Tuesday, March 25, 2014

If anything, Villanova should have shot more threes against UConn

Darrun Hilliard: Really good outside shooter
 
People who subscribe to conventional wisdom have been complaining since the UConn game that Villanova shot too many threes, and that is part of the reason that they lost the game and were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. If you hear one of your friends parrot the narrative that Villanova "settled" for threes, you promptly should slap them across the face, or at least politely explain to them why they're wrong if you're not a fan of wanton violence.

To say that a team "settled" for threes is to imply that there is less value or merit in shooting them than their is in shooting twos. Of course, anyone with half a brain should know that this is absolutely not the case.

Let's try an exercise: Out of these two hypothetical teams, which scores more points?
  1. Team A: Shoots 40 percent from three point range and and takes no two point shots or free throws.
  2. Team B: Shoots 60% from two point range and takes no three point shots or free throws.
In case you were dropped on your head, or didn't pay attention in first grade math class, both Team A and Team B would score the exact same number of points. This highlights why simply citing a team's "shooting percentage" as an indicator of a player or team's overall performance is dumb, because everyone knows that (since 1986) there are two different types of shot in college basketball. Using this Villanova team as an example, JayVaughn Pinkston shot 52.1 percent cumulatively compared to Darrun Hilliard's 48.6, but scored fewer points per shot, partially because because of the difference in value between twos and threes, and partially because Hilliard both shot and converted threes at a greater rate than Pinkston.

Anyone suggesting that Villanova should have taken more twos in the UConn game didn't pay much attention, since Villanova's  three point percentage of 35.5 for the game was higher than both its cumulative field goal percentage of 35.3, and its two point percentage of 35.0. So in other words, Villanova shot better than average from the outside against UConn and absolutely putridly, and if they had taken fewer threes and more twos than they did, it's very likely that the final margin between the two teams would have been greater than 12 points.

Now this is not to say that every player should have license to chuck up threes, in fact, some players should rarely or never take threes. JayVaughn Pinkston and his seasonal three point percentage of 25.8 is a prime example of a player who should not take threes, especially when the fact that he made 55.1 percent of his twos, and that he tends to draw fouls when he goes to the rim are considered.

So no, Villanova did not "settle" for threes.

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