A stat I keep seeing over and over in the NCAA Tournament is the sheer volume of 3-pointers some teams are taking. I used to see the three-pointer as an equalizer for the smaller schools. A way for schools lacking in size to stay competitive against the basketball elite. Yet it’s the basketball elite that are launching the 3s in this tournament. And the underdogs start a dance circle every time those 3s go up. Literally.
Oklahoma shot 30 3s against North Dakota State and made 12 of them. The Bison only took 14 and made six for a higher percentage. Why would a Big-12 team good enough to make the tournament settle for so many jumpers against a mid-major?
Ivy League schools like Harvard are expected to be filled with finesse jump shooters. Yet in its upset vs. Cincinnati, Harvard shot 12 more free throws because it attacked the rim more.
Manhattan nearly pulled off the upset over Louisville even though it only attempted five 3s. In comparison, Louisville went 4-13 from deep.
And then of course there’s Duke, a member of basketball’s royalty. Yet against underdog Mercer, Duke attempted 37 3s! Duke even made 15 of them and still lost. That’s because it gave away 22 free possessions to Mercer with all those misses from deep. The Bears went to the free throw line 15 more times the Blue Devils. Two days later against Tennessee, Mercer only attempted nine foul shots. The correlation is evident.
Even the best 3-point shooting teams in the country are clanking left and right. Creighton, the No. 1 3-point field-goal percentage team in the country, shot 5-24 from behind the arc in its embarrassing 85-55 defeat to Baylor.
Gonzaga, a top 10 3-point percentage team, shot 6-16 in its loss to Arizona in a game that was never competitive.
One team even won last week while not hitting a single 3 at all. Stanford defeated Kansas 60-57, despite going 0-9 from 3. It helped that Kansas went 5-16.
Dayton defeated Ohio State but only went 3-13 from 3. The Buckeyes didn’t do any better going 3-12.
Syracuse went 0-10 in its loss to Dayton. After a 0-7 start you would think the Orange would get the hint to attack the basket.
St. Louis was the worse among all of them against Louisville, going 0-15 from 3. Might as well have been 15 turnovers.
The first weekend of the tournament validated all the people who say you must attack the basket. In six games against above average defenses, no team is going to be hot from 3 all the time. You have to have multiple ways to score.
Now the pressure falls to schools like Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, Baylor, UConn, and Dayton. All are top-50 teams in 3-point field goal percentage but will now be shooting in large NBA and even NFL venues this weekend. These larger venues are not to kind to shooters who are trying to gauge their range.
We’ll see if the feast and famine trend from the 3-point line continues. For those who rely on the 3, I sure hope they have a contingency plan.