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A deeper look at KU's three-point shooting and how it compares to recent years

Kansas players Jamari Traylor, left, Joel Embiid, center, and Brannen Greene celebrate a three from teammate Wayne Selden against West Virginia during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas players Jamari Traylor, left, Joel Embiid, center, and Brannen Greene celebrate a three from teammate Wayne Selden against West Virginia during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

If you've been paying attention at all, you know by now that this year's Kansas basketball team has left a little to be desired when it comes to three-point shooting.

It's not that the 2013-14 Jayhawks don't have solid three-point shooters — Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp have pure strokes and Naadir Tharpe can knock down the long-range shot with regularity, as well — more that the team has not utilized the three-point shot the way past Kansas teams have.

Part of the reason for that is both Greene and Frankamp have played limited minutes through the first 24 games of the season (both are averaging around 7 minutes per game) and the Jayhawks (18-6 overall, 9-2 in Big 12 play) have relied heavily on pounding the ball inside to a deep and talented group of big men and the free-lance abilities of freshman forward Andrew Wiggins for their offense.

Overall, the KU's three-point percentage has remained solid. Through 24 games, the Jayhawks are hitting 35.9 percent of its shots from downtown, which puts them tied for 111th in the country and 5th in the Big 12.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts a three over Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts a three over Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It also is right on par with the percentage shot by KU's three most recent teams — the 2012-13 shot 36.4 percent; the 2011-12 team shot 34.5 percent; and the 2010-11 team shot 38.2 percent.

So while this year's Jayhawks are on pace to finish in the same ballpark as their recent counterparts in terms of percentage, they are quickly falling behind in terms of three-point makes.

This year's team has made 132 three-pointers and attempted 368. That averages out to 5.5 makes per game in 15.3 attempts per game. Both numbers are the lowest through 24 games in the past four seasons.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe puts up a shot over Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the second half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe puts up a shot over Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the second half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Here's a quick look back at what each of the past four KU teams (including this season) had done from downtown by this same point in the season, complete with a look at the top four three-point shooting options on each team.

— All stats below through 24 games —

• 2013-14 •
Three-point makes: 132
Three-point attempts: 368
Three-point percentage: 35.9
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 3
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 9
Naadir Tharpe: 35-80
Wayne Selden: 30-83
Andrew Wiggins: 29-83
Frank Mason: 11-37

• 2012-13 •
Three-point makes: 140
Three-point attempts: 394
Three-point percentage: 35.5
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 4
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 7
Ben McLemore: 47-108
Elijah Johnson: 34-108
Travis Releford: 26-60
Naadir Tharpe: 23-70

• 2011-12 •
Three-point makes: 147
Three-point attempts: 423
Three-point percentage: 34.8
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 4
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 8
Tyshawn Taylor: 41-91
Conner Teahan: 38-102
Elijah Johnson: 37-131
Travis Releford: 20-55

• 2010-11 •
Three-point makes: 179
Three-point attempts: 454
Three-point percentage: 39.4
Players with 20 or more three-point makes: 3
Players with at least 1 three-point make: 11
Tyrel Reed: 48-125
Josh Selby: 27-62
Brady Morningstar: 20-55
Marcus Morris: 18-51

Kansas guard Frank Mason puts up a three against Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason puts up a three against Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

As you can see by looking at the numbers, KU's top three-point shooters this year are taking and making fewer three-pointers than the top four long-range bombers from each of the past three seasons.

What's more, if you took the best pure three-point shooters on this year's KU roster (Frankamp, Greene & Andrew White) and combined them into one player, that player still would have low totals of makes (23) and attempts (68) due to limited playing time.

Given the increased importance of three-point shooting in today's college game, along with the correlation between hot shooting teams and their chances at victory, KU's numbers through the first 24 games of the 2013-14 season have to be at least a bit of a concern. There's no doubt that KU coach Bill Self and those on the roster would like to knock in a few more three-pointers per game, a feat that, if it came, would both loosen up things inside for KU's big men and give guys like Wiggins more room to work on drives to the rim.

But while KU's volume of makes and attempts might lag behind that of its predecessors, the fact that the Jayhawks still are knocking in a quality percentage is a good sign. The problem with lower volume is that it increases the importance of each attempt, making the misses sting more and the makes more critical.

