2009-2010 Season

Preseason Three Point Analysis

stu-douglass-three llp-three novak-three

Like it or not, John Beilein’s basketball teams are perimeter oriented teams. Beilein has a model and, besides a few tweaks here and there, he is comfortable sticking to it because it works. The ideology behind a POT is that you shoot a lot of threes while sacrificing offensive rebounding for not turning the ball over; the catch is that you have to make your threes.

While Michigan’s statistical profile last year was a lot closer to the West Virginia Beilein model than the year before, it still wasn’t quite there. The main issue was Michigan’s team three point shooting percentage of 33.4% (32.1% in conference).

Luke Winn points out that Michigan doesn’t return any one who made over 34.5% of their three point shots while Beilein’s best team at West Virginia returned 6 players that topped that mark.

Basically Michigan managed to win a lot of games last year despite being a perimeter oriented team who can’t make threes – the cardinal sin. To repeat that success, or improve upon last year, they are going to have to make more of their threes if when they shoot so many.

To put this in perspective, I put together a scatter plot of 3PA/FGA (how many threes a team takes) versus 3pt field goal percentage.


(The Big Ten teams are all listed with conference-only numbers, while Beilein’s WVU teams are from their entire season.)

The axes are aligned at conference averages (35% 3PFG%, 37% 3PA/FGA) which leaves us with four quadrants.

  • Bottom left: teams who shoot few three pointers and make them at a below average rate.
  • Top left: teams who shoot a lot of three pointers and make them at a below average rate.
  • Top right: teams who shoot a lot of three pointers and make them at an above average rate.
  • Bottom right: teams who shoot few three pointers but make them at an above average rate.

The graph is pretty intuitive but here are some thoughts about other teams in the conference:

  • Offensively challenged teams like Minnesota and Illinois fall in the lower left quadrant but at least they aren’t wasting their attempts.
  • Ohio State shot the three point shot very well but could have probably shot it a little more.
  • Northwestern is the only team in the top right quadrant, they shot the three a lot but managed to make it consistently.
  • Wisconsin and Purdue are pretty central, meaning they have some good three point shooters but they are also very balanced.
  • Michigan State doesn’t shoot a terrible percentage but they rarely shoot the three.

You can see Michigan is in the top left quadrant – meaning they take a lot of threes (more than anyone in the conference) but make them at a below average rate. Michigan obviously wants to move toward the top-right quadrant of the graph where most of Beilein’s West Virginia teams fall.

Michigan appears to be moving in the right direction, they saw about a 2% increase in their three point shooting percentage from Beilein Year 1 to Year 2. But, their three point shooting percentage on the year was still over 1% lower than Beilein’s worst three point shooting team at West Virginia.

The upshot is that there are a lot of guys who have shown that they can shoot that just need to be more consistent. Stu Douglass, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Zack Novak all had multiple hot shooting games last year but they also had their fair share of 0-4 or 0-6 games.

The encouraging part about freshmen is that they become sophomores, I think it’s fair to expect all three to make substantial strides in their consistency and overall shooting percentages.

Freshman Matt Vogrich has widely been proclaimed as one of the top shooters in the incoming freshman class and judging from early practices, he will be able to contribute. If Douglass or Lucas-Perry are cold, it’s always good to have one more shooter to try off the bench.

Manny Harris’ shot continues to improve as well,  and an uptick of a few percentage points on Manny’s three point percentage could be worth 10-15 spots in the NBA draft.

Last year’s team resembled a Beilein team statistically in many ways but three point shooting will be the difference between a good and great Michigan team this year. Douglass, Lucas-Perry, Novak, and Vogrich hitting threes consistently continues to open up the offense and has a bit of a snowball effect. Forcing teams to play pressure defense on the perimeter opens the backdoor cut and also prevents teams from stacking the paint against penetration from Manny Harris and Darius Morris.

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