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Living and Dying By the 3-ball: Part 1

There's been a lot of debate about the ISU men's basketball team and how good we're going to be this year. In short here are a wide range of opinions being thrown out there.

One thing that isn't really debatable is that ISU is going to be a perimeter shooting team and we're going to throw up a bunch of 3s.

I have been skeptical about our teams success this year with this style of play and some are poo-pooing that notion. I thought I'd do some research about teams that dig the 3 ball.

In the three games we've played this year, ISU has made 31 out of 73 attempts. That's an average of 10.3 3 pointers per game, and 24+ attempts per game, or about 42%

Here is a list of the top 10 3 point shooting teams last year (3 pointers per game):

  1. Virginia Military - 11.6
  2. Houston - 10.8
  3. Troy - 10.8
  4. Belmont - 10.6
  5. Lafayette - 10.0
  6. Navy - 9.6
  7. New Hampshire - 9.5
  8. Citadel - 9.4
  9. Tennessee-Martin - 9.4
  10. Massachussets - 9.3

Why do I share this above list? Because it shows that our odds of maintaining a 10 3 points per game average is pretty low.  Do you want to know another thing in common with the above list? None of the teams are from BCS conferences!

Also, a handful of these teams had decent records, but many of them were .500 or below. Citadel for example was 6-24 on their season.

I'm not sure about the sucess of having a team that makes a bunch of threes...

Now I know what you may say "It's not about how many you make, it's about how well you shoot them".

To those people,

Here's a list of the top 10 3 point shooting teams last year (fg%):

  1. New Mexico - 42.5%
  2. IUPUI - 42.3%
  3. Cornell - 41.4%
  4. UC Santa Barbara - 41.3%
  5. Notre Dame - 41.0%
  6. American University - 40.9%
  7. North Dakota State - 40.7%
  8. Vandy - 40.4%
  9. Utah State - 40.4%
  10. Pacific - 40.3%

This time we've got 2 BCS teams: Notre Dame and Vandy. Notre Dame and Vandy both had respectable years which is nice. Notre Dame averaged 8.5 threes per game and Vandy averaged 9.1 threes per game.

Ok, so far we've established that a team that makes about 9 threes per game at a rate of 40% CAN be sucessful, but as you can see from the list it isn't necessarily likely.

I've been harping about rebounding so far this season and some have brushed it off, but it is a very important stat for basketball success.

Here's a list of the top rebounding teams last year:

  1. North Carolina - 44.2
  2. Texas State - 42.2
  3. Connecticut - 41.9
  4. New Mexico State - 41.7
  5. Notre Dame - 41.6
  6. Kansas State - 41.4
  7. Sam Houston State - 41.2
  8. Mercer - 41.0
  9. Mississippi State - 40.9
  10. Wagner - 40.8

Notre Dame is on the list! They shot a bunch of threes, yet they made them at a good percentage and got a bunch of rebounds! Still, Notre Dame is looking like the exception rather than the rule.

So far this season ISU's averaging 35 rebounds per game, which wouldn't have even been in the top 100 in the nation last year! Vandy if you're wondering didn't get in the top 100 in the nation either.

Ok, so we have 2 good three point shooting teams: they averaged about 9 per game, shot them at a rate of better than 40%, one of them rebounded well and the other did not.

One more stat: Notre Dame and Vandy were 14th and 15th in the nation in scoring averaging 80.6 ppg.  If you take that into consideration, Notre Dame and Vandy were scoring about 27 of their 80.6 ppg from 3 point range or about 33% of their offense.

If you take a quick look at the box scores, we've been averaging 69.0 ppg. With ISU making 10.3 3s per game, about 30 of our 69 ppg are from 3 point land, or 43% of our offense.

So where am I going with all of this?

I've been reading on the message boards about us being ranked prior to conference play, hopes of us making the NCAA tournament, and a lot of optomism from ISU fans.