In KU's most recent game — an 85-82 overtime loss at Kansas State on Monday in which the Jayhawks made just 3 of 17 three-pointers — both Frankamp and Greene logged the second most minutes they have played all season, at 15 apiece, more than doubling their season averages.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden puts a shot over Kansas State guard Wesley Iwundu during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden puts a shot over Kansas State guard Wesley Iwundu during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Both players have a ways to go on the defensive end to make receiving double-digit minutes a more regular thing, but their presence on the floor certainly would help KU's chances of bringing its three-point totals closer to where Self's teams have been at this point in the past.

There are a lot of factors that will determine just how well this team finishes the season and how far it advances in March, but getting better and more consistent three-point shooting from the entire roster figures to be as important as any of them.

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Comments

Dirk Medema 8 months, 1 week ago

A table would go a long ways to actually comparing the data.

A %, pie chart would even be possible then.

Jonathan Allison 8 months, 1 week ago

table!

A pie chart has to total up to 100%. So the total would have to be the sum each team's 3 pt makes through 24 games, and the pieces would be how many 3pt baskets that season's team contributed through 24 games. Then you could overlay onto the pie piece the 3pt shooting percentage. The "through 24 games" bit makes it a little convoluted. But it would work.

Matt Tait 8 months, 1 week ago

Well done. Would've done this myself but I figured with just four numbers that were relatively close to begin with it wouldn't be that tough to compare them through just listing the totals. Appreciate the effort, though.

Marc Frey 8 months, 1 week ago

You hit it on the head: We need our 3pt shooter to be great defenders first.

Dale Stringer 8 months, 1 week ago

Both Greene and Frankamp have been better defenders than Tharpe and Mason the last three games. Unfortunately for them they are going against Selden for minutes. CF has the best chance to increase his minutes at point with the two ahead of him always getting in foul trouble.

Our problem is off-ball offense. We play Point and 2 Wings or 2-Points on the perimeter most of the time. It seems when I'm watching, most of any game our two wing players settle into a spot on each play and rarely move more than 5 feet in any direction. This makes it easier for teams to defense since they know where our shooters are going to be. A byproduct is that now they can concentrate on interior defense. OSU, ISU and KSU (maybe others) play with more of a Point, Wing and Rover on the perimeter. Watch Forte , Niang (as SF) and Spradling; the big 3-pt shooters on each team. They are all over the floor when they don't have the ball. Our guys are getting picked by their bigs as they run across the lane.

I'm not say we have to play like they do... all the time. But it would help when CF and BG are in to get open for more shots.

Ryan Michael 8 months, 1 week ago

Second this... Greene struggles to get minutes because Selden plays pretty good D most of the time.

However Frankamp can come in for Tharpe, and there is an INCREASE in defensive ability when he does.

Matt Tait 8 months, 1 week ago

Agreed. I've been very surprised by how much Conner has been folded into the offense when he's in the game, instead of just letting him run off screens for hours to get open looks.

Maybe that's not what they want him to do, maybe he's not ready to do it, maybe it's both. But, every dead-eye shooter I've ever seen has been a mad man without the ball and Frankamp hasn't been yet.

Perhaps some of that is the fact that he's a freshman and it's all been such a huge adjustment that they're trying not to ask him to do too much when he is out there. Again, it's not like he's playing a ton of minutes each game.

Mick Allen 8 months, 1 week ago

Dale, please don't compare Mason's defense with Tharpe. In the last 3 games, Baylor, WVU And KSU, HCBS haas credited Mason with shutting down Heslip in the second half and making Staten from WVU "work hard" for his points. I prefer to accept his opinion of Mason's defense rather than your opinion. Against KSU,he was in quick foul trouble and played less than 10 minutes. Frankamp has surprised me with his lateral quickness and his ability to stay in front of his man. While Greene exhibits good lateral quickness, especially for a kid 6' 7", which makes it harder for a 6'2" or 6'3"guard to shoot over him or post him up, he still occasionally loses his man on defense. He does seemingly possess the size and quickness to develop into a good defender.

Matt Tait 8 months, 1 week ago

Just FYI: It was Selden who shut down Heslip in that Baylor game not Mason.

Rodney Crain 8 months, 1 week ago

Mick Mason"s plus minus is horrible. His defense is average and limited. His scoring is poor. He will be good in a few years but he is not the answer here. Francamp at least can hit the 3 pointer, can guard consistently.

