Friday, June 26, 2009

The 3 Point Line -- Cause and Effect

Fewer Points, But...
Recalling a few posts I wrote last summer after the NCAA moved the three point back a foot (reflecting on some implications SI's Luke Winn had discussed in his article -- more on that shortly). How did that move affect D1 ball this past season, and more specifically, how did it affect the Big East (and Villanova...)? I decided to start by looking at point distribution. Across D1 (see chart below) it appears that points from 3FGMs increased every season from 2004 through 2008, followed by a noticible drop in 2009. Yes, it looks as if the more distant arc, if it did not discourage 3 point attempts, surely did hold down conversions. The Big East Conference's point distribution however did not behave (data from

Plotting 3 FGMs as a percentage of the point distribution shows that in the 16 team version of the conference, 3 pointers as a contribution to point total declined each season through 2009. Peeling back the layer, I decided to look at the details...


De Paul66.633.464.735.366.933.1
Notre Dame58.641.466.433.664.935.1
Seton Hall68.032.066.333.768.731.3
South Florida71.728.370.429.668.231.8
St. John's62.
West Virginia51.448.665.734.366.034.0

Connecticut under Coach Calhoun is, if nothing else, predictable and consistent on offense -- the Huskies take ¾ of their FGAs inside of the arc year-in and year-out, whether they win or lose. Others, like South Florida adjust to reflect their circumstances (transition of coaching styles, different player strengths, etc). Robert McCullum's Bulls, whose back court was staffed by a revolving set of players with health (and academic?) issues, relied on front court players for scoring (and lock down defense). Stan Heath brought in more guards/wings. For Villanova, the "move inside" may reflect the development of Dante Cunningham and more consistent low post/forward play over the years. The four programs highlighted in green however, moved very decisively away from the 3 point game, albeit for very different reasons.

Beilein, Harangody, Rautins( & Devo?) and Patterson?!
The Big East has become the poster child for BCS conferences on steroids, but the swing in point distribution from 2007 to 2008 reminds me that the presence (or absence) of a few key players, or a coaching change can radically alter how a team earns it's points. At first glance it seems that getting 71% of their points from the 2 is an anomaly, but it turns out that 2006 was the outlier, made possible by a productive Anthony Mason Jr. (his sophomore season, the last healthy one he would have), teamed with Eugene Lawrence and gunner Avery Patterson. Lawrence and Mason combined for 225 attempts from beyond the arc, career highs for both players. And nearly matched by Patterson's 220 attempts. Patterson was a junior JUCO player who stayed for that one season. He moved on to finish at D2 powerhouse Tarleton College (TX) where he led the Texans to the D2 Sweet Sixteen round in 2008. Like St. John's, Syracuse's one season shift was also traceable to the absence of players. Unlike the Johnnies however, the missing Orange players were coming back the next season. Losing Donte Green to the draft was bad, but losing Andy Rautins and then Erick Devendorf to the surgeons was catastrophic...for their outside game & post season chances. Notre Dame graduated Torin Francis, Rick Coronet and Chris Quinn, leaving space for Kyle McAlarney and Rob Kurz to step up. And Luke Harangody put on an Irish uni and picked, combined with Kurz, mounted the best inside offense Notre Dame has had since Coach Brey came to South Bend.

West Virginia, like South Florida in 2007, saw a change at the program's helm. John Beilein's Flying Circus, a unique motion offense that used screens and penetration to free up outside shooters had packed up and departed Morgantown for Ann Arbor during the summer of 2007. West Virginia persuaded K State (and ex-Cincinnati) Coach Bob Huggins, to return to his alma mater as head coach. Huggins, whose systems encouraged the penetrating guard/forward to finish at the cup (rather than look for a waiting wing to kick to), picked through Beilein's playbook and installed an offensive system that suited forward Joe Alexander (and guard Joe Mazzulla) to a tee. The Mountaineers have not looked back. Michigan on the other hand garnered 27.8% of their points from beyond the arc in Tommy Amaker's last season in Ann Arbor. In John Beilein's first season the Wolverines collected 34.1% of their points from 3s as they slumped to a 10-22 record. Last season the Wolverines pushed their 3s to 39.4%, rang up a 21-14 record on their way to a 2 round NCAA run.

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