Here's what I think thus far:

  1. It's way too early to make any big predictions on the season. We really need to take it a week at a time. There simply hasn't been enough scenarios yet to see what we're made of: we haven't played on the road, we haven't had a particularly low shooting night, etc.
  2. From my first list, I think it's unlikely we maintain an average of 10 threes per game. If we did, there isn't really any kind of evidence that it would lead to us having a good year.
  3. From my second list, I think it's unlikely we maintain a 3 point average of 42%
  4. Most of these teams that made a lot of threes had scoring in other places. They made a lot of threes because they just made a lot of baskets in general. Lots of them averaged 79-91 points per game. We've shown so far we can't put up that many points. Since these teams are scoring at will, then they are likely throwing up smarter 3s, which is why they're shooting at good percentages
  5. Since so far 43% of our scoring is from 3 point land, we may have issues putting points up when 3s are falling at a more realistic rate
  6. If we're going to be putting up a lot of 3s, we NEED to find a way to score about 40-50 points per game from closer distances.
  7. Although it isn't a rule, rebounding better would help. Notre Dame played in a VERY physical Big East. I know that their rebounding skills helped them do well in that league. The Big XII looks to be physical this year as well. It wouldn't hurt to rebound more in the 40+ range.
  8. I want us to do very well. It's just easy to get hyped about success when everything is going your way. The reality is that things won't always go ISU's way. It's going to be how ISU handles adversity which will determine the success of our team.

Finally, many are referencing Drake as saying that ISU can be good with how they're currently playing.

Here's some facts about Drake last year:

  • They played in a down MVC, not a strong Big XII
  • They averaged 9.2 3s per game
  • They averaged 73 points per game
  • 37.8% of their offense was from 3 point scoring
  • They shot 36% from 3 point range
  • Drake also led their conference in assist/turnover ratio and free throw percentage, were 2nd in rebounding margin and was in the top half as far as defense goes in their conference.
  • Drake played an up-tempo game. They wouldn't work the shot-clock and they would just throw up shots. They made a lot of 3s because they threw up a lot of shots. They also played fundamentally sound as they rebounded well, shot free throws well, played good defense, and didn't turn the ball over
  • Drake was a special story that just doesn't happen all the time. They had a great year, but a year like that will never happen for them again as far as expectations vs final results.

Final Thoughts:

People are excited about the basketball season and that's great! I'm excited too! I think we need to temper that excitement for realistic expectations. On the surface we may appear to be like Drake of last year, but there's a lot of factors that show we aren't like them.

It's been a few years since we've been in the postseason. Last year we finished 11th in the Big XII. Why can't we have a little bit smaller goals as fans? I mean, we have a young team as a lot of these guys will be back next year.

What's wrong with having a winning record for the season? That'd be better than in the past. How about a .500 record in the conference? That'd be a big improvement from in the past. How about a NIT berth? We haven't played in the post season in 3 years, I think that'd be nice...

If we start throwing out expectations of being ranked, going undefeated in the non-conference, going to the dance, etc., we're just setting ourselves up for dissapointment. I'd love to see all of those things too, but I'd rather have it be a bonus, rather than meeting an expectation.

We're looking better so far than years in the past, and things are looking up as far as team chemistry, and incoming recruits. I'm just happy that the program is going in the right direction. I'd personally save some of those lofty goals for our team for years in which our key young guys are upperclassmen.

We have the potential to be like a Drake, but we haven't shown it yet - we haven't rebounded well, shot free throws well, and too much of our offense is from beyond the arc (even compared to Drake last year)

Even if we were like a Drake, I don't think that style of play translates well in the Big XII. I just saw Blake Griffin put up 20+ points and 20+ rebounds against a perimeter mid-major team (Davidson) and Oklahoma is just attacking the glass: that's more the style of the Big XII.

If we want to see how we MIGHT do this year, we have to look at Big XII history: that's the conference we play in, and our success in the conference will determine the success of our team.

In part 2 of this analysis, I will examine the success of Big XII teams of the past..