Suzi Marshall 8 months, 1 week ago

Mason's had a couple of nice games recently,notably the BU and UT games. His D is coming along and seems better than Tharpe's. What is really impressive is how far he has come since UF and UTEP. My biggest reservation about Mason is his shooting.

I also would like to see CF on the floor more but Self see them all everyday.

By the way, even Ken Pomeroy has questioned the plus minus thing.
http://kenpom.com/blog/index.php/weblog/a_treatise_on_plus_minus/

Matt Tait 8 months, 1 week ago

Sure are. The perils of posting this thing at 1 a.m. My bad.

Rodney Crain 8 months, 1 week ago

Thank God They pay you guys millions for all the hours you work... :) I have been there search for time in a day that is past gone...

Rodney Crain 8 months, 1 week ago

With the way the rules are being called this year, I feel that any review of statistics of years past compared with this year should have a pre-qualifier. I would look at what is going on nationally first to ensure we are still comparing apples and apples and not apples and oranges.

Since hand checking is almost always a foul this year, which would take away a 3 point shooting option per possession, are 3 point shooting attempts down this year nationally? Are free throw attempts up? How does 3 point attempts per possession in the past compare to this year. I would think it would be down. These are being exchanged for free throws. How many 3 point attempts in the past are now free throw attempts? There are more elements you could look at too.

I think you have to factor in the changes in the game this year caused by the way they are calling the rules this year. Even the subjective perspective comes into play. 3 point shooters are looking for rhythm, or flow in a game. The change in the calling of the rules has created some games that have more starts and stops, then cross town traffic in Chicago at rush hour. Destroys rhythm that some of these shooters are counting on to keep them going.

The change in how they are calling the rules has affected everything offensively to me.

Matt Tait 8 months, 1 week ago

All solid points and, no doubt, factors in the lower number of three-point attempts and makes. I definitely think, though, that the inability (or choice not to) to put the team's best three-point shooters on the floor for extended minutes plays just as big a role in this.

Rodney Crain 8 months, 1 week ago

I agree 100% with you! We seem to tighten up instead of letting loose these shooters to get us back in the game.

Tony Bandle 8 months, 1 week ago

I sure felt Pitt's pain when that kid hit a 35 footer at the buzzer to keep Syracuse undefeated........that Michigan game haunts me still.

Maybe Andrew should take more half court shots...after all, he's shooting 100%. :)

Mick Allen 8 months, 1 week ago

How about Booker's 3 for Colorado in December of 2013? Certainly not as painful as the Michigan game, but painful none the less.

Nick Rushton 8 months, 1 week ago

Naa shooting 44%.....is he the best 3-point shooter in the country among players with at least 80 attempts? When's the last time KU had a player shooting 3-pointers at that clip?? If Naa had taken a few more 3-point attempts in Manahatten.......!

Matt Tait 8 months, 1 week ago

Believe it or not, there are 52 Div. I players in the country with 80+ three-point attempts shooting a better percentage than Tharpe. After you said that, I figured he would be higher, but evidently there are a TON of really good shooters out there.

Adam James 8 months, 1 week ago

The crazy thing about stats is that they can completely go out the window on any given night based on how your opponent plays you. I really like the 10-80-10 thought. We will play 10% of our games below what we are capable of - 80% of who we really are and another 10% off the charts good. Bottom line we have to control our energy and effort and and not allow a bottom 10% game to happen in the tournament and battle with energy and effort to not allow another team to play in their top 10%. Obviously it is much more complex than this, but at the end of the day a win or a loss in the tournament will come down to this.

Ryan Shelton 8 months, 1 week ago

I wonder if this concept could be adapted to how we should play during each game. 10% of each game we play below average, 80% average, and 10% above average. That would account for scoring runs. The Duke game might register as 10-10-80, whereas the last KSU game might... well, I won't go there.

Dave Weroha 8 months, 1 week ago

3 pt shooting is absolutely essential in the NCAA tourney. Every early exit KU had in the past was due to poor 3 pt shooting and the other team (i.e. VCU, N. Iowa) burying KU with 3's. History tells us that it's not the forwards/centers (Bigs) that gets KU all the way - it's the guard play. If Mason and Seldon do not step up then KU will step out of the NCAA earlier than they should. Tharpe has clearly shown despite being benched more than once, that he will not or cannot lead on a consistent basis.

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