 38% to 42% and FGCU is up from 34% to 39%. Should be a good game.

Those teams in the Sweet 16 who've dropped off some are Kansas who shot 37% down to 25%. They're the biggest drop-off. Interestingly, both Indiana and Duke have dropped from from 41% to 36%. Not huge, but they both were among the national leaders in 3 pt. percentage during the regular season.

A few teams not in the Sweet 16 who were cold from 3 pt land are Creighton (regular season leader) down from 42% to 27%; Ole Miss down from 33% to 20%; and Georgetown down from 36% to 26%. And, just as an fyi: The Vols dropped from 32% to 29% in our little NIT game.

So, yeah. I had a little time today and felt as curious about this as you did. I think some stats are worth checking out from time to time. Now, I have to get back to my regular life. Enjoy the stats.

Thanks for the info, buddy. I'm impressed! I strongly believe that in today's game, a reliable 3-point game is a necessity, but I would still hate to HAVE to rely on it, if that makes any sense. As do several other regular posters on here, I would first rather have a strong inside game, then driving ability on the part of my perimeter players, then the ability to make mid-range jumpers by as many of my players as possible, and THEN the good outside game. I believe strengths in that order put the most pressure on a defense. Shooting percentages ought to be higher and the inside game puts the most foul pressure on the opponents. A strong inside game also helps prevent opponent fast breaks. But I'll grant you, it makes for exciting basketball when the outside rainbows are striking gold; it makes favorites quake and gives hope to the underdogs and who doesn't love that?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

On an unrelated note Louisville is the popular pick (#1 overall seed) to win it all. Anyone remember the last time a "94 foot team" actually won it all. I'll wait.

For those who don't remember: Arkansas' "40 minutes of Hell" in 1994.

We'll soon know.

Excellent point. It is a truism that game pace generally slows down in NCAA tournament play. It is generally easier to slow down a fast team than it is to speed up a slow one. It is also often said that the regular season is for the players but the tournament season is for the coaches. Last year's champs, UK, could play at a fast pace, but they were also very efficient in the half-court. Of the teams left in the tourney, Indiana, Kansas, Miami, and Duke probably have the best chance to win it all because they can all both run and work the half-court offense. They are also among the most experienced teams left. To awkwardly paraphrase a familiar expression, fast-breaks and presses win games and thrill fans, but half-court execution on both offense and defense wins championships.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features